On November 3 and 4, 2017, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation hosted a retreat for a group of 20 parents and siblings of fallen firefighters. During the weekend attendees learned about the emotional and physical aspects of grieving and discovered techniques to help them along their journeys. But these two days provided more than classes or seminars for these fire hero families. They shared stories about their firefighters, learned how to deal with the effects of grief and stress on the body, created memory boxes and ornaments, and cried and laughed together.
As Aaron Cheek explained, being in a small group made it easier to talk and interact than if he’d been in much larger group. “I’m with seven other people who lost a brother. The small groups help a lot because you get more one on one interaction. We can talk about our memories. It makes it more comfortable and easier to share.”
His mother Tracey Hague agreed. She’s been to several workshops and conferences in the past, but feels having a group that is just for parents and siblings is beneficial. “We all have the same kind of loss and this group is very special.”
Jenny Woodall, bereavement specialist with the NFFF and one of the coordinators of the retreat noted that everyone at the retreat was generous, insightful, and supportive of one another. “There was so much resilience and wisdom in the room. It was a joy to see them connect with one another over their shared experiences,” she said.
Tracey felt the retreat was worthwhile. She and Aaron said they would definitely come to another Parents and Siblings Retreat and encourage others to register. “This has been good for him (Aaron),” she said. “And watching him and the comfort he’s getting is good for me.”