Mothers from across the country have gathered in Charleston for a weekend retreat to find comfort with others who have a lost a child who was serving in the military.
It's the first time the mothers have come together for an active and emotional weekend, and it won't be the last time.
"There's just a shared bond like a sisterhood from just being with each other," Becky Cheairs, who lost her son to friendly fire, said.
Connections expected to last longer than just this weekend. Over four dozen mothers are meeting and learning new ways to deal with grief and survival after losing their child in the military. Their retreat is happening right here in Charleston.
Thursday's gloomy weather kept them inside, making memorial candles for their sons and daughters. This weekend they'll go kayaking, take a yoga class, and tour historic sites
"We love the idea of the houses on the beach, the community feel of having them all in one space," Kylynn Maxwell, Retreat Contractor for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), said. "We also wanted to cater it towards a more holistic, organic, very natural setting."
"A lot of people like to meditate by the sea, by the ocean, it's very healing," Cheairs added. "I think the atmosphere here is very conducive."
Healing is a major part of this retreat, much of which is done through the connections made between these women.
"Although we're all in different parts of our journey, some are only a year and a half, some are ten years out, we've walked in those shoes," Jill Stephenson, who lost her son to injuries sustained from enemy fire, said. "We can take each others hands and hearts and help each other move forward."
Each mother brings a different story, ranging from death by enemy fire to suicide from PTSD; all knowing the feeling of loss, which makes this experience so important.
"I have heard so many stories that I had never thought [I would]," Barbara Sexton, who lost her son to suicide, said.
"Sometimes it's hard to find people that you can share your stories with, because they don't feel like they know how to talk to you about your lost loved one," Lorie Goldsmith, who lost her son in the line of action, said.
"My world has changed, but we all understand each other," Adrienne Bourland, who lost her son to the Haiti earthquake, added. "We kind of know the path that other people have gone down or are going down."
The program has another retreat scheduled here to Charleston this coming fall. Gold star mothers are already filling up space for that retreat.
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