For young adults who have lost a parent or sibling to terror, simply having fun can trigger feelings of betrayal to their lost family members. But at a OneFamily retreat, the youths can allow themselves to feel joy because they are there with others who understand their situation.
For three days in January, 65 members of OneFamily’s Young Adult division, including 15 who joined a OneFamily retreat for the first time, bonded and shared their stories with others who can relate to their challenges. They took Segway rides, played Ergo-Ball Soccer, and participated in a woodworking workshop.
The experience of being together helps the youths, ages 18-24, strengthen what they have in common – the processes of bereavement. The weekend retreat is structured for the youths to come together and to be comfortable with their bereavement.
While they may feel different from others in their everyday life because of their experience with terror, they can feel at home with other retreat participants for the same reason.
“Because they go through the crying and the bereavement together, they can laugh together, too,” explained OneFamily staff member Michal Belzberg. “Everyone is going through the same thing.”
Michal attended the retreat as a helper for Mollie Schwartz, the older sister of Ezra Schwartz, an American student who was killed in a shooting attack at the Alon Shvut Junction in November. Mollie flew in from American specially to attend the retreat.
During one of the support sessions, Mollie said losing her brother has been particularly hard for her because it was the relationship in her life she cherished the most. When she said that, another girl said she had the same type of relationship with a brother she lost as well.
Members of OneFamily’s Young Adult Division are generally in the stage of life when they are starting to develop their independence. Most are in the army, national service, college, or beginning their work life.
But at the Winter Retreat, they had a short respite from all the pressures in their lives. For three days they could simply enjoy themselves like carefree youths before heading back to their everyday reality.
At the end of the three days, the youths were asked to tell the group what they found inspiring during the three days. Several of them said they were inspired by the new participants. They noted that the experience of being free and open could be scary at first, even in a supportive setting, but it’s really good for them and they should keep coming back for more retreats.
The support groups, both formal and informal, are part of OneFamily’s approach of cultivating a sense of family between all terror victims. When they bond together, they have the power to heal each other.