SEDONA, Ariz. — Grief can be isolating, even with support from family and friends. But there are now more spaces across the country for people to find community through loss.
The Selah Carefarm, located outside of Sedona, Arizona, is one of those places.
“Beauty and pain coexist here. You know, this is the place where they intersect,” said the farm’s founder Joanne Cacciatore.
For both the humans and the animals who come to the Selah Carefarm, loss is part of life.
The animals were rescued from neglect. Some are injured, and some have lost their babies. People come here from all over the world after losing a child, sibling, friend or spouse. Together, they learn how to cope.
“The vast majority of people who come here, the animals being rescued is an incredible shift in their consciousness of oneness, in their way, in their capacity to see the suffering of another and to give compassion, and also to receive compassion,” said Cacciatore.
Cacciatore founded the farm after losing her own child. She found the world turns away from stories like hers because it's too hard to imagine burying a child. But here, the names of the dead can be spoken and the pain of loss can be shown. No one turns away.
"This is the place you come and your child is going to be talked about and remembered and loved,” said Liz Castleman, who lost her son, Charlie.
Castleman, along with other parents, like Erik Denton, whose three children were killed, have been able to start living again after being here.
"You gotta learn to coexist with the grief. If you don't know how to do that, it's dangerous. You know, it can be very toxic,” said Denton. "You come here and you're with other people that are going through the same amount of pain. And it just, it oddly makes you feel comfortable. Even though it's such a painful thing to go through."
But more spaces and retreats like this farm, and groups online, are becoming available for group grief healing, and many in the wake of the pandemic.
Grief expert Robbie Miller Kaplan is comforted to see the growth of group grieving. She said a setting of shared pain can propel people into deeper healing.
“Immediately, you have a greater sense of comfort just sitting with someone who immediately knows where you're coming from. And you don't even have to say very much for them to have that understanding. And that is very, very helpful,” said Miller Kaplan.
At the Selah Carefarm, Cacciatore hopes being open about grief makes it less scary to face every day.
“I think people let fear get in the way of love, and grieving people sense that. And no wonder grief is such a lonely experience,” said Cacciatore. “We need to learn how to talk about these things so grieving people aren't so lonely."
Those who have come here have found community and love by grieving here and by grieving together.
"There is hope. I mean, it's not going to be painful forever,” said Denton.