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Moving past grief

Rose Raney, center, talks about an item from the widow's remembrance table at the 2012 Widow’s Retreat at Maryvale Retreat Center in Valley City. Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Area Grief Support Team

Rose Raney was devastated at the sudden death of her husband of 19 years and said that grief retreats and workshops helped her to start living "a new normal."

"It's been six years now since my husband is gone," Raney said.

Raney said she has reached a crossroads where she feels healed enough to move forward. At 61 years old she does not think about dating but does think about dance partners and friends and so joined a hiking club and volunteers at her church.

"It does get better and it does get easier," she said.

Rose Buck was a 35-year-old Wishek/Ashley, N.D., native working as a traveling nurse, and Bob Raney was a 38-year old respiratory therapist, who was also a traveling mortician and licensed funeral director. The two married in 1992 and worked nine months of the year as traveling nurses and the other three months in Gackle, N.D.

The couple were in Bismarck in 2012 visiting Rose's mother when Bob collapsed. He had several blood clots and died just 27 hours later after going into cardiac arrest.

As a nurse Raney said she knew Bob would not pull through and would not live a normal life if he did. She was upset at having to leave his side when he was placed on a ventilator.

"I thought, Bob was a respiratory therapist who helped save so many others and now I can't save him," Raney said. "I wish I could have said 'get out of this room' so I could have held him in my arms until he died."

Raney thanked God for nearly 20 years of marriage. She thought it a blessing that Bob didn't survive or he might have been an invalid.

Raney has since retired as a director of surgical services nurse and lives in a Mesa, Ariz., retirement community. She has a leadership role in the GriefShare class at Victory Lutheran Church in Mesa.

There is a lot of crying at the retreats that leads to most widows or widowers to come out of their shell, she said. It helps to walk with Jesus, she said.

"It would not hurt so deeply if you had not loved so deeply," Raney said.

Some choose to hold onto the grief, and often suffer from loneliness and depression, she said. Retreats are a way to let the tears flow until someone is compelled to open up, she said.

"It's almost miraculous how it happens," Raney said.

Gentle encouragement will hopefully help someone out of loneliness and depression, she said. Some do see the light through prayer, eventually, she said.

"You don't literally get over it," she said. "There is just a new normal."

The first year is like running on autopilot because of shock, she said. The little things made the second year harder, she said.

"I remember saying, 'no I don't want to be a widow," Raney said.

The 2012 Widow's Retreat at Maryvale Retreat Center in Valley City, N.D., made a big difference, she said. Hosted by the Jamestown Area Grief Support Team, the retreat teaches coping skills with no distractions in a relaxing, supportive atmosphere with group sessions, remembrances, pajama parties and massages, she said.

The 2018 Widow's Retreat at Maryvale Retreat Center is Oct. 19-21. The cost is $150 and includes two nights lodging in a private room and five meals.

The retreat offers a chance to set aside life's distractions for one weekend to focus on sharing, remembrance, journaling, self-nurturing and understanding the grief journey, said retreat co-organizer Eileen Lisko. People will have to deal with grief eventually, sometimes with added physical or emotional symptoms, she said.

"Grief will have its way," she said. "You can't run from it because it will get you in the end."

This year's speakers are Jeanne Putnam, a grief recovery specialist, and Leah O'Leary, a funeral director and grief support liaison in Wahpeton, N.D.

Registrations are due by Sept. 17. For a brochure and registration form, call Lisko at 269-4521 or email