Writing as a Pathway Through Grief, Loss, Uncertainty & Change

A Weeklong Retreat with Laura Davis & Evelyn Hall in Watsonville, CA

Tuesday, May 7 - Monday, May 13, 2024

If you're grieving a loss or are facing uncertainty, transition or change, join me in the serene beauty of a Northern California redwood forest for an intimate retreat where you’ll regain your bearings, be deeply held in a safe writing circle, and learn to transform pain into possibility.

Mount Madonna in Watsonville, California

Is This Retreat For Me?

People who have attended this retreat in the past have been dealing with one or more of the following:

  • A shift in life circumstances
  • Challenges and shifts related to aging
  • The death of someone close to you
  • Divorce
  • Empty nest
  • The loss of a dream
  • Financial setbacks or changes
  • Needing to move into a new phase of life
  • A diagnosis
  • A loss in abilities
  • Being a caregiver
  • Dealing with changes of retirement
  • An inner impulse toward change
  • A career change, chosen or forced
  • An estranged relationship
  • A betrayal
  • The pull of the unknown
  • Grief over the climate, politics, and the world situation

After our week together, you’ll know how to:

  • Put your losses in the context of the greater human family and the long-term story of your life
  • Embrace transition as an empowering, necessary, step toward growth
  • Envision a future where you’ve integrated your losses and can embrace the changed person you are becoming
  • Move beyond tired, old stories that keep you trapped in the past
  • Communicate your truth deeply and powerfully from your core
  • Access inner wisdom so you’ll always have a guide in stormy, uncertain seas
  • Create sacred space wherever you are so you’ll always have a safe harbor
  • Savor daily moments of joy despite life’s challenges and uncertainty
  • Within the loving community of our retreat, you’ll find support and understanding, new inner resources, and the strength and courage to chart a new course into the future.


About the Writing at this Retreat

The tool we’ll use for transformation is writing and sharing from the heart. Writing and being witnessed in community is a powerful catalyst on your journey of self-discovery.

We'll teach you everything you need to know to experience the power of true stories shared and received.

On this creative, healing journey, you will experience:

Empowerment: Writing helps you take control of your healing journey.

Coping Strategies: Writing provides new ways to manage grief and integrate your losses.

Inner Wisdom: You'll learn to recognize and harvest your inner wisdom.

Clarity: You’ll learn to listen to parts of yourself yearning for expression. Through this deep listening, you'll find increased clarity about your feelings and options.

Journaling at Mount Madonna
Journaling at Mount Madonna

Emotional Release: Writing is a safe, cathartic way to express the complex feelings that accompany loss, change, or a life transition that has you uncertain what’s coming next.

Reflection: Writing provides a mirror through which you can explore the past and understand the choices before you with new eyes.

Creativity: The unlocking of your creativity and imagination leads to new strategies for moving forward into an uncertain future.

Connection: The embrace of a safe, sacred writing circle provides the life-changing experience of being held by a compassionate community that understands and holds you with tenderness and deep respect.

You will savor these new skills and benefits long after the retreat.

Daily Rhythm

Our retreat will include ample time for communion, connection, solitude, rest, and rejuvenation.

During the course of our days, there will be meetings with the community as a whole, time to write in small groups, and if you so desire, on your own.

We will meet together as a whole group each morning. After a delicious organic lunch, your afternoons will be open. Many of you will choose to write during this time, harnessing the inspiration and seeds you harvested in the morning.

You can also use this free time to hike, soak in a hot tub, or get a massage. You can also nap, exercise or share your writing with a new friend. You will also be part of a smaller pod of writers who will write together for an hour every day.

After a fantastic, delicious, organic dinner, we will reconvene as a whole group in the evening.

This extraordinary, life-changing retreat will last for seven days and six nights.

View of Mount Madonna from Hiking Trail
View of Mount Madonna from Hiking Trail
Dining Room
Dining Room

Teachers and Guides

Laura Davis

Writing Workshop Instructor:

Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. Laura's groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor, and speaker.

Laura's newest book, The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, her first memoir, tells the story of her dramatic and tumultuous relationship with her mother from the time of Laura's birth until her mother's death. You can read the first five chapters for free here.

She is a cancer survivor, the mother of three, the grandmother of three, and has buried both her parents. In other words, she is a well-seasoned human being.

11-11-24 Evelyn_5

Guest Lecturer Evelyn Hall:

Evelyn Hall is a social worker, master hypnotherapist, and minister. For the past 35 years, Evelyn has been guiding individuals and leading groups, helping people find healing in body, mind, and spirit. Evelyn specializes in transformative healing practices including somatic awareness, movement, meditation, healing through nature, and leading sacred ceremonies. She brings a depth to grief work by teaching clients to allow the natural healing process of grief to occur: addressing and transforming feelings and thoughts through body, mind and spirit. In this path, grief becomes the healing journey.

Location: Mount Madonna in Watsonville, California

The summer retreat will be held at the incomparable Mount Madonna in Watsonville, California.

Mount Madonna Center is located in 380 acres of redwood groves, hiking trails, and meadows infused with peace and spacious beauty.

The serene landscape and community staff provide a nourishing backdrop that support and inspire.

The meals are fresh, home-made and deeply satisfying. Accommodations are peaceful and quiet, conducive to creativity and deep rest.

To learn more about Mount Madonna, please visit their FAQs page here.

Arrival and Departure: We will convene at 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday, May 7th for dinner. You can arrive to register as early as 3:00 PM. We will end after lunch on Monday, May 14th.

You will need to arrange your travel so you can be at the retreat for the entire time. (If you are flying into SFO, that means your plane should arrive no later than 1:30 Tuesday afternoon and leave no earlier than 5:00 on Monday afternoon.)

Size of the Group: There will be a maximum of 18 writers at the retreat. We will meet as a large group each day for a teaching session and in small writing groups, so there will be ample time for intimate sharing of your life and your words.

Mount Madonna Double Room
Mount Madonna Double Room


Guest accommodations at Mount Madonna are quiet and peaceful. You will find a range of rooming options to meet your needs and budget.

There are limited single rooms at this retreat. Most people will be in shared housing with a roommate. We have found that many of our participants have made lifelong friends with their roommates from this retreat. If you don't have anyone in mind, we will find a suitable person for you to share with.

Note: Cabins are rustic, further from our meeting and dining hall, and you will need to walk to a bathhouse for bathroom facilities.

Wellness Massage at the Wellness Center
Wellness Massage at the Wellness Center

Wellness Center: 

Mount Madonna has a Wellness Center where you can book a variety of Ayurvedic therapies, traditional massage, and other body therapies, provided by professional trained practitioners in a nourishing oasis of peace. Massage, energy healing, reiki, cranial sacral, and other healing treatments can be booked in the hours between our sessions.

There is also a hot tub which we will be sharing with all retreat guests on the property. Bathing suits are required.


What's included:

  • All instruction for a life-changing retreat.
  • The services of your capable, compassionate leaders.
  • An amazing community that will lead to deep connections and new friends.
  • A copy of Laura's memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars.
  • A supportive, relaxed, and nurturing environment.

What's not included:

  • Transportation to and from Mount Madonna.
  • Room and board. These will be a part of the rooming package that you purchase directly from Mount Madonna.
  • Travel insurance to protect your investment in the retreat.
  • Tips for the kitchen and the cleaning staff.
  • Massage or bodywork sessions.
Tree at Mount Madonna
Tree at Mount Madonna

Sign Up Now to Secure Your Place!

Tuition: $2,800 for the retreat. There is additional cost for accommodations and meals. (See info below in section 2)

1. Tuition Payment Schedule: A $1,000 nonrefundable deposit is due with your registration. The remaining balance will be due on February 15, 2024.

Retreat Tuition Cancellations and Refunds Policy: The initial $1,000 nonrefundable deposit will be forfeited in all cases. After February 15, 2024, there will be no refunds. Exceptions to this cancellation policy cannot be made for any reason, including personal emergencies. Travel protection insurance will provide your only option for recouping your tuition investment.

2. Accommodations at Mount Madonna: You will be arranging and paying for your accommodations directly with Mount Madonna. Accommodations and meals are not covered in the tuition costs. Mount Madonna has their own payment schedule and cancellation policies, separate from those laid out above for tuition. To review their pricing, see the Accommodations section above. Do not book your accommodations until we confirm your spot in the retreat. We will then send you a special registration link to book your room.

Mount Madonna Accommodations Cancellation Policy: Accommodations cancellations received at least two weeks before your reservation date will be fully refunded. Accommodations cancellations received from two weeks to 48 hours prior to the reservation date, will be charged a processing fee of $50, and the remainder of your payment will be held as a credit to reserve a future Personal Retreat or Program at Mount Madonna within one year. Credits are not transferable to another person. If you cancel within 48 hours of your reservation date, if you do not show up, or if you leave early, you will not receive a refund from Mount Madonna.

Mount Madonna
Mount Madonna

Schedule a Free initial 15-minute phone consultation.