‘No one gets left behind’

ANINI—As Matthew and Cindy Moretti wrapped orchids around a tree at the Lemahuli Garden and Preserve, the couple held the memory of their deceased son close to their hearts.

Each day can be difficult.

But each day can be one small step forward.

And through a retreat held by the Ohana Oasis Organization, the couple was hoping to move on from their son’s death.

“It’s been pretty awesome to say the least,” Matthew Moretti said of the new camp for grieving parents. “Hopefully, if we come back some time, we can visit what we did there as a memorial to our kids.”

The Morettis are one of three couples who attended a retreat hosted by Ohana Oasis, a nonprofit created by Kauai resident Heidi Low. The organization’s mission is to provide parents with a space for finding peace, healing and rediscovering joy after the death of a child.

“I think part of the reason we came is to reflect on what happened, to find purpose in it and move forward from it,” Matthew Moretti said.

Started on April 30, the organization’s retreat allowed parents to take part in numerous daily activities such as snorkeling, helicopter tours, site seeing, bike riding and family dinners as a way to uncoil from their grief. The parents also got together in the evening to share stories and address the low and high points of their day.

Low and the parents also performed healing activities in the morning and focused on different concepts ever two days, such as honoring the past, living in the present and embracing the future.

“It’s been phenomenal. It’s been absolutely amazing,” Low said. “ It’s been so nice to see the parents just coming in with just open hearts and feeling safe and comfortable and to be able to enjoy themselves and laugh and cry.”

Having lost her 5-year-old daughter to a brain tumor 11 years ago, Low said she understands the parents’ pain and the difficulty of moving on with life.

“It completely changes your life,” she said. “I don’t think you ever move past it. It’s a life-changing and defining moment. There are so many parents who have, are, and will face the moment of knowing the finality of never ever having the chance to hold their child again, no more chances to hug them or stroke the top of their head while saying, ‘I love you.’”

The camp ended Thursday. Low said that she would like to host another retreat in the fall and three more next year.

Many local organizations, restaurants and citizens donated goods and services in order to make the retreat a reality.

The organization centers around the philosophy of a famous quote from the movie Lilo and Stitch which says “ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

“It’s really a chance for them to heal, find some peace and restoration and rediscover life,” Low said about Ohana Oasis. “What we provide is a safe place that is intentionally far removed from the everyday, from familiar memories, from people’s well-intentioned watchful eyes. A place where parents are given the permission and freedom to play! To explore the notion that one of the best ways to honor their child’s memory is to live life fully with happiness, joy, peace and purpose.”

As the retreat concluded on Thursday, the parents did a final healing exercise and paddled out on rigger canoes to Hanalei Bay where they had a final memorial for their children.

“It was incredible,” Low said. “It seems like everybody got exactly what they needed; a safe place to share with each other and to heal.”

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