2018 Spouses & Life Partners Retreat

December 6, 2018 – December 9, 2018, All Day

Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel – 10207 Wincopin Circle, Columbia, MD
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The 2018 Spouses & Life Partners Retreat will be held December 6 – 9 in Columbia, Maryland, in conjunction with the annual Fire Hero Family Tree Lighting that is held in the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel on the grounds of the National Emergency Training Center.

Open to spouses and life partners of fallen firefighters honored at the National Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, this retreat will be facilitated by Michele Neff Hernandez and Dr. Carrie West, grief professionals who also know firsthand the experience of losing a spouse. The 2018 Spouses & Life Partners Retreat will include self-assessment and reflection using the Soaring Spirits Widowed Resilience Scale, presentation of material, personal sharing, physical activity, and expressive, creative activities. Please dress comfortably for all sessions and use the unscheduled time to continue conversations with other participants, take care of yourself physically and emotionally, and rest as needed.


Thank you for the overwhelming interest in the Spouses Retreat. The December Spouses Retreat is now full, unfortunately, we can no longer take any additional registrations for this event. With the overwhelming interest; we’ll do our best to host another Spouses Retreat in the near future.


About the Facilitators

Michele Neff Hernandez

Michele Neff Hernandez

Michele Neff Hernandez, a popular presenter at many past NFFF conferences, is the Founder and Executive Director of Soaring Spirits International, an international widowed peer-support network which has served three million widowed people over the past ten years. Since the death of her husband, Phillip, Michele has dedicated herself to providing resources, support, and community to widowed men and women around the world.

Michele is the Founder of the Soaring Spirits Resilience Center at Schreiner University, an awarded speaker and a featured trainer for hospices and bereavement teams with a focus on resilience in widowhood. Michele loves widowed people and is honored to have been a part of thousands of widowed men and women’s evolution from surviving to thriving.

Dr. Carrie West

Dr. Carrie West

Dr. Carrie West is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. Carrie was widowed when she was 29 and had two sons who were 6 and 1. Carrie is remarried and lives in Kerrville, Texas, with her husband, sons, and three dogs.

She earned her Ph.D. in interpersonal and family communication from University of Denver and serves as the director of research for both Soaring Spirits International and the Soaring Spirits Resilience Center at Schreiner University. She has worked with Soaring Spirits for over five years to help gather and provide resources for widowed people. Her goal is to discover which resources and behaviors can help people be more resilient, create and maintain personal relationships, find meaningful support, and use communication to improve their lives and health.

The 2018 Spouses & Life Partners Retreat will begin with a dinner reception on Thursday, December 6, starting at 6:00 pm. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will include engaging workshops and open discussions where everyone will be encouraged to participate and share experiences and insights. A trip to Emmitsburg is planned for Friday afternoon to attend the annual Fire Hero Family Holiday Tree Lighting and enjoy dinner at the Carriage House Restaurant.

Travel, Lodging, and Expenses

Your lodging and meals will be provided beginning with Thursday’s dinner and ending with lunch on Sunday. NFFF will reimburse your travel expenses up to $350 (airfare or mileage).

We have reserved a block of rooms at the Sheraton Hotel and will provide ground transportation to and from BWI airport. You should plan to arrive before 6:00 pm on Thursday and depart after 1:00 pm on Sunday, December 9 (Shuttle transportation will only be available for these dates). Space is limited and will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis. Your registration for the retreat will reserve your room.

If you want to learn about building resiliency and strengthening your sense of self, the 2018 Spouses & Life Partners Retreat is for you.

For more information about the Spouses & Life Partners Retreat, please contact Beverly Donlon at (301) 447-1603.