Vermonters By Choice is an occasional column about people who, like Ethan Allen, came to Vermont from away.
After living in Vermont for the past thirty years, Anne Black says, “I don’t want to live anywhere else.” It’s a place that she finds both profoundly spiritual and creative – two key elements in her life’s work.
THE WARRIOR CONNECTION
Currently, that work is fostering The Warrior Connection, a program for veterans working to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). During a six-day retreat in Vermont, Anne and other trained facilitators help returning veterans journey forward through story telling, expressive arts, and ritual, using tools Black has developed over a career of helping people overcome grief.
“It’s all about that seventeen-inch drop,” Black says, making a motion with her hand from her head to her heart.
COMMUNITY PSYCHOLOGY & THANATOLOGY
With a PhD in Community Psychology and a sub-specialty in Thanatology, Black has been helping people grieve and reclaim their hearts in a variety of initiatives that have led to The Warrior Connection. First came the HEALS Program, designed to help children work through their grief due to death, divorce, trauma or loss. Her methods evolved from the work of psychologist Carl Rogers, founder of person-centered psychology, and further developed into Person-Centered Expressive Arts by his daughter, Natalie Rogers.
Black combines expressive arts and ritual as participants travel a route similar The Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell. During the retreat, the warriors identify what they’ve lost and what burdens they continue to carry. Using art and ritual, the warriors tell their stories, identify their feelings, find forgiveness and reclaim their lost selves. It’s brave work they do, digging into their trauma and finding light at the other side.
While it was the HEALS program that led to The Warrior Connection, it wasn’t a direct route. In between the two programs, Anne started a business making Comfort Baskets for people experiencing loss, which were distributed by FTD for about five years. After that, she built another business helping people find grace in efficient living. In between each of these enterprises, Anne describes falling into periods of “emptiness” – an emptiness that allowed new ideas to formulate. About fifteen years after co-founding HEALS, Black turned to an underserved population: veterans with the invisible wounds of PTSD and MST.
The Warrior Connection has been offering retreats in Vermont for the past five years, and they’re ready to expand to make the program available to more veterans.
Meanwhile, Black continues to run the retreats at her home with the support of her local community. Except for an office manager funded by one of many angels, the entire enterprise is a volunteer effort, from donated food to volunteer cooks, facilitators, Executive Director and Board of Directors.
Black credits Vermont for fostering generosity and community. She also credits “the invisible hand of life that guides us” to where we need to be. For Anne Black, that place is Vermont.
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