The Executive Director of Open to Hope spoke with Jason Stout of Outward Bound during the 2015 Association of Death and Counseling Conference. When asked about how he got into this field, Stout responded, “I fell in love with the mission.” Personal growth via a challenge is something that everyone faces, including when losing a loved one. Horsley’s personal experience with Outward Bound was life changing, and she sees why Stout has been with the organization for 14 years. At 20, Horsley’s brother and cousin died in a car crash. Unsure of how she could move forward after such a loss, she went to Outward Bound.
“I not only found the will to live, I found passion and meaning in my life,” she tells Stout. He explains that Outward Bound, being a challenging experience, “takes us out of our comfort zone.” It’s teeming with outdoor expeditions, from mountaineering to sailing, that are far away from family and friends. “We discover who we are…and we succeed as well.” Horsley is quick to point out that you don’t need to be an athlete in order to participate. It’s suited for everyone.
This Outward Bound program is just for teens, featuring a seven-day trip that’s grief-centric. You get “the space to grieve in the outdoors,” says Stout. Teens are a unique demographic that require innovative approaches to learning how to grieve. “We’ll climb a mountain, and dedicate it to the person who died,” he gives as an example. Rich with ceremony and tasks, “We’re actually having a lot of fun,” Stout says. Surrounding yourself with beauty can be a fantastic way to heal. “We teach through the mountains,” he says.
“A lot of us when we’re grieving, we get stuck in that grief,” Stout explains, but with an expedition you’re heading out to learn about yourself. You’re sharing. You’re developing life skills.