Psalm 27:14 Wait patiently for the Lord, be brave and courageous.
One wouldn’t think that after ten years, a parent whose child has died, would need to take a “retreat,” now would they?
After all, it’s been ten years right? Time to get over it and move on, and quit dwelling in the past?
Easy to say, however, when your child dies, life is forever changed. And I mean forever. Not just for a few days, weeks, or years, but for the entire rest of your life.
You live differently. July will mark ten years since our Lydia went to heaven. And yes, we absolutely still think about her every day. As we reminisce, tears may fall as we wonder what she would look like, how she would interact with her siblings, wonder if she would still love music, dance and the outdoors like she always did.
A couple of months ago, I was on a work trip sitting in my hotel room alone, when I began doing research for a book I’m working on. It wasn’t long before I came across a faith filled retreat for bereaved parents. Instantly, it piqued my interest. I went to the website and felt and immediate connection.
It was a Christian based organization based in the Midwest, offering much-needed retreats for parents just like me. Have you heard of While We’re Waiting? Sighing, I shrugged my shoulders realizing that traveling to the Midwest was not an option for me.
As I continued reading on, what did I see? That they were having their first couples retreat in my home state, just a few hours away. Seriously?! Without hesitation I emailed them, claimed the last opening and signed up for this soul quenching event.
Personally, I had been searching for a bereaved parents retreat in the Pacific Northwest where I live, however, came up with nothing. Contemplating starting my own somewhere, let’s just say I was beyond thrilled to find this. Thank you God!
So a few weeks ago, Jake and I snuck away and had the honor of attending this healing retreat for bereaved parents, something we had never done before, yet something I always wanted to do.
As some of you may be aware, I love to help others through grief and am a huge advocate of connecting with others who have been there as well as expressing how God has carried me through this horrific journey. Faith is without a doubt, the secret sauce, after the death of a child. We cannot do this alone.
A little nervous and apprehensive, I hadn’t shared our story or daughter in this type of environment before. Strangely, I found myself to be completely excited as I anticipated the weekend to come.
We dropped off our children at their uncle’s house for a few days and headed down the highway.
Nestled in the mountains, we turned onto the gravel driveway and followed the signs until we reached the lodge. Cars lined the perimeter as we searched for a parking spot. Clearly we were the last ones to arrive. I was eager to meet everyone and could feel my heart beating rapidly as we approached the front door.
As we walked in, everyone was seated at the dinner tables, conversing and getting acquainted. We received a loving warm welcome and quickly found our seats. The vibe in the room was relaxed and inviting. I didn’t feel the need to explain my life or circumstances, and just enjoyed a casual meal with new friends.
Uniting in fellowship and sharing with a bunch of strangers. Hmm. Some may think that sounds kind of weird and uncomfortable. Let me tell you, it was the best. Parents from different cities and states meeting for the first time. Parents that have endured the same pain and sorrow we have.
New friends and relationships formed. Our eyes met, our souls connected. A time of quiet solace and reflection. All coming together talking and sharing our joys and sorrows about the day and difficult path we have been on since our children went to heaven.
After we lose a child, we become weak and connecting with others provides that kind of heart salve that mends the soul.
We shed tears, without judgement, in a place where you obtain a sense of belonging. Our children’s photos decorated the mantle as we enjoyed a time of comradery with those who have walked this seemingly unbearable new life.
It was a place where you needn’t speak a word yet have an immediate connection with other parents the moment your eyes make contact. Oddly, it brings comfort to your heart to be surrounded by other parents who know the extreme depths of your pain. They understand. They get it. They know what it’s like to hear those words, “your child has died.”
They appreciate the arduous and terrifying journey each of us has been on. This retreat emanated the infections persona of faith and presence of Christ, while keeping us refreshed and renewed, filling us with hope and healing.
An essential reprieve, a place to share our experiences, rollercoaster of emotions and how we have tackled those demons of hopelessness. A place where the hand of God was profoundly evident and hymns of praise were sung with confidence.
It was a place where we comfortably share our sweet Lydia, not having to justify or explain our journey. A special time devoted to our healing and our precious daughter.
While We’re Waiting is an extraordinary group of people who have been led by God to help others experiencing child loss. They have created refuges for parents to come and unite, receive the word of God while offering hope and encouragement. It’s a place where life is real, and pain is palpable, yet hope and faith dominate.
The strength of a grieving parent is immeasurable. Through child loss, our faith is tested and we can be transformed into super heroes without even being aware. We live like no one else. Our hearts are open wide, lined with compassion and our differences are washed away.
Yes, even ten years out, bereaved parents still need to recharge. I had a burning internal desire to be able to share my daughter and my story, while connecting with others that understand. Let us not underestimate the power of connections. We are indefinitely changed and equipped with the armor of God to sustain and protect us, free from the shackles of grief and sorrow.
What a blessing this was. I am so thankful to be able to meet these amazing parents and know their children.
Whether you are a newly bereaved parent or you are a parent years out from your loss, I absolutely recommended attending a While We’re Waiting Retreat or contributing to their ministry. Go check out their website and see how they are making an impact on grieving hearts. Find them at https://www.whilewerewaiting.org/home.html
Photo by Anisur Rahman on Unsplash