While We’re Waiting

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

 

 

 

 

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A Look Back..Seven Years Ago

 

Today marks nine years since Lydia departed to heaven. I found this blog post I wrote a couple of years ago and wanted to share.    Thinking of all of you grieving hearts and sending prayers of peace and love. Hope is just around the corner.

 

My travels last weekend brought me through another five hours alone with four kids in the car. By the time we got back home, let’s just say I was exhausted, drained, and tempted to sell my little monsters to the troll under the next bridge. How can such beautiful blessings pick on your last nerve sometimes? Well with the screaming, whining, pinching, teasing, and Cheerios flying through the air… it happens!

We had a good few days on our travels, making it to the beach for the first day. Of course I told the kids not to get soaking wet in the ocean before dinner, only get wet to their knees. Well, I should have known. That worked for about a minute and before I could stop them they were rolling in the sand and water, completely drenched and laughing loudly. The smiles were priceless. How could I ruin the fun?

www.grievinggumdrops.com

The next day we traveled on to our nieces wedding. On our way there we had the privilege of stopping by the annual picnic held by The Compassionate Friends, the same group we started with so many years ago. Seeing these familiar faces was heartwarming. It was fun going down memory lane and seeing how our lives have changed so much since we first met them. These people understood. They did not judge us that day we walked into our first meeting engulfed in sorrow and deep grief, barely able to speak our daughter’s name. They have seen us at our darkest and worst times and also at our best. We were so thankful to reunite with them and talk about our children with those who are also along this journey.

A favorite part of these gatherings are the balloon releases, especially for the kids. It touched me deeply to see my boys writing on balloons sweet messages for their sister. And after the balloons were let go…my oldest succumbed to the emotions, hugging me and burying his head in my shirt, tears flowing freely as he said, “I really miss Lydia.”

www.grievinggumdrops.com

www.grievinggumdrops.com

Needless to say, it broke my heart again, tearing open those wounds that time had patched together. Seeing your child feel the pain of grief is so incredibly difficult. Brings tears to my eyes just talking about it. I so wish I could take his pain away. Yet it was a beautiful moment and expression of love.

After the picnic we headed to the wedding, our spirits full of memories and eager to witness such a magnificent union. The grassy field made a perfect setting for such an event. Simple and colorful, not too hot, calm and peaceful. In the barn as we walked to find some water to quench our thirst, my husband and I came across a table.

www.grievinggumdrops.com

Catching me off guard, I was not expecting to see a picture of Lydia on that table that brought instant waterworks to my eyes and a lump in my throat. It meant the world to me that our sweet niece remembered her and wanted to honor her life in such a way. I felt grateful to be her mother, yet also experienced that profound ache that lives deep inside me rise quickly to the surface.

How had time gone by so quickly?

Today it has been seven years.

Seven LONG years since I have held you in my arms, smelled your sweet scent and looked into your big blue sparkling eyes.

How can that be?

Strange that it can seem like only yesterday we were shopping and enjoying our regular trips to Starbucks for hot chocolate and bagels.

And then it was all taken away in an instant. No more playing Barbie’s, no more arguing over the TV remote, no more painting our nails together, no more dress up, no more late night snuggles and sleepovers.

It’s not been easy. Even after all these years, when I slow down and look at your pictures, that deep love comes pouring out. That scar gets torn open bringing back the reminders of the brokenness and what I have missed.

I see a strawberry blonde little girl and stop to take a second glance thinking it might be you. I see a little girl wearing the same dress and it still brings me to tears.

www.grievinggumdrops.com

Seven years of silent loneliness and deep penetrating heartache, envying those around me who have all their children…Yet, I was so thankful to be your mom and still am. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

You’d be twelve now……What I would give to hear your voice just one more time.

We went from a family of four down to three in a mere second….and then with the blessings from above, back to four, rapidly to five and then surprisingly six. But in reality, we are a family of seven. I am blessed beyond measure. Being the mom of five unique and boisterous children is completely awesome.

You have transformed my life in so many ways and opened my eyes to a world I could never imagine. I am older and wiser. It may sound strange, but being given this gift of grief and the excruciating pain has made me a better person. It made me real. Now, I am able to see with eyes of compassion deep into the soul, experiencing the real emotions in life knowing what is most important. I was living, but not really until I experienced the tragedy of my child dying. It revealed who I was deep inside, giving me a great appreciation for my faith, family, friends and the simple blessings of every day life.

Life is a gift. Every single day.

www.grievinggumdrops.com

Forever in my heart.

A Glimpse Into Sibling Grief- 9 Years Later

This boy.

Up to my elbows in warm bubbly water, I let out a sigh as I loaded the dishwasher. Seems like the vicious cycle never ends.

I looked out the window hoping these dishes would miraculous disappear, when he walked in behind me, grabbed a piece of pizza and leaned against the counter as he took a bite.

“I wish Lydia was here.”    The first words out of his mouth.

Ahhh. Gulp. I felt a sudden tugging in my heart.  This came as a surprise as he hasn’t said much about her in a few months.  Remaining quiet, I continued with the dishes and waited to see where this would go.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could tell his mind was deep in thought, chewing and thinking, remembering and wondering, as demonstrated by his calm yet serious demeanor.

Hunter Pizza

“She should be here instead of me.” He continued on.  Grabbing a piece of pizza, I leaned beside him, reaching my around his shoulders, seizing the moment.

“Oh honey no, you don’t mean that.”    I took a deep breath and tried to fight back the tears, bit into the Hawaiian dish and wondered where this spontaneous empathetic comment elicited from.

We leaned on each other against counter, slowly munching on our pizza and continued our moving conversation.

“You know, God knew what was going to happen that day. He had a plan. He knew we were going to have an accident and knew the outcome. You are here because you were meant to be here. He knew you would be a fantastic big brother and these little brothers and sister you have now need you, and you need them. If it weren’t for Lydia, they wouldn’t be here. “

After I said it, it didn’t sound so attractive.  But it was the truth.  A bittersweet ending. She departed to heaven which opened the door for the three other siblings that came after her-none of which was in our plans.

“I wouldn’t trade any of you,” I said as I wiped my eyes, “and wish all of you could be here now together, but that just wasn’t how it was going to be.  What a blessing that God gave you more siblings.”

“But I wish she was here. I really miss her, “he stated softly.

“I know, I do too,” I said as we shared a loving big bear hug amongst our sniffles.

God knew. He knows.

And there I was, having this adult filled conversation with my twelve-year-old in the kitchen. My son, who now stands as tall as me, will surpass me any minute. He was so big on the outside, yet so vulnerable on the inside.

As I looked at his innocent face, instantly I was reminded of that frightened little boy I cradled in the rocks and weeds on the shoulder of the highway nearly nine years ago while life as I knew it came to a painful end.

How did this happen?  My thoughts raced trying to untangle the intricate web of what ifs.

My mind had no problem reminding me of how excruciating and horrific those early years were.  Amazing how those memories lay just beneath the surface, waiting to be revealed again at a moment’s notice.

My son can be challenging at times like when complaining about his lack of technology or when he tests the boundaries of his emerging independence and entrance into his teens. However, I always remember that underneath his sometimes rough and abrasive exterior, is a little boy.  A little boy who was robbed of a normal childhood and the stable and attentive parents he deserved.

A little boy whose heart remains as big as the ocean.  A little boy who loves his family with all his soul, a little boy who has had to grow up long before his time.

They said he wouldn’t remember, however, to the surprise of many, there is nothing he can’t recall.  From how his sister bossed him around, made him play dress up and wear make up, to every tiny detail about the accident.  He remembers.

She was his, and he was hers.

Each day he grows more- intellectually, spiritually, and physically, touching my heart deeply. Yet emerging now, I see a strong young man who possesses amazing strength and perseverance, a young man who is courageous and beholds a heart of compassion and I couldn’t be more proud.

Through it all, I remain tremendously thankful because losing his sister has brought him closer to Jesus.

And with that, he knows that despite our sorrow, God will make beauty out of our pain and give us the hope and faith to be reunited with his sister and other loved ones someday.  Yet for now, we treasure our memories and rest assured that Lydia will remain forever in all of our hearts.

 

www.grievinggumdrops.com