Family Grief Retreat -- Back at Faith's Lodge
Things have been going. Life has been continuing even though I feel as though I am stuck in some weird time loop where I can't possibly go on. Each day I struggle to breathe, I continue to have the same panicked feeling each day when I wake up. It is a panic that makes me feel as though I simply cannot go on. I have to reset and refocus my mind when this happens. Sometimes it is easy to do, other times I cry for hours wanting my old life back. I realize that this can never happen, but I just miss my girl with such a passion that I can't possibly describe to someone who is not also experiencing the great loss of a child. (Working is near impossible. I spend all day Thursday preparing myself to work a 3.5 hour shift on Friday, then the rest of Friday and all day Saturday I feel exhausted. When you have to cover up extreme grief and try to act normal, it is exhausting!)
We returned to Faith's Lodge last week, but this time it was for a family retreat. We again met more families who are going through this immense pain, more parents who have lost a precious child that they loved. The retreat was small. There were just three families there. The other two families also lost their children in accidents. In one family, one daughter had been in the accident with her brother and had survived. This connection was nice for Althea because she was able to meet someone else who had been with their sibling and who had survived. It was so nice to see all of the kids sharing, giggling and being friends. It was nice for the kids to have other kids to connect with and learn from. We were the newest loss at this retreat as well. One family lost their precious son 4 years ago and one family lost their adorable son just over 1 year ago.
The thing that made Faith's Lodge so great this time is that the kids were able to connect and learn from other kids who have been there. They were able to connect with other kids who have suffered immense loss. The thing that many people do not think about with children who lose a sibling is that they lose much more than just a sibling. In a sense, they lose their parents too. They lose the parents that you were and are stuck with the parents that you become. No matter how hard you try, you cannot be the same that you were before suffering such a great loss. Adeline will forever be a thought on my mind. I am learning to embrace those thoughts about my girl and to just breathe through the immense pain that I suffer from when I am having a moment.
Shane and I have been lucky. So many parents do not survive the loss of a child, but this has taken extreme patience (mostly on Shane's part) and lots of work to always be willing to consider each other. There are times and moments when it has been overwhelming and then there are times when it just is. As partners we have tried to tackle every situation together. We have worked hard to come together at a different level than we lived at before and have maintained our focus on each other and strengthening our relationship. We refuse to become a statistic. We refuse to be anything other than us.
While at Faith's Lodge, we were able to take some walks...hike a little (light hiking, nothing strenuous), and come together as a family sharing memories of our angel. We made a bird house together, worked on our side of the birdhouse for the retreat together, painted rocks, and more. We also walked around to find rocks and birdhouses from before. We were able to find our birdhouse from before and the rock that we painted along with the rock that my parents painted when they went on their grandparent retreat.
I don't know how to describe Faith's Lodge to someone who has not been. There is some kind of magic there that brings peace and wisdom into your soul. My soul feels refreshed when I am there. I feel as though I am not going to be judged for admitting the realities of what it feels like to be without my daughter. There are days when I do not want to get out of bed, days when showering and putting myself together feel hard, days when I struggle so much that I fear that I am not good for my husband or my children and that they would be better off without me. There are so many days that make feel as though I can't do enough for everyone around me. I can't be the mom that they deserve or the wife that Shane deserves. Then there is immense emotional pain that I feel over not being able to save Adeline, over the fact that I made a choice and that she died and had I made another choice she might have lived. I feel the unnecessary need to apologize to everyone for the loss of her. I feel the need to take the blame for her passing. I feel like I couldn't have possibly been a good mom since she is no longer with me.
Then I remember those last words that she said to me....
"Mommy, I love you, you are the best mommy ever."
...& it feels as though she was trying to give me a message, almost like she knew what was happening, that she knew that she wouldn't walk out of that fire, that she knew that I would need these words to keep going.
I would give anything in the world just to hold my little girl one more time, to have one more hug, one more kiss, and to just have one more moment to tell her how special she is, to remind her how important she is, and to really let her know that she was the most loved little girl in the entire world. But I can't. I can't do any of these things...what I can do is live. I can live with that same tenacity for life that my little girl had.
I am sad when I meet other grieving parents and families, but I am also thankful for the connection. We had another loss in our family while we were at the retreat. My mom's cousin lost her 17 year old daughter in a tragic car accident. It has been a devastating loss for our family so soon after losing my littlest love, our sweet Adeline. Not one of us can understand why God has taken family members, but specifically children in such close succession. Neither child was sick. Neither child had any health concerns or conditions. Both were 100% healthy and happy children. Yet, a tragic accident took them both from us. If you are the praying type....we could all use a little extra prayer right now.