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Finding Friendship in the Least Likely of Places

We attended a grief retreat this weekend. It was hard not being able to blog and write about what was happening and what we were experiencing. We are both thankful for the experience and we would both highly recommend Faith's Lodge to other grieving parents. I am going to share the details of what our experience was like. We are going back in July for the family camp and are looking forward to sharing our experience with the kids.

We headed north to Wisconsin for the retreat on Thursday morning. We arrived after dinner, but in time for the first group session. The rest of the parents got to eat a taco bar for dinner. The group facilitator was a very kind man who really helped us work through things and helped us to start conversations with one another. This first group allowed us to share about what happened to our children. We were at the retreat with one mom whose husband had to work, and two other couples. Each of us lost a child in a tragic accident which gave us something else to bond over. There were some weird date connections that caused us to note that we were all meant to be here together.

We met L & M who had a beautiful little man named Weston. Weston seems like such a dynamic young child. L & M are a bit ahead of us on their grief journey and we got to see where we can hope to be in the future, how we can hope to cope with different things like the first planned holidays without our girl. It was nice to hear about them traveling with their family and trying to start new traditions that allow them to escape at least a little bit of the pain of not having their child on these important dates. I was hopeful listening to them that we are all on similar journeys and we have similar thoughts about how we can survive and thrive as best as possible.

We met B, whose husband had to work and got to hear about her experience and her journey through grief for the past two years and five and a half months. This gave us some insight into what we can expect and where we can hope to be in the future. B shared the story of her beautiful Taylor, her life, and the tragic way in which she passed. Being able to hear about the beautiful soul that Taylor was reminded me that it seems like only the most dynamic children are taken too soon. I sure hope that Taylor is up there hugging and loving on my precious girl until I get to be with her. Taylor passed away on Weston's first birthday and Taylor shares a birthday with Shane.

We met J & J and heard about their amazing little boy Karter. Karter actually was born the day before Adeline. Both J & I hope that these two are playing together and keeping each other company until we can be there too. Shane and I appreciated hearing about how J & J are handing things with their other children and with how their grief journey has gone. We appreciated seeing another couple who had a child the same age and hearing how they celebrated things without their son.

We laughed with these new parents, talked about the guilt that we all felt when we were having a good time or laughing. We also cried with each of these parents. Hearing about their precious sons and daughter broke my heart. It hurt so bad to know that someone else is going through this Hell, but it was also nice to know that someone else is going through this Hell (if that makes sense).

After our group, we mostly retreated to our rooms and headed to bed. Shane and I felt emotionally exhausted after sharing about what an amazing little girl that Adeline was, the fire, and how we lost her. I sobbed reliving those moments and knowing that I will not be able to go back in time and save my girl. I wish so much that I had made different choices that morning, that I had carried her down those stairs with me, that I had waited for her, anything other than what I did.

Friday morning we woke up and had breakfast. Then we did a guided meditation and yoga. It was very relaxing and taught Shane and I both how beneficial these two simple things can be. We both felt very good after meditation and yoga. We had a counseling session with the two of us which was nice since we do not normally do any type of couple's counseling. Then we had lunch, individual massages, and worked on crafts, making a wooden ornament and a bracelet. We ate dinner and started on our birdhouse and stone. We both enjoyed talking with everyone and just having some relaxing time. The rest of the night was just easy and relaxing. We spent some time talking with the other parents.

Saturday morning we got up and enjoyed breakfast with the group. We then had a second group session. That group session had us all talking about who were as people. It's so hard to forget who you are when you are stuck so deep in grief. I know that I have felt like I am not the same person, but coming up with simple things like "Tell me two things about yourself that are true and one that is a lie and let us guess." felt impossible and took all of us a considerable amount of time. It is just hard to talk about yourself when you are the last thing that is on your mind.

After group we had lunch, went on a little road trip and checked out the surrounding towns, and then came back and did some hiking through the property. The trails were nice even in the snow and oddly enough (I'm saying oddly because this was 7.5 hours north of where we live) it was warmer outside in Wisconsin than it is in Illinois. The cold was not as bitter and it was so dry that it felt nice. We walked around for about an hour and checked so many things. Then we went back and had a cooking lesson from some local chefs. They made some delicious recipes and we learned how to cook them too. It was so nice to sit and talk and learn about cooking while sharing a nice meal together.

Finally, we worked on our group bird house. We each got a side since our group was so small. The group bird house is what the sides above are from where I shared them from each child's description. We are so thankful and blessed to have met such wonderful people who share in the same hell journey that we are on. I am so thankful that I have some other moms to reach out to who will get it, who will understand what we are going through, and whom I can call on when I am having a bad day or a moment of weakness. I can also get ideas for how to work through different degrees of grief.

The last thing that we did before leaving was place a stone that we had painted for Adeline. Apparently under the snow there are hundreds (or even thousands) of these stones, each one for a child who has a grieving family. Our Sweet Adeline is worth so much more than this stone to me and yet here we are reducing her life to the memories that we have, the photos that remain, and the meaning or purpose that we hope to learn that her life served.

So, there were some major positives to the weekend....but that being said, I miss my Sweet Adeline. I want my girl here with me. I want for B to have Taylor in her arms, for L & M to hold their precious Weston, for J & J to be home with Karter. I don't just want my girl back now, I want their girl and boys to be back too. I want these moms to get to hold their babies again just like I want to hold my girl again. As we were driving home, the overwhelming grief of her not being home when we got there hit me and now that I am home I feel that emptiness in the house from her not being here. I feel the hole that is left without her living with us. I feel the strong desire to just find my girl and get her back. I don't know how else to describe all of these feelings except that they are overwhelming.

All of that being said, I have had some renewed energy and purpose in getting back to work on school and writing. I know that I have been a bit too relaxed and I have not done everything that I should, so I will keep working hard and will be back on track in a short time period which will be nice. I know that having time with myself and a good book is not going to send me into the spiral that it once did. I can't let any part of Adeline go and that is so hard. It is so exhausting to have that constant longing and to constantly have my thoughts turn to the very thing that I will never be able to have.

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  1. Amanda and Shane, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. How wonderful for people to help those grieving. I'm anxious to see Adeline's star up in the sky, what a wonderful, lasting memory for all to share. Much love to you both. Grandma Gehrke.

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