One of the heavy thoughts that permeates the mind of a parent who has lost a child is often “Why me, how could this happen to me?” Many grieving parents feel guilt or even shame as well as an overarching feeling of isolation. When my first daughter Patricia was born still at 31 weeks of pregnancy, I felt all of these and more. My husband and I received an incredible amount of support but few around me could truly understand the depths of my grief. Thankfully, we live in a time when parents from all over the world can connect to one another and provide support online. Through an online forum, I learned of a retreat center in Wisconsin called Faith’s Lodge that was founded by a couple who also experienced a stillbirth. My desire to attend a weekend retreat was immediate and strong. My husband was less excited at the prospect of spending so much time in a lodge with perfect strangers, but he realized how important it was for me to connect in real life with other mothers on a similar journey.
We traveled from our home in Texas to Faith’s Lodge in Wisconsin just over two months after Patricia’s death. We didn’t know what to expect, but the experience was absolutely incredible. To spend an entire weekend with people who truly understood our loss was so freeing. I felt lighter and laughed harder than I had in months. Our group shared stories of our lives and those of our children while relaxing, taking part in various activities, and sharing meals together. Knowing no one was uncomfortable around me or judging me while I talked about my daughter openly and shared the happiness she brought as well as the heart wrenching grief we feel every day – what a gift this was! It made me feel like I could begin to live again. My husband was surprised to share this feeling.
Seeing other dads grieving their babies as much as he was gave him immeasurable comfort and strength. We were also able to spend precious time as a couple reconnecting and talking about our hopes for the future of our family._
I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve on the board of A Memory Grows in honor of our Patricia. I look forward to helping provide other parents the gift of a weekend dedicated to loving and celebrating the lives of their child or children while connecting with other grieving parents as only we can.
Jill is the mother of three beautiful girls and a founding board member of A Memory Grows. Her first daughter Patricia is loved and remembered everyday.