Grief can be incredibly isolating. You can be surrounded by friends and family that care, love, and support you, yet still feel alone. Even though you wouldn't wish this type of pain on anyone, having those closest to you not truly understand what you're going through is tough.
You are constantly acting, always putting on some sort of facade of functionality because true openness and vulnerability with someone who hasn’t had the same experience can be awkward and exhausting. Not only do you have to manage your own emotions – you end up managing theirs as well.
This is why finding your ‘people’, your loss community, other people that have felt your type of pain, is absolutely vital. Connecting with someone who is walking a similar road can be like a breath of fresh air for your hurting heart.
This is why we love Faith’s Lodge.
What is Faith's Lodge? They give the best overview on their website:
"Faith’s Lodge supports parents and families facing the death or medically complex condition of a child in a peaceful environment to reflect on the past, renew strength for the present and build hope for the future. Faith’s Lodge: A Place Where Hope Grows. In its North Woods setting, Faith’s Lodge provides a peaceful escape for families to refresh their minds and spirits while spending time with others who understand what they are experiencing."
A weekend at Faith's Lodge is our number one recommendation to other bereaved parents.
When Norah passed away, we received a folder of resources for bereaved parents and tucked neatly into the front pocket was a brochure for Faith's Lodge. The image of a lodge in the picturesque north woods stood in stark contrast to the looming mountain of paperwork covering our dining room table and the thought of a weekend away from everything piqued my interest.
When I looked at the available dates, the only Bereaved Parents of Infant Loss weekend available for months just so happened to fall over Mother's Day weekend. (Each weekend retreat at Faith's Lodge is designed specifically for the type of guests it will be hosting.)
Having just buried our daughter – the one who gave me the title of 'Mother', and finding out that my own mother has cancer... well, Mother’s Day was going to be a whole thing.
Clearly, Norah knew that too.
A few weeks later, we found ourselves driving down the private driveway to the lodge, winding through the surrounding trees.
"Well, if all else fails, at least it's beautiful and we can take naps here." (#grieflife – always planning for the worst)
You guys, we had no idea just how much we needed this.
As we settled in and explored, we started to notice memorials – painted rocks, bird houses, plaques and bricks – honoring children lost. They dotted the property everywhere we went; we were surrounded by little pieces from broken hearts just like ours.
It was clear that all the children gone too soon, all the stories from the families like ours are intricately woven into the fabric of Faith's Lodge.
The love for and from families touched by loss or medical complexity is palpable everywhere you go on the property. It's found in every little detail – from the stories behind each room to the signs hidden along the walking paths.
Everyone grieves differently, and at Faith's Lodge an understanding of that is reflected in the variety of activities and spaces they offer.
While they do offer planned group activities such as crafts, dinner, and a nightly group discussion – all of them are optional. They also have a ton of activities that you can explore on your own – kayaking, canoeing, walking trails, board games, and so much more.
For us, our best memories came from sitting around the fire.
There is something almost magical about sitting around a campfire on a starry summer night; it draws people together and fuels conversation.
Really, our time around the fire embodies our entire Faith's Lodge experience:
Here, we remembered, honored, and celebrated our children.
Here, nobody asked, "How are you?"
Here, we said their names.
Here, we said "I understand," instead of "I can't imagine," or "I'm so sorry."
Here, we swapped NICU stories over s'mores, laughed together, and cried together.
Here, our parenthood was acknowledged.
Here, there was no awkwardness when talking about things like planning a funeral for your child.
Here, our children's stories flowed in and out of conversation as naturally as it does for parents of living children.
Here, Lane and I sat, warmed by the glow of the fire, looking up at the stars, listening to the soft lullaby of nature in the night. We spent hours talking about life, death, Norah, and God – all of which seem that much clearer when the lights, sounds, notifications, and business of life is removed and you are left alone in God's creation.
Here, we found hope.
You guys, Faith's Lodge is truly a sacred space.
What Faith's lodge has provided us and so many other families is priceless.
Through the generosity of volunteers, donors, and partner organizations, Faith's Lodge is able to provide these retreats at an incredibly low price, or in many cases, at zero cost to parents. (The hospital covered the entire cost of our stay.)
To honor Norah, all her angel friends, and all those parents that have come before and will come after, we want to give back.
This fall/winter we're raising money for Faith's Lodge by selling more shirts and this time we're adding a new design and new styles! You can order your Fierce shirts again, now also available in long sleeves and sweatshirts for the chillier months. Or, you can pick up one of the awesome new Faith by Fire designs, thanks to the lovely and oh-so-talented Lauren Kracht!
Our goal is to raise enough money to be able to sponsor a legacy gift in honor of Norah. Depending on how much we raise, we could sponsor anything from a walking path brick, to a bench, to even the firepit itself!
Join us in helping Faith's Lodge support families,