Knowing that we needed some time alone to process Isaiah's death together without the demands of a two and four year old, Matt and I decided to work at finding child care to make it happen for us to attend one of the couples retreats for infant loss (Well...actually Matt said he would go because I wanted to and only because we knew we could choose to be uninvolved if we wanted to). ;) Faith's Lodge also offers weekends focused on miscarriage, older child loss, children with illness, family weekends, etc.
Front and back views of Faith's Lodge
We had the opportunity to go to Faith's Lodge this past weekend, and I don't think either of us had any idea how much it would mean to us. (Thanks for watching our kiddos, SD Grandparents!) The group of 7 couples from around the country had all experienced some form of infant loss, and though we were all very different, through that shared experience we bonded right away. Matt and I were glad to be able to fulfill our need to spend time away just the two of us (enjoying nature, canoeing in the pond, reading in the library, resting in our beautiful room, and relaxing and gazing through the telescope in the room at the top of the lodge - the Eagles Nest), but we didn't realize how much we would enjoy spending time with others who are on a similar journey (meals, bonfire, beach, games, etc.). We had no idea how much we needed this.
Here are some photos of the inside of the Lodge...
(L) Entry looking into meeting room, craft room
(R) Library in the basement
Basement stairs and hallways - leading to our room
As far as the programming, it was very much what one wanted to make of it. There was no set schedule except a meal together here or there (otherwise we made things on our own from the pantry or went out). There were optional crafts to do at our leisure and one two-hour group session on Saturday (but the group of us had already gotten so close, we had discussed most of those topics already). Faith's Lodge is not a Christian organization (as the title may suggest), so none of the activities were led in that mindset - but we were free to include faith as much as we chose to in conversation, etc.
The Lodge and grounds are beautiful and only about 6 years old. A huge storm took out most of the trees around there last year, yet the setting is still very serene.
The pond (small lake) and bonfire area
One of the things that I wasn't sure I would get into were the crafts. They had materials for several crafts to make in memory of our lost children (and some of our getting to know others took place while working on these crafts). Much more than I thought, being creative and making/looking at our crafts really helped me memorialize Isaiah's life.
One hard thing after grief is figuring out how to act around others. At first people only talk to you about your loss, and then at some point it becomes a taboo subject for some - probably to avoid making you sad (but just so you know - we are well acquainted with sadness - so even if talking about it it makes us sad, we WANT to hear our child's name and know that you think and care about him/us).
It also becomes hard to know if we can still bring our child up in conversation because it seems like it makes others uncomfortable and it seems like some want us to start "getting over it." It's hard to smile, laugh, or enjoy time with others because 1) it feels like we will never be able to laugh like we did before our loss and 2) we don't want others to think we are "over it."
Because all of the couples at Faith's Lodge had endured loss, it was totally opposite with this group. We knew they were hurting right along with us, so the environment was open to whatever emotion we were feeling at the moment and there was no over-thinking how one should be acting/feeling. There was sharing about our losses and how we were dealing with it, but boy was there laughter...so much fun and laughter.
Hanging out after supper
The whole gang
Especially the men were surprised at what an awesome weekend it was (and they all admitted that their wives got them to come - and only came because they knew they wouldn’t have to hang out with others if they didn’t want to). Staying at the lodge gave us all a chance to get to know each other over several days. Without spending time with other grieving parents, it may be hard to form a friendship deep enough to feel like they could support one another in the future (and this may be especially true for guys). Forming these friendships at Faith's Lodge paved the way for continued support and understanding. Especially for the guys (who may not seek support though other avenues like girls seem to - online, groups, etc.), they now have met and gotten to know SIX other guys that have experienced loss - and they can decide to continue to support one another if they'd like.
This is SUCH an answer to prayer for me - as I've really been praying that Matt would be able to find support through other Dads somehow. I guess it is up to them if they want to follow through with that, but I'm thankful they had time to get to know one another so they have that option.
So yeah – if you know of someone who has gone through the loss of a child or if you hear of someone who has a loss in the future, I highly recommend Faith’s Lodge. It was the perfect balance of fun/support with time away together. The bond with the group was an unexpected blessing. We knew we would be processing grief, but we can’t believe how much FUN we had! This weekend turned out better than we had hoped and was more valuable than we imagined it would be.
Hope's Bridge - where we placed our Heart Stones
Isaiah's Heart Stone
Placed among heart stones remembering other lost children
(FYI - this was not a guided retreat to formally help one through the grieving process - so if that is what you're looking for, a group like Griefshare or something like that might be a good choice.)
A butterfly outside our room