After Charlie died, we had multiple people (caregivers, counselors and social workers) recommend that we go spend a weekend at Faith’s Lodge. So, sometime in late September, we filled out an application and found a weekend that worked — November 14-16 — and made our reservation. As the date drew closer, I felt myself getting more and more anxious about going. I was nervous about telling our story. And I was worried about connecting with the other couples there.
Faith’s Lodge is about two hours away from the Twin Cities and its mission is to provide a place for families and parents to go if they have a child with a serious illness or have lost a child. There are designated weekends for families with children who are ill vs. bereaved families and further designated by what age the child was when they passed away.
We took a half day off of work on Friday, dropped off Cole at my in-laws’ and crossed over the Wisconsin border.
As we pulled up to the lodge, I was totally blown away by how much more beautiful the lodge and property were in person, but I could also feel my anxiety building. To make matters worse, I knew we were going to be the last to arrive — the other couples had nearly 24 hours together prior to our arrival. But once we walked in and were greeted by name by the lodge manager, Lisa, I started feeling more at ease. She gave us a tour around the gorgeous 12,000 square foot lodge — there were multiple rooms where groups could gather or we could go to be alone (all with fireplaces), an arts and crafts room, a theater room and a huge kitchen and dining area.
Then, Lisa showed us to our cozy, yet spacious room and let us get settled. I laid down for a quick nap and then we headed upstairs for dinner. Lisa showed us where we could put the pictures we brought of Charlie — on a table with photos of the other couples’ beautiful children. We made our plates and joined a few other couples for a comforting dinner of soup and sandwiches. We all introduced ourselves and one of the other couples asked if we would be comfortable telling our story. I took a deep breath and told them about that ultrasound, the waiting, the specialist appointments, the roller coaster of emotions, the hospital visits, Charlie’s birth and finally, how we eventually said goodbye. It wasn’t long before tissues were being passed around the table and the other couples took turns sharing their stories with us. They were incredibly sad and moving stories, but they were also beautiful in how these parents are remembering their children.
After dinner, we had a group-led discussion with a social worker. We shared our story again and got to know the stories from the couples who weren’t at dinner. We all cried together and after that, we were all so emotionally exhausted that we went retreated to our rooms for bed.
The next morning, J and I slept in and made our way upstairs for some breakfast and arts and crafts.
Mid-afternoon, we decided to go into town to catch the end of the Gophers vs. Ohio State game and get some burgers and beer. We found a dive bar with friendly service and some pretty darn good food! And of course, I ordered a Spotted Cow.
Our last night at the lodge was one I’ll never forget. After dinner, we gathered in a room upstairs, downloaded Catch Phrase on my phone, divided into two teams (girls vs. guys, duh) and sat in a circle. For the next two hours, we laughed more than I’m sure a lot of us have in months. It was then that I realized just how familiar everyone seemed and how comfortable I felt with them, even though we had just met 24 hours earlier. The internal “I don’t fit in anymore” feeling that’s become a new part of my identity disappeared and I felt at ease.
We said our goodbyes the next morning and by the time we got home, there was already a group email chain going with all of our contact information in hopes of staying in touch. I realized that while it’s not a bond that we wish we had, we do have something significant in common and whether or not we ever see each other again, I know we won’t forget one another.