Sunday, March 27, 2011

Smile Again Ministries

When your child dies, you often feel alone, misunderstood, fearful, angry, broken. It seems like no one knows what to say or how to help you, no one really understands. The easier thing to do is just draw up inside yourself and try to forget. Rather than deal with the pain and wrestle with what God has allowed to come into your life, you can shove it down deep and try to bury your memories with your child.
But you can't outrun the darkness. You have to turn around and walk toward it, even if all you can muster are baby steps. That's where we are at. We are trying to figure out how to go on without our son. How do we get through each day feeling this gap in our family? How can God be good and allow this to happen? What will happen to Emma and Hazen as they grow up in a family that is dealing with loss? But we can not go forward alone. Mark and I need to cling to each other, to our family, to our friends. And we need the guidance of those who have walked before us. Who can offer hope that while we will never forget Jairus, that we will one day experience true joy again. That we will find reasons to genuinely smile again.

Mark and I just spent 3 days out at Smile Again Ministries in Cross Lake, MN.

We heard about SAM through the Micah Wessman Foundation which does great work in trying to give grieving parents resources and support. We are very grateful to Cory and Heather Wessman and the blessing they have been in reaching out to us since Jairus passed away.

Smile Again Ministries is a retreat center for families who have had a child die. While there we had lots of time to relax and rest, to grieve, to laugh and to get counseling with Pat and Judy, the wonderful couple who created and run SAM. They lost their 13 year old daughter, Mickey 22 years ago. Their story is heartbreaking. They struggled through the valley of the shadow of death and are now reaching out to other parents who are in the midst of pain. They understand what it means to cry, to scream and to question. And they know the ache for a child who has gone to heaven. And yet today they are full of joy and life and hope.
It was just the two of us and Pat and Judy, which was so beneficial for us because we got to drink up all their wisdom and experience for as long as we wanted. They gave us a chance to share about our sweet boy, to talk about the whirlwind of emotions we experience every day, to discuss our marriage and our support network and to begin planning for the many "firsts" we are experiencing without Jairus (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, mother/father's days, etc.) We were able to talk with them about Hazen and Emma and how they are dealing with losing their brother too, and next time we will definitely bring them with us so they can enjoy the beauty of the Northwoods and get some time with Pat and Judy as well. We were really blessed by our time there, and would encourage anyone facing the loss of a child to consider spending time at SAM.

Here are a couple photos from our weekend. If you have any questions or want more information, please let us know!

Our room, also has a loft with beds for kids who come along

Main living area, through glass doors you can watch deer being fed every morning

Main living area with full kitchen, large windows in background look into a playroom for kids
750 feet of lake shore on Pickerel Lake for summer swimming/boating/fishing as well as ice fishing in the winter


  1. I really identify with the two sentences you started with in this post:

    "When your child dies, you often feel alone, misunderstood, fearful, angry, broken. It seems like no one knows what to say or how to help you, no one really understands."

    When I'm not emotional, I wonder if I should be or if others expect me to be. Grief is messed up. We weren't made for this.

    Thanks for your posts, I'm so glad you guys were able to get away to SAM! We continue to pray for you.

  2. Meg, I'm so grateful that SAM is here for you. It looks like a gorgeous place.

    I've been so blessed by reading your posts. There isn't one I've read that didn't make me teary-eyed. I trust that God is going to use this blog to bless others experiencing grief.

    My goodness! I am so blessed to have you in my life!! You've been an inspiration since day 1.

  3. Meg, Mark shared your blog with me. Thank you for opening up your heart and soul.
    I cannot begin to understand the loss of a newborn. Nor do I understand the reason for any parent to lose a child no matter what the age. I am able to say I had 19 years with Michael. 19 years of joy, smiles, hugs, laughs, tears, conversation, teaching, guiding, and even yelling. But 19 years was not enough. He was growing into my 'adult' child, but he was still my child. To me years do not put it behind me. Years bring me continual grief and not understanding or accepting the why's.
    I wish you both, Meg and Mark, that you were not a part of my 'group', but none of us want that. So with that I'll say, my heartfelt sympathies to you today and always. Our children are forever in our hearts - if not in our physical lives.
    Patty (mother of a forever 19-year-old son)