The loss of a child is devastating. It’s as simple as that. I know. I’ve personally had five miscarriages, and three years ago, our son Daniel David was born prematurely, going home to God only a short while after his birth. It’s a loss you don’t know how to navigate through. What’s worse, the people around you don’t know how to react either.
Rediscovering my relationship with God was difficult. My husband too had some very pointed responses to people offering encouragement. When planning Daniel’s memorial, he point blank told our minister that if it was suggested in the homily this was God’s plan, he might very well walk out. Being as considerate as Reverend Donald is, he took this to heart. Donald’s homily has stayed with me to this day. His message was simple. “We need to be Christ for Andrew and Christy right now.” We need to be Christ. That’s a tall order and yet our loved ones complied to the best of their abilities. In so many ways, whether they were Christian or not, they reminded us why we follow the path of Jesus. His love for us is never ending. He carries us when we cannot find the strength to move forward. Then he calls on us to do the same for others.
I was lucky enough to participate in the Landon’s Legacy Child Loss Retreat back in 2017. The impact of being able to speak with mothers who understood where I was coming from is hard to describe. They reminded me of four very important things:
- I am worthy of love.
- That we are warriors (or mama bears) battling through so many stigmas and misconceptions. In particular, wanting to hear our child’s name spoken.
- That it is okay to laugh and cry about my child in the same conversation.
- That I do not need to get back to who I was, but move forward with my child’s memory and continue to discover who I am now.
I was heartbroken when I heard this retreat was no longer being held. I know not everyone is as lucky as my husband and I. Not everyone has the support of a church or their family. Even with as much support as we received, there were still people in our lives that disappeared. They couldn’t handle the situation, so they didn’t. The idea of any mother going through this grief without someone to talk to is unacceptable to me. So that’s where this idea started. Being Christ for others.
After more than one incident where I was given the opportunity to be there for another loss mom, I couldn’t shake the feeling God was calling me. For me to be Christ for others. So, with the help of an advisory board, the Mama Bears Child Loss Retreat was born. Although I am a practicing Anglican, I have made this a non-denominational event. It may have been created because of my faith, but I want to ensure all women can have an opportunity to heal without judgment. Women from any part of the world and from any background are welcome. The biggest gift I can hope for is mothers going home with newfound connections, and hopefully more prepare to be Christ for others as well.
The first Mama Bears Child Loss Retreat will be occurring October 7–11 this year in Whiteshell Provincial Park at Pinewood Lodge. Although any woman who has lost a child is welcome, the retreat programming will focus on stillbirth and early years loss.
If you know of a mother who could benefit from this retreat, or wish to support this event in some way, please take a look at my website: mamabearsretreat.ca. We are not a registered charity, however any donations received will be going straight into reducing registration costs for all mothers.
Christy Schmidt is a Lay Reader in the parish of St. Philip’s Anglican in Winnipeg.