This beautiful post was featured in our Annual Report this year demonstrating the journey of grief for this family and their representing so many more families we serve at Hearts of Hope Family Grief Camp. The Geerdes family attended our Spring 2013 camp in McGregor, MN.
By Jodie Geerdes
On July 14, 2012 I found myself sitting alone in the Chapel at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester asking God to guide me in the tough decisions that I would have to make that day. Down the hall my husband lay in ICU on life support after a routine procedure went wrong. In the next couple of hours, I would have to make the decision to withdraw the life support that kept the love of my life’s heart beating, collect his items in a small white plastic bag and prepare myself during my 2-hour drive home on how to tell my children that their father had died.
In a trance like state the next few weeks and months passed as I planned a funeral, figured out how to keep life going as ‘normal’ as possible, work a full time job and dealt with the different processes/states of grief that my 6 children were going through. I put on my supermom cloak and pushed full speed ahead. I would hear people say how great they thought I was handling this loss and how strong a woman I was. Little did they know that I was dying down inside.
As a mother it was my job to protect, comfort and provide for my devastated family. The many faces of grief were hitting my family members all at the same time and due to the different ages they were all processing it so differently. i had majored in psychology in college but had no idea how to help my family. i was dealing with children with depression, anger and denial. I could not provide the help they needed on my own so I researched grief support groups in southern Minnesota. To my dismay I was unable to find any that helped with children’s grief issues. My family was falling apart in front of my very eyes. We needed help!
I believe it was divine intervention that in the mail I received a letter from Kramer Funeral Home that stated someone had left a memorial in Steve’s name for our family to attend Hearts of Hope Camp. I decided that maybe this is what my family needed. So in March of 2013 I loaded up 4 of my children ages 4-16 and headed on a 4-hour trip to camp. As we drove through a winter storm I listened to the teen who complained about having to go to camp. I second guessed myself…was this a good idea? Little did I know that in 4 short hours our family would come together and begin our journey through the healing process after losing our father/husband.
When we arrived at camp we were welcomed with open arms and smiles. Over the next two days we would be free to express our feelings in a non-judgmental atmosphere, share our stories of love and lean on our new friends for support as they had experienced losses similar to ours. I was allowed to remove my supermom cloak and cry. So many tears were shed that weekend. We also learned the important lessons of talking about our loved one, accepting our feelings, taking care of ourselves and remembering to celebrate the life we shared with our loved one. We left the camp on Sunday with friendships that will last a lifetime, tools to go forward with our future and a place that we can go if we every feel like we are slipping backwards. We could not say enough positive things about this amazing camp and the people who volunteer their time to help others heal.
As a family we decided that we had gained so much from this camp that we hoped that other families would have the same opportunity that we had to start to heal. We have taken brochures to the local funeral homes and schools. Thanks to the help of our family and friends my children collected bags of bears, office supplies and made blankets for the children/families that would be coming to camp in the future. Still feeling that we could never repay what we have received from Hearts of Hope Camp my family decided to participate in the Frunge to help alleviate the financial burden for families who have just experienced a loss. The last two years my children, who are still too young to Frunge, have done an exceptional job in raising money. This year I challenged them that if they could raise $1,000 I would jump into the icy waters of Lake Waconia. To my disbelief, after a donation of $1400.00, I found myself surrounded by family and friends as I took my icy plunge to help support this amazing organization.
Thanks to the generous donations we hope that this camp will continue to thrive and help others.
From the bottom of our hearts we thank the staff, volunteers and people who have donated their time and money to make Hearts of Hope Family Grief Camp a success.