Special Report: Garden of Peace Pt. 2

Taylor Holt
Updated: February 07, 2019 05:37 PM

"Grief tends to come in waves, waves of shock, or waves of disbelief," said Gina Dixon, Grief Counselor with Essentia Health. 


Dixon says she has seen those reactions from families throughout her more than 20-year career.

"Sometimes people don't reach out for help until months or years later because frankly they just don't have the energy to make the call," Dixon said.

She says parental loss is very unique.

"Because it is such a death out of turn. We don't expect our children to die before us," she added.

Jodie Wright was faced with that horrible moment 14 years ago after the death of her daughter, Katelyn.

"We had and lost a beautiful baby girl," said Wright. 

Getting through the pain with her family and two kids is still difficult.

"It's unbelievable, the amount of support we had between friends and family through the whole process but that struggle doesn't ever go away," said Wright..

"The biggest part of grief is learning to love an absence, and finding rituals or finding a language of love that is unique to your grief," said Dixon.

In addition, the effects of loss on younger sisters and brothers can be hard to spot, so parents should also be aware of what she calls "hidden grievers".

"Kids tend to have shorter sadness spans and so it's really normal to see a child really in a world of pain and crying maybe one minute and the next minute playing or just wanting to go outside," Dixon said.

That's why it's important to pay attention to signs of withdrawl. Just like parents, children can benefit from support groups to help navigate through loss.

"Finding ways of expressing that forever love is just so vital to adjusting," said Dixon.

In her experience, gardens have been a beautiful way to do that, especially for parents who don't have a connection to their child that they can touch.

"The hard times are always hard but places like this garden make it easier to deal with to find peace," said Wright.

There is also a memorial garden in Duluth to honor families who have lost children.

"We have a memorial garden at Calvary Cemetery where families will bring wind chimes and other things," said Dixon. "It says families remember with love."

Grief is a life-long struggle but one thing that can remain permanent at these memorials is a bond etched in stone.

"There are families that have been going there (to the memorial) for 20 years on the anniversary of their child's birth or the anniversary of their death," said Dixon.

While that may seem like a long time, Dixon says it's normal.

"People have this idea of closure after a certain magical amount of time," she said.

Although closure may never come, she says that bond can still thrive.

"There's no expiration date on love," said Dixon.

It took Gary Banker patience to come to terms with the death of his first child, but he turned the pain into something positive when he designed Superior's new memorial garden. This summer the hope is to add to the flourishing bonds there.

"Especially when the bricks are put in here and the names are here, you're going to be able to see the difference. You're going to be able to learn of someone's loss that you didn't know about before," said Banker.

Peoplpe will also to be able to see and hear Gary's word in a poem that will be put on a plaque there this summer in hopes to provide some kind of solace in loss.

"If they are coming with grief. I hope that grief is lessened by the time they go," said Banker. 

Gary's Poem reads:

Love in a family transcends all bounds,
breaks all rules. 
Here in this moment --
at this time --
join hands with the generations.
Let their voices speak to you,
their touch embrace you.
Here, in this garden,
may you find comfort.
May you find peace. 

The hope is traveling down that path to healing they won't feel so alone. Jodie says her advice is to get support.

"Find places that make you happy and peaceful. Don't struggle on your own," she said.

As for the garden, they plan to have a formal dedication in the Fall.

Resources for help:

Essentia Health Services:

Parent Grief Support Group is free. It meets every month on the 2nd Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the 2E classroom on the 2nd floor of St. Mary's Medical Center.

There is a Families Remember with Love Memorial service every October in the Chapel on the 2nd floor of St. Mary's Medical Center. 

Other resources:

First Candle

HAND: Helping After Neonatal Death

MISS Foundation

CLIMB: The Center for Loss in Multiiple Births inc.


Taylor Holt

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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