Sitting at the funeral home after her firstborn son, Cain, died at age 19 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Lisa Weddle found comfort in one thing: The words of another grieving mother whose presence felt like she was saying, “I’m here. I understand what you are going through.”
The two women had never met, and Weddle doesn’t believe their sons had ever met either. But the moms shared a bond in the pain they felt from burying their children.
“At that moment in the funeral home, I felt like this is the only person in the room who understands what I’m going through. There is not another person here who does,” Weddle recalled.
A year later when Weddle was burying her second son, Cole, who died in a car accident, that same mother showed up at the funeral home to offer her support again. The woman didn’t have to say anything. Her presence alone spoke volumes for Weddle.
“It really meant a lot to me to have her there,” said Weddle. “It was like she was saying, ‘I get it and you’re not alone.’ ”
Now more than five years later, Weddle wants to do the same for other grieving mothers.
Last summer Weddle organized a grieving mothers support group, Hope Restored.
The group typically meets the first Saturday of each month at 9 a.m. at The Experience Church, 1925 Bedford Center Drive, Washington.
For March, the meeting has been moved to the second Saturday, March 10.
The group is a ministry of the church, where Weddle is a member, although people do not need to be of any particular faith or any faith, for that matter, to attend. All grieving mothers who have lost their children at any age are welcome. There is no registration.
Meetings are informal, with mothers using the time to connect with each other by talking and sharing what they choose to.
“From my experience, it’s hard for many different reasons to want to just talk about it. The death of a child is a really hard thing to speak about. You are bringing up memories,” said Weddle.
“I understand the pain and the brokenness that these mothers are going through, but I also understand what it is to allow God to restore the peace and give you hope again,” she added.
Weddle also understands that not every grieving mother is ready for a support group. She tried both counseling and a support group five years ago after Cain died only to find that it was too painful.
“It made me sad. It was still really fresh,” she said. “Talking about it was just bringing it up fresh. I would go (to counseling). I would cry, and then be sad all day. I couldn’t do it.
“I looked for a support group but never could find anything out here, and I didn’t want to drive to the city.”
So she understands grieving mothers who are reluctant to come, but she encourages them to give it a try, at least once, to see if they are ready, because she knows from experience how greatly it can help.
She Was Mad at God
Weddle admits her own relationship with God has ebbed and flowed over the years. When Cain died, it had been a long time since she had been to church on a regular basis.
“The boys for the most part were raised in church,” Weddle said. “They had been on the Junior Bible Quiz team and had given their hearts to Jesus.”
Things began to change as Weddle and her husband, Rick, a stepfather to the boys nearly all of their lives, fell away from the church. Then in 2007, Rick was sent to federal prison for 10 years.
In the years that followed, Cain and Cole grew rebellious. As a single mother at home trying to raise two teenage boys, Weddle admits she was “stressed out, upset and nervous all the time.”
When Cain started college in August 2012, she had thought he was getting his life on track. But a month later, she received the phone call that he was dead.
Weddle began drinking daily to try to take the pain away. Cole, who had just started his senior year in high school, began smoking pot.
“It took me a while to realize drinking wasn’t going to get me through the grief. It was only going to make it worse,” said Weddle, noting she had gone to several churches looking for comfort, but nothing clicked.
It actually was Rick who helped bring Weddle back to God. He had been in prison for five years when Cain died, and he realized God was all he had, said Weddle.
“After Cain died, he started listening to Christian music, and found comfort in that. He started telling me to listen to certain songs,” she said.
But she was mad at God, and it wasn’t easy to let go of that anger. “Why did my child die?” she wanted to know. “You could have stopped it!”
Cole was just as angry about his brother’s death, and he didn’t go with his mother to church when she went. He was 18 and very closed up, said Weddle. He wouldn’t talk.
Instead, he partied a lot and was drinking and smoking pot. The guilt Weddle felt over losing Cain held her back from intervening too much with Cole.
“I was just trying to protect him, give him anything he wanted. I knew he was suffering,” said Weddle.
In other respects, Cole seemed to be doing quite well. He had earned enough credits to graduate high school a semester early and he had been accepted to Mizzou for the following fall.
In the meantime, he was working and taking classes at East Central College.
Two weeks after he had walked with his high school class in their graduation ceremony, Cole was killed in a car accident just a quarter-mile from where he lived.
The sirens from emergency crews responding to the accident at 2 a.m. woke Weddle from her sleep and sent her running down the road to see a car smashed against a tree and burning.
She recognized the car. It belonged to one of Cole’s best friends whom he had been with all that day.
It had only been nine months since she had buried Cain.
After Cole died, Weddle went right back to drinking to numb her pain and quiet the guilt she felt.
“All I could do was think about the things that I had done wrong as a mother. I would look back and wonder: If I had kept them in church would they still be alive? If we hadn’t started using drugs again and had Rick not gone to prison would they still be alive? All the should haves, would haves, could haves, made no difference now because they were both gone and nothing would ever bring them back,” said Weddle. “I was headed down a path of destruction and knew it, but I didn’t care. I blamed God because He didn’t stop them from dying.”
But then Weddle started going to church again on a regular basis, and that led her to attend a women’s encounter outside of Lebannon called Ashes to Beauty.
“That was my turning point,” said Weddle. “For me it was the time I needed to get it all out.
“That was when I knew that God was going to take this tragedy and turn it around for His good.”
Rick was released from prison in February 2015, and the couple moved to Houston for a year for her work. It was a growing period, a chance to reconnect and heal as a couple, said Weddle.
When their daughter became pregnant, they moved back to Franklin County in April 2017, and Weddle said she felt called to organize a support group for grieving mothers. She wants to help others find the peace that she has.
“I didn’t have a choice in the events that happened and changed my life. The only choice I have is how I respond and choose to live my life now,” said Weddle.
“I have not only survived what I’ve gone through, but I’m now thriving in my life because I have the joy of the Lord. I couldn’t do it without Him. I tried, and that didn’t work.”
Moms Helping Moms
Weddle is not a counselor and the Hope Restored meetings that she leads do not follow any curriculum.
Actually, she hasn’t had much attendance since the group started in July 2017. In fact, most months she has not had anyone show up. But she isn’t ready to give up. She knows it can take a while for grieving mothers to be ready for something like a support group.
“A lot of people don’t want to talk. I get that,” she said.
More recently Weddle has had several phone calls from moms inquiring about the group, including some who had attended a general grief support group, not one specifically for mothers.
But the grief a mother feels after losing a child isn’t the same grief someone feels after losing a spouse or a sibling, said Weddle.
She chose to limit the group to grieving mothers, instead of parents, because she has seen that mothers process and experience their grief differently than fathers, just as the relationship between mothers and children typically is different than with fathers and children.
Hope Restored meetings will always be informal, whether it is one mother who shows up to a meeting or a small group. Mothers don’t have to share any details at the meetings if they don’t want to, Weddle said.
Meetings will include testimonials and devotions, because that is where Weddle found her peace.
“I’m not trying to cram Scripture down their throats, but there will be Scripture and prayer in the meetings,” said Weddle.
“The whole point in this is really so that God can restore these ladies. It’s not about where your walk with the Lord is now or if you’re even walking with Him now.
“It’s about the fact that you’re going through grief, and just from my own personal experience, I know where the comfort and the peace come from, and I just want to be able to share that with other ladies,” said Weddle.
For more information on Hope Restored, people can contact Weddle at 636-875-0153 or email her at email@example.com.