While there probably is no way to explain the pain of a parent losing a child unless it has been experienced first hand, there are ways in which to cope that can help a person wade through the dark time. One such way is by gathering together with people who share similar experiences.
A group of women in Westhope have organized a walk to honor the lives of loved ones, young and old, who have been lost.
A celebratory walk will be held Saturday, June 7, at the football field in Westhope. All proceeds from the walk will go toward the erecting of the Angel of Hope statue to be placed in the Westhope cemetery. Anyone can participate as individuals or start a team. The event will be full of activities for all ages.
Registration starts at 10:30 a.m., with the walk starting at 12:30 and lasting until 5 p.m. Cost for registration as teams is $200 and each team member will receive a commemorative t-shirt. There will also be extra t-shirts for sale at the event. Each team is also encouraged to have a booth at the event where they sell something or have an activity to raise additional money.
The Westhope Area Angel of Hope Walk will include an opening ceremony, silent auction, closing ceremony and supper put on by the Antler Outlaws, a group of farmers and ranchers who still use horses to herd cattle. There can be one person or the entire team walking during the walk. Also, Westhope-Newburg cheerleaders will lead activities every hour for the kids in attendance.
Robin Tolstad, co-coordinator of the event, said she and two other women, Becky Braaten and Christy Lee, have spearheaded the project to obtain the Angel of Hope statue. It's an important project since all three have lost a child. Tolstad's daughter was killed in a car accident, Braaten lost her daughter to SIDS and Lee had a stillborn baby. "It's three different situations to losing a child," Tolstad said.
There are 85 Angel of Hope statues around the United States, Tolstad said, and North Dakota currently has three. The statue, which is about four feet in height with a wing span of five feet, is cast with bronze and has the word "hope" written on its right wing. It will have a granite base that's a little over three feet and will sit on a concrete slab in the Westhope cemetery. The statue costs about $14,500. Tolstad added they are also looking to have lights set in the concrete to shine on the angel. Altogether, the project will cost a little over $30,000, she said.
The angel statue and granite base have been ordered, but the group does not have enough money to pay for the final costs. Tolstad said they are planning to get the angel set up this fall.
"We have had wonderful donations coming in from all over," Tolstad said. Even though the statue will be in the Westhope cemetery, though, it won't just be for Westhope people, she added. "I want people to gain strength from her. There are so many grievers all over. There are lots of people we don't know who are living with loss." Tolstad said she wants people to come to the statue and reflect. The statue will be located in a place in the cemetery that is easy to get to, she added, and people can leave flowers at the statue. However, people are discouraged from leaving objects since the statue seemingly would then turn into a shrine and leaving objects would make it difficult for the groundskeepers.
"There's no manual for how to cope when you lose someone or what to say to someone who lost a child," Tolstad said. "It will never be the way it was before the loss. There will always be something that will break open that scab. Time does not heal wounds."
Tolstad is hoping the walk will be a big success. To learn more about the walk, there will be an informational meeting on Tuesday, May 27, at 7 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Westhope. Information as well as registration forms can also be found on the Facebook page at Westhope Area Angel of Hope, or people can call Tolstad at 263-5711.