In the Trenches feature with Healing Hope Ministries
Healing Hope Ministries helps families and their support systems find hope and healing after the loss of a child, by providing encouragement, compassion, and support through retreats, education, and small groups. Healing Hope meets people where they are at to hold a safe space to process grief. It is their desire to light a path for hope and healing. Located near Alcester, South Dakota, Healing Hope offers both in-person and virtual options to connect.
In 2012, Denny and Karri Allen, the founders of Healing Hope Ministries abruptly lost their 15-month-old son Asher. The unexpected loss jolted their lives and led them down a path of uncovering hope and healing for themselves and creating safe spaces for other families who were deep in the trenches of grief.
“After Asher died, the days were long, and they were hard.” says Karri. “But all of the sudden people started reaching out to me who had also lost a child in years past. Before the death of Asher, I don’t know that I could have told you anyone who had been through the loss of a child, yet here they were. People randomly reached out to me and asked if I would like to get together to just visit.”
“I immediately said yes. I needed to talk to somebody who had been through this,” Karri continues. “I needed them to show me that I could survive, because I didn’t feel like I could. I didn’t think I could survive. I started clinging to these people. We would meet for lunch and would talk for three hours. It brought me so much comfort and hope. Talking to these people who had been walking this path for 5 years, 10 years,… helped me realize I am going to survive. I can do this.”
God continued to bring new people into the Allen’s’ lives who had the same common thread, their hearts were broken after the loss of a child. “I was more aware obviously,” recalls Karri, “bBut my heart just reached out to these people and I couldn’t get enough of talking to them.”
After attending a retreat at Smile Again Ministries in Minnesota, the trajectory of Denny and Karri Allen’s lives changed forever. In 2015 they made it official and announced to family and friends that they were starting a non-profit organization called Healing Hope Ministries to create a similar grief retreat for families in South Dakota.
On March 25, 2016, their son Asher’s birthday, the Allens received word their non-profit was officially established. “This gave us tremendous confidence,” says Denny. “ We knew we were on the right path, we were hearing God.”
Today, almost ten years after the loss of Asher, their grief is still present but looks much different than the early days. Denny explains, “It’'s so different, but there are's so many things that are familiar because it’'s still grief. This year will be 10 years. We are now down that path quite a ways and know time is not the healer, rather, it’'s all the little things that God brings into your life along the journey. There are seasons of heavy grief now instead of all year long, which is a major shift for me. Grief is so unique and individual for each person. We credit our healing to the things God has brought into our life and people and gifts he's given us along the way. Doing the work to step into our grief, and learn more about our grief has allowed us to reconcile our grief.”
Karri continues, “It has changed a lot, a lot, a lot. I would never want to go back to that first year because that was so hard and the days were just so long. Every day was a really hard day then. Now 10 years later, I only have really hard days, a few times a year. That brings me so much perspective in how much things have changed over the years and obviously how much healing has taken place. You know, we still have our moments. I had one just a couple of weeks ago. I had to clear my day. I know enough now that when a hard day comes, I have to kind of let it come and I just experience it. That’'s what I tell people all the time. I have to also take my own advice also and just kind of let it flow and treat myself gently.”
“Take the time to understand your grief,” shares Denny, “because it's not going to go away. We’'ve figured that out. You have to step into it, and stepping into that pain —— as awful as it sounds — is the way through.”
When new families come to Healing Hope, Denny and Karri meet them in their grief to show them the next right step. Denny shares what that looks like, “We cannot walk the path for them, but we are totally committed to helping them see the little things that will help them through. Acknowledging these things gives you confidence and a clearer vision of your path.”
Karri adds, “We help them find connections — ways to connect with others, connect with the community, find support, and step into doing the hard things necessary to heal. Try a grief group, try counseling, try a retreat. It takes a lot of trial and error to discover what works as each person is different but the more they are engulfed in good things the more opportunities they have for healing moments.”
“Sharing their story is huge,” reminds Denny. “It is lots of little things that lead you to a place where you can reconcile your grief. There is a huge amount of frustration when people feel held down, as if this is how they will feel forever. And that is not true. We encourage you to step away from the fear that is in the whole topic of grief. Grief can be extremely fearful — it is fearful for the family, it is fearful for the people supporting the family. The darkness traps you and some people don’t escape that. When we can help them step towards the pain, they will keep moving through it. We just encourage people to keep making little choices to move towards the light and towards the healing. That is how you get through.”
For a full calendar of events, services, and offerings by Healing Hope Ministries including the Walk to Remember events honoring children gone too soon, go to www.healinghopes.com.
Originally published in Gritty Faith Volume 15. Written by Jessy Paulson.