My Child was Missing – The Story of Grieving Mom

Photo of Ben Jacobson

Written by Susan Jacobson 

“Bye Mom, love you”. Those are the last words I heard from my precious 22-year-old son, Ben, on February 8, 2021. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. It was how he ended every phone call to me, and those words had always been very special. Then the next day I received the phone call that Ben had not shown up for work and his friends hadn’t heard from him – his Dad was going to file a missing person’s report. After a sleepless night, I was up before the sun and drove to his Dad’s house on Silver Lake, where Ben was living. The same Silver Lake where Ben and his brothers had spent every summer growing up and where eight days later, he would be found.

 

Classic photo of Ben (bottom right) growing up with his brothers

BEN’S STORY

Benjamin James Jacobson was born on August 18, 1998. After a few years of infertility and with the help of modern medicine, Ben was born and joined his older brother Sam. Then 19 months later a younger brother Zach was born, and the three Jacobson boys began their journey together. As a stay-at-home mom the boys kept me busy with play groups, church activities, sports and school volunteering. They were the center of my life, and I loved it.

People that met Ben remarked that he was an old soul… from the time he was a young boy he could strike up a conversation with anyone and people would comment on how they enjoyed talking to him and what a large vocabulary he had for such a young person. He loved cars and anything with a motor. You could find Ben in the shed with the motorboats or on his dad’s lap on the riding lawnmower. As he grew up that continued and Ben loved everything with a fast motor… jet skis, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, boats, and cars. We could always hear Ben coming and going with the engine revving on land, snow, and water.

HIS TRAGIC ACCIDENT

And so that night back in February 2021, after I talked to Ben for the last time, he was with friends in the ice fishing shack. After his friends left, Ben went out, and as he loved to drive crazy was doing ‘donuts’ on the icy lake when his truck hit a concrete embankment and crashed. When Ben got out of the truck, it locked behind him and his phone fell in the snow. That night was part of a particularly cold snap in the 30 below range. Ben wasn’t able to make it walking home. Due to the extreme cold the police did not organize search parties or thoroughly check for Ben around the lake.

It took us eight days to find Ben, the worst eight days of my life. But something else unexpected happened during those eight days – my family experienced an outpouring of human kindness that was a miracle. I made it through those days with a supernatural peace that passes all understanding. I’ve always thought that a mother should instinctively be connected to their child, and it was so puzzling to me that I didn’t know where Ben was. But looking back I may have needed that time and support to prepare myself for the news of Ben’s tragic death

During the time Ben was missing I was scheduled to end one job and begin another, a wonderful new career opportunity that I was excited for and that I knew Ben had been proud of and excited for also. I didn’t know how I could go through this big transition and thought about staying in my old position for safety and security rather than going into the unknown after this unimaginable loss. But I knew Ben wanted me to follow my dreams, so I did it. Exactly a week after Ben‘s funeral I started my new job. This left little time to grieve.

FINDING SUPPORT

I had heard of Faith’s Lodge and a month later a spot opened, and I was able to join a grieving parents retreat. While there, I was finally able to fully start the grieving process in a supportive and safe place. I met an amazing group of people that I am still connected with and treasure. Faith’s Lodge was exactly where I was meant to be and set me on a path, I never knew I would need. Thanks to their support and the people they’ve connected me with, I am now better equipped to grieve and carry on Ben’s memory.

Susan and her youngest son, Zach, at the Hope Rocks Gala 2023

BUILDING HOPE

I’ve loved reading since I was a child, so naturally gravitated towards the beautiful basement library at Faith’s Lodge. I found several books that have changed my life. ‘You are the Mother of all Mothers’ and another book on recognizing signs from your departed loved one.

I now can see Ben’s presence is all around me. I hear him in the revving engine of a loud truck… someone in my family will smile and say, ‘Ben’s coming’! I’ve even heard dirt bikes in the distance where there was no one around surrounded by farm fields out in the country. I see Ben in the Eagles sitting in trees and flying over my car. My special signs are the feathers that are always mysteriously around me… the little white feather on the arm of my nightgown, on the dashboard of my car, the long feather on the sidewalk. I hear from Ben’s friends that remember a story or something special he did for them, and even how he reaches out in his own way to them to this day.

One of my favorite signs at Faith’s Lodge is near the bridge and it says, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened’. I do cry but I try to end with a smile remembering Ben. If a person’s life is a flame, Ben’s was a bonfire. Now it’s my job to continue mothering his memory. Supporting Faith’s Lodge has been one way I do this. I now know what to say and not say to other parents that have lost a child…I want to listen and show understanding. I want to encourage and walk beside them on their grief journey.  

SOME THINGS I HAVE LEARNED 

  • Listen, just simply listen. 
  • Every grief journey is unique, there is no normal way to experience it. 
  • Grief comes and goes, and there is no time limit on how long grief lasts. 
  • When grief comes, sit with it and acknowledge it. If you don’t it will be back. 
  • Remember special dates and reach out to let a grieving parent know you are thinking of them and their child.  
  • Say their child’s name.  
  • Ask if they would like to talk about their child – do not assume they want to, ask first.  
  • Provide encouragement, not advice.  

I’ll close with an excerpt from ‘You are the Mother of all Mothers’: “It takes invincible strength to mother a child you can no longer hold, see, touch, or hear. You are a superhero mama. For even in death, you lovingly mother your precious child still.”  

RETREAT AVAILABLE

Faith’s Lodge is hosting a Bereaved Parents of Missing Persons/Ambiguous Loss Retreat February 29- March 3rd, 2024. This retreat is designated for parents coping with the death of a child who was also missing for an extended period. As well as those parents coping with the pain, frustration, and grief that comes with having a missing child. This retreat’s nightly cost is fully funded by Bryce’s Blessings. An organization that supports bereaved parents coping with the death of a child, especially those dealing with ambiguous loss. Interested in attending? Reserve a room here  

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