Our son Hayden was born on March 12, 2012. His delivery was perfect, born 5 hours from the time I was admitted to the hospital. Right after he was born, he was placed in my arms and I finally got to lock eyes with this amazing little boy who I already loved more than I knew my heart could handle.
Getting to Know Hayden
We spent the next few weeks at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) because he was born with a very rare birth defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and would need to have open-heart surgery before coming home. Life in the hospital was difficult—but learning more about Hayden was exciting, just as it is with any newborn. He had the most beautiful skin and eyes. He had little hair, so we kept him warm with knit hats in the chilly CICU (cardiac intensive care unit).
When Hayden was three weeks old, we went home for the first time—for only ten days. In those ten days, we enjoyed just being together. Jackson, our older son, was so intrigued by Hayden, and Hayden was equally enthralled with Jackson. We went back to CHOP where we spent another month together. That’s when his personality began to blossom. Our love for each other grew immensely in that month.
His first smile happened in room 11 in the CICU—and it seemed he didn’t stop smiling until the day everything in our lives flipped upside down. That smile is still what I picture today. And those eyes. I’ve always said he spoke to me through his eyes. He was like an old soul smiling through them—even through his struggles—and they told how much he loved his life and who was in it with him.
We went home for a while the next time and that time will always be an incredible gift to our family. Even though every day we were busy running from specialist to therapist so that Hayden could be given the best chance at life, we spent all of our time together, and thoroughly enjoyed our time as a family. It all started to feel normal—bedtime stories together, morning cartoons, walks to the park—always together, enjoying the simple things life has to offer. We even made our first public family debut one morning at a diner, and that may have been the most normal I’d ever felt since having Hayden.
Unfortunately Hayden passed away in my arms on August 16, 2012 – at just 5 months and 4 days old and he touched more lives in that time than anyone I have ever known. He truly changed lives and made people stop and think about what life is all about and to enjoy it to the fullest.
Creating Space for Healing
Hayden lives on through his legacy – Hayden’s House of Healing – where our mission is to provide a safe, tranquil space for bereaved mothers, fathers, couples, children and families to heal and connect together through a variety of methods and activities offered to assist in the healing process after the loss of a child.
At our first retreat in 2015, 25 moms from all over the country attended; lives and grief journeys were altered. Following that retreat, the purpose became clear. That ONE retreat grew as word spread that there was a place you could be yourself after suffering the loss of a child; whatever that looked like.
Over 400 grieving parents and siblings from all over the country have been impacted by a retreat at Hayden’s House of Healing since its inception in 2019. This unique space is a place of reflection, connection, and restoration. By providing the grieving community with a safe place they can present themselves in a candid, authentic and genuine way, Hayden’s House of Healing is aiding and facilitating the healing process in ways the outside world cannot.
This unique space isn’t somewhere that you just walk away from after your retreat has ended. Once you become part of the Hayden’s House family, you are never forgotten and neither is your beloved child. We are a forever-connected family, a community that saves lives each and every day from the connections made in this sacred space.
Sustaining Hayden’s Legacy
In an unexpected and very unfortunate turn of events, Hayden’s House of Healing has been forced to close its doors at its original location in Knowlton, New Jersey. Even though those doors have closed, the need for this healing space has not diminished. We believe in our mission and have proven to be an asset to the child-loss community by the families who have walked through our doors.
We are aiming to purchase a new home to once again begin supporting those in need. With over 400 parents on the waiting list, our hope is for this to be a speedy transition.
We have learned that it is not the walls of Hayden’s House of Healing that make it successful, but rather the spirit of the people that come and bravely share their stories, creating an incredible community of love and support.
Please consider supporting us during this time of transition by contributing to our “RISE UP” campaign. Every donation brings us closer to our goal of purchasing a new home in a community where we feel safe and welcomed while allowing us to continue to support families who are trying to survive the unfathomable grief of child loss.
Give Hope 365 Days a Year.
By Ady Dorsett, Executive Director of Haydens House of Healing