Grief is a solitary journey. Every person experiences loss differently and mourns in unique ways. But the people who walk beside you can make all the difference.
Jon and Michelle Schmidt's 21-year-old daughter Annie disappeared while hiking in Oregon in the fall of 2016. In the weeks before her body was found at the bottom of a cliff, the Schmidts found comfort in the people who reached out to them—the children who drew cards, neighbors who prayed with them, and strangers who searched the mountains with them.
"I had never felt that kind of distress before," Jon Schmidt said. "It's a weight that would crush you. If it weren't for others, I don't think we would have been able to deal with it."
Schmidt, the "piano guy" in the popular quartet, will speak at this year's Grief and the Holidays event, "Memories are the Sweetest Gift," on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at Olympus Junior High School, 2217 East Murray-Holladay Road.* Grief and the Holidays is one of two annual events presented by the University of Utah College of Nursing's Caring Connections Program.
Annie Schmidt was reported missing Oct. 19 after going hiking at Munra Point in one of the state's national parks. Volunteers searched for weeks before search and rescue dog teams found human remains.
Michelle Schmidt says she found comfort in the cards and pictures sent by children. Jon Schmidt says just having a couple of close friends drop everything to be with him "was so comforting. It gave me strength I didn't know I had."
When their daughter was found, Schmidt posted his thanks for the public's support on a Facebook page set up to organize the searches. "You have searched with us, prayed with us, hoped with us," he wrote. "We thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Schmidt will play several of the group's songs, as well as a piece he wrote in tribute to his daughter.
"We are incredibly pleased that Jon will perform for those attending Grief and the Holidays," said Kathie Supiano, Director of Caring Connections: A Hope and Comfort in Grief Program at the University of Utah College of Nursing. "His message of gratitude in the presence of deep sorrow will edify others experiencing loss and loneliness this holiday season. We welcome the public to this transformative evening."
"To have people mourn with you, to be sad with you—you knew there were those who cared," said Michelle Schmidt. "It was that kind of love and support that we felt from people that was absolutely overwhelming. We just hope that we can be half as good as the people were to us for the rest of our lives, that we can give back, because we know how much it meant."