Healing, growing and learning to dance again

By Erika M. Hirschman, Contributing writer
March 2024

Freedom Anderson arrived as a guest at Mustard Seed Shelter in November 2023 with her baby girl Raynie, and just the clothes on their backs, Raynie’s car seat and a jacket.

“That’s all we had. We got the call to come to Mustard Seed and we did.”

Throughout her life, Freedom has learned to observe signs. Those signs – be they subtle or obvious – have led her to make choices. Some choices, she admits, have not been healthy ones. She says she knows coming to Mustard Seed has already been a choice that she is proud of and grateful for.

When recalling her past and what brought her to this point, Freedom thinks sadly back to the year before arriving at Mustard Seed. She was in a good place in her life. She was living clean and sober for more than one year, and had recently given birth to identical twin daughters, Raynie and Stormie.  

Just four months after their births, Stormie unexpectedly died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – known commonly as SIDS. 

This tragic event destroyed Freedom. She fell into a deep depression and began using drugs and alcohol again. She was homeless, and couching-surfing at friends’ homes and soon found herself needing help.

Now living at Mustard Seed with Raynie, who will be 2 years old in July, Freedom says she is working and focusing on loving and forgiving herself. With the love and emotional support that she and Raynie have been shown while at Mustard Seed, moving forward seems possible.

“Raynie is communicating. She is thriving,” says Freedom. “We have a good routine here and we have built friendships,” she adds.

“We felt very blessed and grateful to be able to welcome Freedom and Raynie,” says Amy Bartels Roe, executive director. “Upon meeting both of them, we could sense immediately Freedom’s desire to dig in and begin to work through the immense grief she was experiencing – and she has done just that, through lots of ups and downs. Freedom is now living with more ups than downs. One of our favorite moments of each day is when Freedom and Raynie dance and sing their ‘Good morning, it’s going to be a beautiful day’ song. Other guests, staff and volunteers have made this a tradition!”

While it hasn’t always been easy, she admits, Freedom says she is working hard to focus on her short- and long-term goals. “There were times when I wanted to split. I was apprehensive and nervous. But I know growth happens here. It’s a sisterhood and we’re excelling.”

Freedom receives counseling and therapy and has found ways to cope by painting and exercising. She also attends trauma and empowerment support groups, all while finding ways to parent well and maintain healthy boundaries. 

“I’m learning how to say ‘No.’ I give and give and it then snowballs. I don’t have anything left to give myself.”

Freedom admits she is taking one day at a time and picking her life up after Stormie’s death. She loves to remember Stormie in small ways like talking about her, and looking into Raynie’s eyes each day. She knows Stormie’s memory will always live in them both. 

“All of the kids in the house have helped me to heal. They ask me about Stormie. They know if I’m sad. We play music, we dance and we read.”

Freedom has a vision for herself once she leaves Mustard Seed: “I would love to work with teens, maybe be a social worker. I can reach them. I believe that if you can reach, you can teach.”


Watch an interview with Freedom on YouTube and hear more of her story here (first two minutes with Freedom, followed by about 20 more minutes with Amy and Leona).



About Erika M. Hirschman
Erika M. Hirschman lives in Saginaw and is a veteran freelance writer. She has enjoyed meeting and interviewing the amazing, strong women at Mustard Seed Shelter. Erika is inspired by the stories she’s heard and feels grateful to those women who have trusted her to write and share those stories with our followers and supporters.