Dear readers…this piece was difficult for me to decide to share. Please understand that I am not making a political statement nor am I making light of anyone’s feelings. I am expressing a genuine concern for the generation that walks behind me. Following the presidential election, which was easily the most polarizing election of my lifetime, I heard and witnessed (via Internet) instances where young people were unable to cope. I heard a video where a girl (20-something, maybe?) wept that someone needed to “fix this” (election results) or she was going to kill herself. I heard that young people were given coloring books and puppies by major universities to “cope” with their disappointment and loss.
While I respectfully understand the soothing and meditative merits of coloring (and other artistic pursuits), I am also very concerned with the frailty of this generation, and so, as is the nature of my second year of writing my Letters to Jude, I must say this, and I implore you to listen with an open mind and an open soul because I want you, person who feels damaged and destroyed right now (regardless as to why), to feel my strength and resilience and to take what I have and to make it your own and to let it give you the confidence that I have, which is that there is nothing that I cannot accomplish and that there is nothing that will destroy or defeat me.
The world was distorted as I drove down Cottage Hill Road. A poppy ‘80s tune pulsed on the radio as I rolled to a stop at a looming red light. The air was stiff and stifled as if I was a one-woman dirge. Who are these other people, going about their normal day, as if the universe hadn’t just shifted? How can this song be on? This isn’t appropriate. This song should not be on. This shouldn’t be happening. He would’ve heard this song as a kid. He would’ve known this song. Possibly danced around to it. I replayed the events over and over in my mind. He left his home at some point in the day with his gun. He was off on his ATV. They found him at around 2 a.m. The police found him. The aftermath was and is irreversible. The last time I saw him was a year ago. Should I have helped? Yes. Would anything be different. No idea…I’ll never know if even the slightest effort could’ve helped a kind-hearted family member avoid the irreversible. I wish I’d tried. And thus, disappointment doesn’t cover this…the devastation, the trauma.
There were no puppies or coloring books to make it all better.
In 2001, the Top ’40 station, WABB, was filled with static and talking and news as I drove the negligible distance from my cultural anthropology class to my art history II class.. I changed the station. More news. I listened for a minute and tried to understand what in the world was going on.
World Trade Center.
Hit by an airplane?
I got out of my car disgusted with myself. I was 115 lbs that morning. Did you get that? One hundred. And fifteen. Fat. Disgusting. Pounds. My pants, size zero, mind you, weren’t even loose anymore. I couldn’t grab at the sagging fabric at the back of my thighs. My XS Banana Republic tie-dye tank…practically clingy at the bodice. Pathetic. I took a seat in my freshman art history class and quickly journaled about what I heard on the radio (though, I had no sense of what it meant); then class started, and I was swept a the world of Byzantine art..
Dr. Seuss canceled psychology that day, which really wasn’t that uncommon. He canceled class roughly 50% of the time, so, woo hoo! I went to Mom’s school up the road to see her. The kids would be at recess. Mrs. Christopher was in tears. Ten year olds, who would now be 26 year-olds (dear Lord), were playing on the playground so innocently oblivious to what would ultimately be the new world order. Mom explained that what I thought was a tragic accident was no accident. Someone or many some ones had intentionally flown 747s into the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon and killed people. A lot of people.
My fifth class of the day started at 3:15 p.m. Mr. Monotone made our test optional, but I took it anyway. I was so far removed from reality. I was this twerpy narcissistic kid who literally mostly remembered my weight from 9/11. I was 115 lbs. Oh, and 9/11 happened, and I was 18 years old.
That night, I started to hear new words. Terrorism. Al-Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden.
Guess what? No one gave me a therapy puppy or a coloring book to make it all better for me. Come to think of it, no one gave me that crap for my eating disorder either. I never thought I needed nor deserved them; though, I will say, there were times, when I truly thought I would die from my eating disorder that I prayed. Hard. I prayed that I would wake up the next day. I prayed that I wouldn’t die…that I wouldn’t be found dead on the bathroom floor in the wake of my shame. I faced my fear, and I fought it…and eight years later, I won.
And then, on December 26, 2014…I grew up. Like really, grew up. I lost my son. He was fine all day on Christmas Eve. I noticed he wasn’t moving as much late Christmas Day. On December 26, we checked in to the doctor’s office. The baby had a heartbeat. We were put on the monitor at the hospital and within hours, he was gone.
“There’s no heartbeat.”
He’d just moved…literally just moved…and so we rushed into an emergency C-section. When I came out, I asked my husband, “How’s my baby?” and I knew from the look on his face.
“I named him Jude. Jude David. Is that okay?” he said brokenly.
“Yeah. Hey Jude…” I started to sing in a still medically-induced state, and Sean took up the chorus.
We were rolled back toward my room, and like a manifestation from God, our Priest was standing there. Father David accompanied us to our room, and prayed with us. As he started to leave, I, still in a pitiable state between life and anesthesia, began to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” and Father David turned around and returned to my bedside, and Sean joined him in sacred prayer. Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven….. My speech was slurred, and I stumbled over words. I’ve never felt so empty or broken than in the days where my healing and my life truly began.
No one brought me a puppy or a coloring book, and in those frail, fragile moments that severed my ties between adolescence and reality, I didn’t care. Those things wouldn’t have made it all better. You know what did make it better? God.
At some point during Jude’s funeral, I found peace. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t seeking it. I was open to a grief journey. I was open to having a bottomless hole of pain and loss and suffering in my life, but God fill the void with something intangible yet so real I could almost touch it.
It was faith. Faith. I can’t describe how much my son and the agony of losing him transformed me.
To those who think that their latest devastation is the end of the world…it’s not unless you choose to let it be. I could’ve gone off of a ledge and died inside and out at many points in my life. I could’ve never said to my eating disorder, “I will not let you kill me,” and then called on God for help. I could’ve never done the thing I said I couldn’t do, which is lose a child and live, if not for God.
What I’m saying is life is challenging, hard, sometimes unfair, and sometimes unbearable. You will bleed. You will break. You will be decimated at times. And then…you can either curl up in a ball and die, or you can get stronger and smarter and better and wiser and assert yourself.
For those who don’t believe in God, let me tell you, God is real. My faith is real. If all you have are coloring books and puppies and free passes, I feel sorry for you. You can literally destroy my body, but you won’t kill me. I mean that. I’m not afraid of losing or disappointment or tragedy or devastation. I don’t welcome it, but it cannot and will not break me because of my God. I encourage you to have what I’m having.
Afterthought: Dear readers…I am not trying to force my faith on you, but I am trying to implore you to recognize that life will never get easier. It’s the trials and how we handle them that define us. It’s okay to break. It’s okay to cry, but we must all always reassemble ourselves and find strength through tragedy and adversity. There are many worse things to happen than losing a political election (or other things). Losing hope and losing faith are two of those things.
You cannot rely on superficial crutches to get you through the things that will challenge your hope and faith. If you do, then you will surely lose them. Instead, find something within yourself that is there and that has always been there that is truly worth fighting for and that imbues you with an unbreakable fortitude (for believers, that is God, and truly, it is the valuable quality one could possess).
I pray for you, gentle reader, whoever you are and whatever you’re fighting with and for. I pray you rely on the right things.
For Dear America:
I pray for this country. I pray for our leader to seek wisdom and guidance from God and that regardless of our leadership, that God intercede through that leader to guide us all to greater glory. Remember that there is always light in darkness if we look to it, gentle reader. The light is always there, and it is in times in which we seek light during periods of darkness that we are most brave and most faithful.
4 thoughts on “Hey Jude – Coping with Loss”
I am sorry, but this is the most self-indulgent piece of tripe you’ve written. People are upset not because they are snowflakes who cannot handle what life throws at them, but because a man who is not fit for the job is leading the country. Elections have consequences, and as a consequence of this election I will lose my birth control coverage. I work for a Catholic employer, who did not provide contraception coverage (or for that matter maternity leave) until forced to by the Affordable Care Act. My friend’s parents, and an estimated 18 million others, will lose their health coverage at a critical period in their lives when they are in their fifties with health problems and have lost their jobs.
People who were brought to the country as children are terrified of being sent to countries they do not know with languages they do not speak. I have gone through hardships. I also had a stillborn son, which is how I found your blog. I wonder if stillbirth counts as a pre-existing condition, and how that may affect women who have gone through it. Did you know that the Affordable Care Act mandated that health insurance includes maternity coverage? Believe me, being upset about the outcome of the election, and what has happened since, does not make me a millennial snowflake, but someone who is deeply concerned about the state of the country.
Hi Sasha, first, I’m really sorry about your son; it’s such a difficult thing to cope with, but I’ve found that through faith, there can be healing and even strengthening. That said, I’m also sorry you were so offended by my writing; that wasn’t my intent (please note, I would never refer to anyone who’s upset about the valid issues that you refer to in your post as “millennial snowflakes”; I don’t call people that because I think it’s offensive and doesn’t promote any kind of functional conversation). I also certainly don’t think that being upset due to fear over losing healthcare coverage or of having family members who illegally immigrated to the U.S. decades ago is something that makes you thin-skinned. By all means, get upset and try to do something about it because that’s the best we can do. At least these are things we CAN do something about because there are things –as you and I know–that once they happen, we can’t. We can’t bring our sons back, but we can fight for more coverage later in pregnancy for all mothers. I think it’s taken for granted that a healthy pregnancy will have a healthy outcome. So many mothers with late-term losses that I’ve met possibly could’ve seen different outcomes if there’d been routine ultrasound monitoring later in the pregnancy; however, that’s something that only comes with having a high-risk pregnancy. I digress…I’m getting off the point. Anyway, the point is healthcare coverage, immigration policy, foreign policy, the economy, etc. are flux; they can change with political administrations, and if that’s not to one’s satisfaction, the response shouldn’t be to cry or to demand a therapy pet or to threaten self harm because there are things that happen in life that we can’t change that are much, much harder to live with.
I appreciate your prayers for our nation and our president. Regardless of who is in office, we still need to respect the position of the presidency and treat each other with civility. Life is hard enough sometimes, why make it harder for each other? This generation is very dark- they scoff at belief in the Christian God (all other religions are tolerated) and unfortunately it’s beginning to manifest in some very nasty ways. People need something to believe in other than “science” and postmodernism. Individuals that attend religious gatherings have a lower risk of an early demise and outlive their unbelieving counterparts because of a strong support system and a knowing peace that everything will be ok. When you have a belief in God thresholds for the ups and downs of life expand- life is sweeter. I appreciate your letters to Jude and will be recommending your site to a few patients and friends in need. Thank you for providing a place for women to validate some of their inner thoughts and know they are not alone.
Hi Christy, thank you so much for your comments. I hope that if you do send people to my site, you let them know, too, that they’re welcome to share their stories here, too. I’ve found that writing has been a very helpful outlet in coping with loss. Suffice to say, I couldn’t have done any of it without God. Yesterday, our pastor put forth the rhetorical question of what life would be like without God / faith. He said, “Where would you be?” Surely, to keep things at a certain keel, he said, “I can’t imagine,” but I know that without God, I’d surely be dead or so despondent and reliant on addictive substances that I may as well be. I can’t imagine life without hope or the knowledge that I have the strength and the support to overcome anything and everything if I do it for His glory. As for your comment on individuals attending religious gathering having longer and better qualities of life–you’re right. Anyone who read J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy will surely have noted the Yale scholar’s remarks regarding research that those who regularly attend church are more stable financially. Their marriages are stronger and happier. The thing is, it’s not about the people that facilitates those improvements–it’s about the reason they gather. I digress. Thank you so much again for commenting, for reading my letters to my sweet boy, and for perhaps letting God work through my son to help others. It just goes to show that every life has great purpose.