Broken Open to Greatness: Transforming Tragedy into Triumph

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Today’s guest contributor is my friend, Jennifer Boykin, an amazing writer, mentor and creator of the soulful, sassy and simply divine LifeAfterTampons.com.

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Last March, my daughter Grace should have been twenty. She should be a sophomore in college. She should have come home for the weekend. There should have been a party and mani-pedis and some lame-ass boy or two hanging around waiting around for us to get home so he could drool all over her.

But there wasn’t. Because Grace died shortly after her premature birth. And instead of a lifetime of little girl memories, I had 32 minutes to be her mother.

People say they can’t imagine what it’s like to be the mother of a dead child, but I think they can. They can picture the whole thing. They just don’t want to.

But here’s the thing, Sweet Cheeks – sorrow, loss, illness, betrayal, economic hardship, divorce, loss of faith – these circumstances are just part of EVERYONE’S human condition. If you live long enough, you WILL have to face these and other losses.

When you do, here’s the first challenge you are likely to meet – lack of training.  In our culture, we don’t teach people how to work through loss and suffering. We acquire things, achieve things, make things happen.

It’s a woefully poor strategy for living. When we come face to face with the shadow side of ALL GAIN – which is LOSS – we are tragically unprepared.

But there ARE actionable steps you can take to find your way through. And more than that – I can GUARANTEE you that, if you work for it, you will also find a way to make use of your suffering in the best possible way — to TRANSFORM the lives of others.

Here are eight basic steps to overcome hardship and transform TRAGEDY into TRIUMPH:

  1. Decide.  When tragedy strikes, ultimately, you have just one decision to make that will determine the whole of your remaining life – Will you get bitter? Or better? Your future happiness depends on the choice you make. Ironically, the choice to heal is not as simple as it may sound. It means letting go of the immediate reward of the attention your suffering brings for the “mayhaps” promise of future insight. It is a risk that all who heal take and is not easy while you are in the hell of acute loss. I urge you to make it nonetheless.
  1. Heal.  Reach out to any resource you need to get better. Be extraordinarily loving to yourself while you are “in process.” Grief has an energy of its own. It will have its way with you, until it doesn’t. But you can help yourself through (If you’re interested, I have a written a mini-tool kit for healing. Details are at the end of this piece). Set boundaries around your suffering. Make appointments with it, in fact. Carve out moments where you focus on reclaiming your joy and your light.
  1. Let Go of Your “Story.”  If you want to transform your life, you must let go of “your story” of loss.  You have to be willing to let go of all attention you get for your suffering. In fact, you will have to let go of your story again and again and again throughout all of your life. There’s just no way around it. The price of martyrdom is joy.
  1. Understand What Loss Is, and Is NOT. Loss is the shadow of joy.  It intrinsic in ALL happiness.  Endings and beginnings are simply the yin and yang of change. One can NEVER be present without the other. If you choose to spend your life with someone else, you also “lose” forever the freedoms of your single days. Loss is the bill that comes due for the price of loving. Accept that and you are free.
  1. Connect with Others Through Your Loss.  Pain connects you to others in a way that joy never could. Here’s why — while you may feel happy for another person, you can’t really feel their joy as your own. Sorrow, on the other hand, creates deeply shared feelings of empathy, compassion, and connection. Lean into the sharp edges of your suffering. Allow it to whittle away what you don’t need.  Most of all — don’t suffer alone.  Others are waiting for you and NEED to be part of your story of healing.
  1. Appreciate Everything.  Train yourself to appreciate everything – even the hard things.  ESPECIALLY the hard things.  When you keep your heart open in this way, you will see the beauty in everything around you. You won’t BELIEVE THE EXQUISITE beauty of life once you have learned to harness the transformational power of loss and suffering!
  1. Claim Freedom from Fear.  Once the “worst thing” that can ever happen actually happens, you get to live your life FEARLESSLY!  After all what else could possible befall you? But what if the worst thing hasn’t happened to you personally?   Can you still live free from fear?  Absolutely!  Here’s how: Determine that, if your “worst thing” ever happened, you would make a study of how others have triumphed over that thing. Once you make that decision, you have a “worst case scenario” action plan in place.  You are now free to live fearlessly!
  1. Share Your Wisdom.  Your losses will make new discoveries, new soul-places, new visions available to you that WERE NOT POSSIBLE before.  In fact, your losses make you UNIQUELY QUALIFIED to be a source of healing, hope, and joy. Other people need to know about your story of triumph.  Because, soon enough, it will be there turn.  Let the grace and light of your newly healed heart be a beacon of hope for everyone you meet.

After pain there is Grace — if you work for it.

Decide to get better.  Choose to heal.  Look for ways to share your newfound wisdom with others.  And, if I can help, please let me know.

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Dive into more of Jennifer’s works at LifeAfterTampons.com. She’s also written a five-part series called Get Bitter or Get Better. If you’d like her to send you a copy, register here (It’s free. Because you’re priceless.)

 

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65 responses

65 responses to “Broken Open to Greatness: Transforming Tragedy into Triumph”

  1. vicki says:

    i’m glad you featured jennifer, jonathon! she is brilliant, funny and painfully real. i can’t imagine dealing with the loss she has endured, but i truly admire her tenacity and the way she has turned the tragedy of losing grace into a way to honour her daughter and bring light into the lives of others. i hope she can reach and enrich more people thru your blog! hugs to all, vicki 🙂

  2. I first found Jennifer through a mention Jonathan made a month or so back. Since then I have subscribed and have been following and enjoying her writing because it is authentic and comes directly from the heart.

    While she speaks to an audience of midlife women mainly, her messages hit home for everyone. Thanks Jennifer for adding tears and laughter to the day!

    • Thank you, love. All that I am able to do now is because “the worst thing in life” happened to me. AND I insisted on making it matter. We’re all going to get our “worst thing” turn. I hope Grace’s story helps others find their way up and out! Love, J

  3. Wow, Jonathan. Thanks for sharing this today. Boykin, you never fail to surprise me… whether it’s wit, whimsy, or straight-up G-R-A-V-I-T-A-S.

    Thank you for channeling your family’s loss into healing energy for so many in need.

    You are a gift.

    kc

    PS. My dear friend Meghan lost her niece a couple years back in a car accident. I left the note from the card I sent her parents in view, on my bulletin board. It’s a reminder that our day-to-day dramas are nothing next to the HUGE life events of loss.

    Not knowing where to begin, this is what was sent:

    Condolences for Gwena McCormick, 2009

    There are no words to properly convey
    the depths of our condolences, our regrets, our sympathies,
    or our empathy as parents,
    your friends, and your extended family.

    We are deeply saddened by the loss of Gwena’s
    beautiful young life. It is beyond comprehension.

    Yet, if this pain is the price of knowing someone
    so precious, of having been witness to
    her bountiful joy, and the love and comfort
    she brought to your family in your Father’s passing,
    our hope is you’ll find peace in time.

    We’re lucky to recognize these angels passing through.
    We’re lucky to have known pure, unconditional love,
    and to have the blessing of giving love in return
    to such a beautiful young girl.
    We’re lucky to have known her, if only briefly.

    Our hearts are with you always, with unending love
    and support.

    – The Carters

    • KC, I was so deeply touched by your card — AND that you keep it out where you can see it. It’s so important to remember not to forget to remember what matters most. Love, J

  4. Hi Jennifer,

    I’ve lost a child too and it is a pivotal point in life. As you say you can get bitter or you can get better. Life comes into focus or gets fuzzy. You can move forwards or go backwards. Thank you for such a thoughtful, uplifting post.

    • Dearest, beautiful Alison. I’m so sorry for your loss. I suppose we’re part of that same small tribe that no one really wants to be part of, but it sounds like you have found your own wisdom too.

      It’s the Spiritual Booby Prize, to be sure. But it’s what we get. So we make the most of it. Love, Jen

      • Justine Musk says:

        I’m also part of that small tribe of people who have lost a child — my son, Nevada Alexander, would have been ten on May 18. He died at ten weeks. You don’t get over this kind of loss so much as learn to bear it, and eventually it transmutes into a deep sad beauty that impales your heart. Thank you for this post, it is so true and so right on so many levels, and marks a conversation that we as a culture so desperately need.

        • Oh, beautiful Justine, I am so sorry for your loss. You have gorgeous words of expression around your story — the impaled heart. It reminds me of the Thorn Birds from so many years ago.

          The Thorn Bird
          (derived from the Australian legend)

          There is a legend about a bird
          In its life it sings only one song
          Its a song more precious then mortality
          But this melody doesn’t last long

          For as this bird sings
          It slowly begins to die
          Despite the thorn in its breast
          It lets out one incomparable cry

          More beatiful then the nightengale
          And more sweet then the lark
          It lifts its voice above its agony
          Transfixed on that sharp bark

          It carols in the midst of it’s anguish
          For with it’s song it begins to fade
          The chance to silence the world in death
          Was the pact this creature made

          The whole world halts to hear
          Even angels smile at its persistance
          But this song comes with a price
          And it pays with existance

          Yet through its suffering it sings
          Letting the world hear its voice
          Even if this dirge results in death
          From its birth, it made its choice

          For the best is only purchased
          At the price of great pain
          And even when we lose
          There is something to gain

          • Patti Winker says:

            Thank you for reminding me of this poem, Jennifer. And thank you, Justine, for sharing such a touching image – the impaled heart. I did not lose a child, but I saw my Mother’s grief after my Sister’s death. I can now envision my Mother’s heart. I thought at the time the grief would kill her. Then, I saw my Mother grow stronger each day and, at the end of her life, she possessed a spirit that I can never describe. Thank you again for providing this strong and touching image.

  5. Jakob Quinn says:

    A very heartfelt and wonderful post! My mother lost a child as well. I connections to her journey of healing in your writing. I’ll be sending the post to her. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi, Jakob. Thank you for sharing Grace’s story with your mom. For women, it’s an everlasting story. And to you and your mother — I’m sorry for your loss. Jennifer

  6. Great read. Helpful advice.
    Just one thing. I take exception to the final statement…. “After pain there is Grace — if you work for it.” We never have to work for Grace. Before, during, and after pain there is always Grace. Undeserved Grace. Grace only needs to be received, with gratitude.

  7. Jennifer,

    Thank you for opening up and sharing the pain and way through it with us.

    A girlfriend and I were commenting last week how blessed we are to be in a time when we are openly sharing our hurts and pains with each other rather than hiding them or putting on fronts like we were instructed to do in the old days.

    It helps to know we’re not alone in tragedy and adversity and that there are ways out. Thank you for this bridge to the other side where we can claim our freedom from fear, but most of all grow in Grace.

  8. Jodi Barnes says:

    Thank you for posting Jennifer’s blog, Jonathan. Although many of us KNOW these truths, we soon forget them via unawareness, habit, and inevitable new hurts. Just the opening of this piece, the supposed-to-be about her precious baby, created for me a deep connection to her and the wisdom that she helped me reconnect with. Regardless of your readers’ age, gender or any other demographics, we all share the experience of loss. Thanks for branching out a bit and giving us this post, today. It’s just what I needed to remember.

    • Thank you, Jodi. This is an ancient wisdom — you are right. As a culture, though, we’ve forgotten how to heal. And, more than that, how to harness the amazing transformational power of loss and suffering to bring new healings to the world that would not be possible otherwise.

      I hope that we who remember can teach that. Jen

  9. Munazza says:

    Jennifer,

    You are a gift, no doubt. All that I just read was so much needed … so much so that I was actually Google-ing to know how can I get some help to handle my grief, which is killing me since many days.

    Don’t want to share my silly story but your tips sound very practical, with such beauty and truth. Thank you. Please know what you made a very needy soul, smile today.

    Best Regards,
    Munazza

    • Hello, love. I am so sorry for your sorrow, and the depth of your suffering. There ABSOLUTELY is a way up and out, though. I hope you signed up for the Get Bitter or Get Better eCourse. That is one way. You can also find workshops and teachings through hospice and other support groups. Take beautiful care of yourself! Jen

  10. Caryl says:

    Awesome post! This is probably one of the most coherent paths to healing that I’ve read. Thanks so much for your candor and for sharing.

  11. Kate says:

    Thanks Jennifer. I was just needing that reminder about claiming freedom from fear… ahhh!

  12. Heather Georgoudiou says:

    Really inspirational post. Thank you Jennifer for opening your heart so freely to help others. The steps that speak to me are Appreciate Everything and Claim Freedom from Fear. I think the challenging times are a tremendous opportunity for growth, once we get to a certain age we have all experienced loss of some kind, whether it’s a loved one, a job, a best friend, your identity. We do have to appreciate the hard things, and be open to the lessons they teach.

    Thanks again, I’m a new fan!

    • Dear Kate, Thank you for your note. And you are so welcome. Tomorrow I may need reminding. Will you please come to my site and remind me??? j

    • Hello beautiful you!!! I’m claiming “new fan of yours” right back atcha! We have to remember not to forget to remember that we don’t have to be afraid.

  13. Theresa says:

    Jennifer nailed it with this post. Nine years ago, I lost the person I loved more than anyone on earth to sudden, tragic death. It shattered my world and put me through the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I did all of these steps, and am happy to report that I got better, not bitter. I am not walking wounded, I am healed with scars – and a tattoo with the Sanskrit word for “fearlessness”. For real. I earned it.

    I have had several opportunities to share my wisdom with folks struck by the same kind of tragedy. I am powerless to change the circumstances, but I can be their rock when they’re falling apart. This is part of my service to the world.

    • Dear beautiful Theresa,

      I’m so sorry for your loss, which you could not control.
      And so so happy that you claimed the wisdom within it, which you could. It’s the “Spiritual Booby Prize” to be sure, but, for those who need it — those people for whom you have been that rock — oh, so important!!!!

  14. Beryl says:

    I loved hearing your perspective today Jennifer from a mother of loss who is 20 years past that painful day. 2 and a half years ago we lost our first daughter during pregnancy (I was 20 weeks at the time). I completely agree that its those moments of life that define us and who we are today but we also need to be willing to let go of our tragic stories in order to move forward while also finding the places and communities where it is safe to process our emotions. I turned to photography after the loss of our sweet baby Bella and found that her legacy now lives in the photography classes I’m teaching women both in person online. Her loss was the very thing that taught me gratitude, appreciation, and a shift in perspective even though at the time it felt so dark, isolating, and lonely. That was my long way of saying THANK YOU for your tips. They are just perfect. xo.

    • Dearest beautiful mother of Bella, How perfect that you found a medium to capture light and grace for all time as the channel through which you express your brief time with Bella. I LOVED also your reference to the “dark” that was before the healing — the darkness now gone because art has provided healing.

      Art is where it’s at, baby!!! I will think of Bella and Grace playing together today. Love, J

  15. Thank you, Jonathan, to introducing me to Jennifer! I’m in love already!

    Jennifer, your 8 steps are so smack-on. I haven’t always been conscious while going through the healing process, but when I look back, those steps resonate so powerfully.

    (BTW, I’ve written an ebook on creating happiness for creative people, and your #1, Decide, is also the first of my 9 “secrets” to happiness. Not a big surprise! Mindset is 99% of the game, don’t you think?)

    I’m delighted to learn of your work and look forward to more!

  16. Chris says:

    Wonderful Jennifer,

    So powerful.

    Reading your material over and over, I’m struck by how real your steps are, and how well they work. Not that I’ve lost a child, but in transforming suffering into something of value.

    The simple choice of “deciding.” My mind agrees. It starts with a conscious choice.

    You’re right on. I appreciate you.

    Love, Chris

    • Thank you, Chris. I hope that enough people catch on and we can start teaching the kids how to heal. Life is so much richer once you get that it can ALL be used for good.

      J

  17. ray parker says:

    Hi,

    I really like the reminder to “connect.” So important. And I love your point about our society not preparing us for the darker aspects of life, which should be the job of religion, but sometimes just makes it worse — in my experience.

    Best, Ray Parker

    • Hi, Ray. Thank you for sharing your experience. Connection is so very vital but also really tough to do sometimes. Deep sorrow is tough to be around precisely becuase we aren’t schooled to lose. So it feels so scary and unfamiliar.

      Unfortunately, isolation works against healing.

      Once we turn the ship around — once we start to teach that losing is part of loving — that its just a natural stage of the human condition — THEN it won’t be so scary to be beside someone in their deep suffering.

      It will all begin with conversations like this one. So, bless you for your courage. Jen

  18. Jonathan a great big Thank You for sharing Jen’s story and for introducing me to her!

    Jen, after reading your story here, I visited your site, I just want to say you are a wonderful soul:) I will definitely continue reading your stories.

    About 12 years ago, I lost my dad. The nature of my loss took me on a journey of reflection on my life! You see, at some point in my childhood, challenges and hardships lead to a very unpleasant upbringing for me and my sister and brothers. My dad was the major cause of this ( I will spare ALL the details). Anyway, at a young age, I quit school to help my mom support the family. My dad had become a complete stranger to me and my siblings. Although he was still living with us, with no longer had any connection.
    He was in the hospital for ten days ( heavily sedated). During those ten days, I discovered the man he truly was. I learned more about him than in all the years growing up. I discovered just how much he had been suffering, how much he would wanted to be a part of our lives. I couldn’t wait for him to get better and start all over…He never made it!
    I went through a period of regret and losing a father that I could have had.
    I learned sooo many life lessons from this experience…letting go of regret, Forgiveness and seeing all my experiences, as far back as my childhood as challenges to become the person I am today. To live in the moment and give of myself to others, have understanding and compassion…It has given me the courage to make a major leap in my life and am doing what I love, my life’s work!
    Jen, I am definitely sharing your story with some people that I know will inspire them:)

  19. Jan says:

    Thank you for sharing such an ultimately uplifting post. I know so many who have become their tragedy, their grief, clinging to their ‘why me’ life. My hope is that by reading posts such as this, it will open a chink to enable them to awaken to the joy of life and remember.

    • You are so right, Jan, in that ALL that is needed to BEGIN to heal is a chink where willingness can rush in. Thank you for sharing your beautiful wisdom.

      Jen

  20. Thank you for this wonderful post! It came at time I needed it. You see my family is so set against decisions I have made in life–not to be part of their religion and to write (a genre they don’t agree with)–that they have abandoned me. The pain that comes from being rejected for who you have grown into as an adult (I’m 36) is especially painful!

    My older sister went through the same thing about 12 yrs ago, so I have her to also turn to for strength. I’ve also been blessed with a wonderful husband who truly is my world, my everything.

    Sometimes the pain that comes from the “parental rejection” cuts deep enough to make me feel I can’t be important…I mean after all, my own parents don’t want me in their lives anymore. But on the days I am strong, I know they truly are the ones losing out on a wonderful daughter. I pity them for being so close-minded.

    Again, thank you for this article! I’m book-marking this. It goes along with something I read the other day…the best payback is to live well.

    While I am determined to do so, I still have to work through this life change. It truly is what I had considered one of the worst things that could happen to me. And you are so right, now that has happened, I can live as I am to–let my light shine.

    • Brilliant. And I am so sorry for the pain that you feel. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you have found champions for your journey (your loving husband and sister). Lean into them, even as you become a champion for others who need your beautiful courageous strength. Please come join us over at Life After Tampons, too. We have lots of strategic rabble-rousers — just like you!!! Love and strength and peace, Jen.

  21. […] Broken Open to Greatness: Transforming Tragedy into Triumph I don’t think people are really interested in the “perfect” person. They either want to see someone who failed overcoming that failure, or to see someone who succeed fail in some fashion. (@ jonathan fields) […]

    • Yes, love, we are all perfectly flawed. The death of my daughter wasn’t a “failure” on anyone’s part though. Just life. On life’s terms.

  22. Thank you for sharing your story. I suffered from 2 miscarriages and still have times I wonder what what my babies would be like now had they survived. I’m so glad I found this post today. It led me to your blog and Facebook which I really enjoyed reading too.

  23. […] Broken Open to Greatness: Transforming Tragedy into Triumph I don’t think people are really interested in the “perfect” person. They either want to see someone who failed overcoming that failure, or to see someone who succeed fail in some fashion. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  24. Jaki says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad I found this post today. It led me to your blog and Facebook which I really enjoyed reading today.

  25. Beautiful piece, Jennifer. I’m so sorry you had to lose Grace. At the same time, that experience allowed you to write such wise words here. I so related to the “lack of training” point. I have thought for a while that there should be classes in elementary school, middle school and high school to teach kids how to deal with pain, anger and fear. Schools would be better places for learning and kids and the rest of us would be better off for it.

    • Awesome idea, Coreen, though I’m sure no one could agree on what we were supposed to teach about those things. Even just having casual conversations about hard things is important — to normalize the whole experience of loss and suffering.

      I don’t think that will take the pain away, when big sorrow comes. But I do think that it would take some of the fear out of it.

      Thanks for continuing the conversation. Jen

  26. Anietie Ukpe says:

    I have to say thank you. Just coming off of the heals of my own loss, having lost and birthed my son while at 20 weeks, it has been definitely one of the most hardest things I have ever gone through. Seeing everything that has happened to me as an opportunity to get to know myself better, establish better relationships and learn to take care of myself have been so pivotal for me, that I don’t know if I would have gotten those same lessons had this tragedy not occurred. I love the saying, “Loss is the shadow of joy”…I realize that I do have to deal with my shadows and my dark sides no matter how hard it is and know that I will come out radiant and joyful.. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for the beautiful reminders 🙂

    • I am so sorry for your loss. You are absolutely right that this tragedy can be a “soul shaper” for you. Or, it can make you really really bitter. I see you choosing health, though, and I celebrate your strength.

      I will keep you in my thoughts, love. Jennifer

  27. Lynne says:

    I liked reading this post. It made me think that I someday can get better. Yet, i’m still having trouble getting over the loss of my big brother. Hopefully someday I can heal and let go of my story, but for now I still am at a loss.

    • Lynne, I am so sorry that you don’t have your big brother in your life today. I am so sorry that you are suffering and still reeling a bit from his death.

      But I see you reaching for the light, too, and, in my experience, this is a really critical step of healing.

      If you can, keep claiming wholeness. You aren’t leaving him behind by doing that. You are claiming his love, his memory, in a new way.

      Blessings.

  28. Wow Jennifer – it’s amazing how you transformed such a difficult loss into something that touches everyone and makes them reconsider what can be learned and felt in the sorrow. I lost my mother last year (though I know it’s not the same as losing a child) and watched her struggle with Lou Gehrig’s. It was tougher than tough, but I learned so much and loved her even more, and found new respect for her in the way she handled it – her way. I love the bitter vs. better comparison and how we can make that choice.

    • David, I am so sorry for your loss. One thing though — we don’t have to compare losses the way a kid compares things on the playground — my dad is bigger than YOUR dad.

      There is no merit in loss, no hierarchical value. We teach that, though, and the problem is, if you have experienced a loss that is “lower” on the “awfulness scale”, you will be inclined to minimize your own suffering or feel like you ought not ask for help, since you’re loss pales in comparison to people who “really deserve” their sorrow.

      I hope I am explaining that well.

      My point is, love, you have a right to the depth of whatever sorrow you feel. You lost your FIRST LOVE, afterall. And you had to see her suffer, too.

      But, here’s what I already know about you — just from what you shared. You STAYED. You WITNESSED. and you LOVED.

      That is some pretty awesome stuff. Your mother must have been an incredible woman to teach all of that.

      Blessings.

  29. Patti Winker says:

    Hi Jennifer

    I follow you over at LAT and love your writing. I’m so thrilled to find this guest post. What a wonderful read.

    For years I would refuse to participate in those “Walk For The Cure” sort of things, you know the cancer fundraisers/awareness walks. I would look at the ‘survivor’ t-shirts and cringe, bristle. MY sister didn’t survive… MY mother didn’t survive. I was angry about that, and most likely, I still am.

    But BEING angry and FEELING angry are two different things. As the years pass, I have been able to let go of that feeling, mostly through sharing, honestly, the anger right out-loud.

    Because, let’s face it, it’s hard to admit openly that cancer survivors didn’t elicit in me feelings of joy and thankfulness. It’s not a pretty emotion to show. It’s rather ugly, actually. But, I had to face it, and share it.

    Sometimes grief brings out the most shameful emotions. Yes, I was angry at everyone who ever survived cancer, because their stories weren’t my sister’s or mother’s.

    Thankfully, our family was anxious and eager to share all of our emotions, even the ugly ones. We got through it with tears and laughter. And, of course, now I rally with the best of them when it comes time to celebrate the survivors of cancer and the strides that cancer research has made.

    My sister and my mother are gone. All the cancer cures in the world didn’t help them. All the walks in the world didn’t help them. But they would be thrilled for everyone who did survive, who’s family can celebrate, who’s family didn’t have to suffer like we did.

    Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your story of grief and triumph. It’s a long road to travel through loss and grief, I know. But traveling those miles is well worth the effort.

    • Hi, Patti. Thank you for your deeply honest share. I can relate to “survivor envy.” Pregnant women made me CRAZY for the longest time.

      For me, it wasn’t so much that their baby lived and mine didn’t. It was that, now that I had experienced the death of a child, I could NEVER have that innocenct joy about pregnancy and motherhood again.

      But then, as you say, you eventually have to let all of that go. Because in the end, what matters is this —

      Bitter? Or, Better?

      See you back at the LAT homefront!!!

  30. […] 3. Broken Open to Greatness: Transforming Tragedy into Triumph, guest post by Jennifer Boykin on Jonathan Field’s blog. […]

  31. Susan says:

    Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your story. I was deeply touched by it, and by Justine’s and Patti’s stories too.

    I’m the mother of a micro preemie, born at 26 wks, 2lbs and who spent 137 days in the NICU. I didn’t lose her, but I almost did, sometimes many times a day. Even so, I cannot imagine the depth of your pain.

    After bringing her home, the next 4.5 years were spent with 5 specialists, Occupational and Physiotherapists, Speech and Language specialists, Child Interventionist, Chiropractor, she needed a helmet, bi-weekly needles, ongoing medical, developmental and cognitive follow-up.

    All of this meant we were at medical appointments or therapists were arriving at our home, several times a week. When that settled down, and she overcame almost all hurdles, my marriage fell apart.

    And so, I have implemented all the steps you outlined above. Twice.

    I wrote a book. I’m a trained parent buddy to other parents of micro preemies. And then I let it all die down.

    It’s been 2 years since I’ve outlined my daughter’s story, as I did above. And for a couple years, I’ve been prompted to go further (I’m a writer and filmmaker). Yet, after all this healing, I’m not keen on re-living the story forever more.

    I’ve been pushing back for quite some time now and it’s not going away. I worry that I’ll end up back where I was before the healing began.

    Now that I’ve stepped away from the chaos, and it’s not so fresh, not so urgent, not so in-my-face, I can look at it more like an observer. Perhaps now is the time to reach out, to assist. I have no idea how it will turn out. I can only put one foot in front of the other, and move forward. I can’t see the whole road ahead from here, just a few feet in front of me.

    Thanks, Jennifer, for the opportunity to work through that.

    Blessings,
    Susan

    • Oh, I could SO RELATE to your share. You just get sick of the whole thing — the way it all seems to define you. And yet you feel guilty for getting sick of the whole thing — because it is your kid after all.

      As you can see, it’s been 20 years since Grace died. And, even now, I sort of INSIST that that part of my life — that Triumph Over ANY Adveristy part — is just a piece of my whole vision and dream.

      That’s why my work over at Life After Tampons is more about a woman’s life — JUST HERS. Yes, you and I — we’re MASTER overcomers.

      We didn’t want to be. We didn’t choose to be.

      But life gave us what it gave us and we’re the kind of women who RISE.

      You don’t have to have that whole story be YOUR whole story. And I’m so happy your daughter has a mom who reaches for wholeness. Because, Lord knows, she has enough to content with without having to deal with a martyr mom.

      I don’t know you but I HEAR you. I trust that you’ll find a way to put all of this in perspective. I’m so sorry for your losses (innocence, marriage, etc.). I celebrate your strength, wisdom, and grace.

      Jen

  32. Matthew says:

    Jennifer,

    I welcome your help during this time of despair. In fact Im reaching out so far. Can you be there?

  33. Hi Jennifer! :O)

    I was sent to your site by a really kewl guy, Jason “J-Ryze” Fonceca. He went to my website and saw we had something in common here, and told me I would enjoy reading your blog, and I DID! :O)

    I lost my son, Jason over 35 years ago. He was 5 years old. (And yes, I found it VERY interesting that another Jason sent me here! LOL!) :O) At that time, as you well know, we withdraw into another world. If it weren’t for all of my LOVING family and friends, AND all of my angels and guides, I’m not sure where I would be today. But because I was showered with so much Love, I made “my” decision and chose to grow and move forward, in a positive direction, and that started me on my spiritual journey. I am still on that journey and I have to tell ya, it’s been AMAZING, to say the least!

    My Heart goes out to ALL parents who have lost a child. But what Jennifer says here is so very true. It’s up to “US” to pull ourselves out of that pit of despair and either make it or break it. There is a multitude of information in this world, and so many people who are willing to help! It’s a painful journey, yes, but it can get better, if you allow it to. And I am living proof that it DOES GET BETTER, just as Jennifer is! :O)

    Thank you, Jennifer, for your Loving Wisdom! I know your Blessed Angel, Grace, (LOVE that name!), has been helping you all these years, too. I know my Jason has. The name Jason means “healer”, and believe me, he has been with me every step of the way, sending me ALL his Love and Healing Energy!

    We are NEVER alone! :O)

    Blessings, Love and Light to all!
    Vicki :O) <3