Trigger warning: this post talks about loss and grief, specifically infant and child loss and suicidal thoughts. It could be triggering to those experiencing their own grief. Please reach out and seek help from a professional if you need it.
More than a year ago, Jennifer Tracy and I met on LinkedIn. We share a heartbreaking and similar story. We've both lost a twin daughter. Mine to prematurity and illness and hers to a car crash. Sadly, the crash that took her daughter, Brittany's life also killed her husband, Brian. Her two other daughters, Amber and McKayla, Brittany's twin were seriously injured.
Just ten minutes after kissing her family goodbye as they left to get school supplies, Jennifer's family was shattered when a drunk driver hit their car. Her world came crashing down around her later as police officers knocked on the door to tell her that her husband and daughter were dead, and her other two daughters were fighting for their lives after being flown to the children's hospital. She would learn that Amber was given an 80 percent to survive, and McKayla just a 20 percent chance.
Prior to this, she had already been through so much including trauma as a child, familial trauma, and medical complications. She had already fought through so much to be alive, and now she had lost so much. Sometimes those mountains seem too high to climb. That's when we dig deep and find our climbing gear!
The path to recovery was a long one for Jennifer, and she and I have much in common. We are both a part of a club that we never asked to be in and would wish on no one. But we have found strength in one another. We have formed an unexpected but incredible friendship that I would not trade for the world.
When Jennifer released her book "From Deepest Darkness to the Light of Hope" last year, I couldn't wait to read it. I know her story is powerful, and I knew how many people she could help by sharing it. That is why I am honored to share with you this review of my friend's book. I hope that it helps you or someone you know make it through the deepest darkness in your or their life.
The importance of your thoughts.
One of the first things I noticed and loved about this book is how it's written. Jennifer writes in an interactive workbook format, with a section for reflection and questions for you to answer at the end of each chapter. You can write down your feelings, raw and in the moment, to return to later and reflect upon. Journaling in this way can be such a huge part of navigating grief.
Even if you don't write your answers down, simply thinking about how you feel and how you would answer those questions is helpful. The first step to working through loss and grief is knowing that we will all handle it differently. We will all grieve differently and in a different time frame. And no matter how we do it, it's not wrong. What worked for your coworker or your neighbor may not work for you.
In the very first chapter, Jennifer says this:
"Because there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to win a mental health battle, there are a lot of hurtful, confusing messages out there."
And she is exactly right. While most people really do mean well when they say, "well my friend Jane did this and it worked; just try that," that is not always helpful. In fact, it can totally backfire. Imagine this scenario:
You go out to have lunch with a friend, just trying to find a sliver of normalcy. Your friend tells you that a friend of a friend got through her trauma by leaning on her faith. So you decide to pray and go to church. But it doesn't help. You feel just as lost as you did before. Now you feel like a failure. How could that help someone else but not you?
PLEASE do not fall into this trap! It will get you nowhere and will make things worse. When someone offers you their tips, kindly thank them and tell them that you're still working to find coping mechanisms that work for YOU. It may seem tough, but you are your most important advocate. Jennifer does a fantastic job at reviewing different scenarios and ensuring her readers that there is no one right way to grieve. You won't feel judged or excluded as you read along.
Unapologetic and brutal honesty for the win.
Life is messy. In today's social media world, all people see is what others want them to see. You see the fancy vacation or the precious baby photos with all those trendy "this many months today" stickers every time baby gets a month older. You see the new home or the nice new SUV.
What you don't see is the debt they went into to buy the house or the SUV. You aren't told that the vacation is a last-ditch effort to save a struggling marriage. They don't share that they might be fighting postpartum depression or are just plain exhausted with that beautiful baby.
Why is this all we see? Because social media is not honest. But Jennifer is. She shares the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly on every page of her book, building trust and rapport with every line,
I remember thinking, I am thinking of them. I'm broken. They are better off without me."
She states this in chapter four in reference to her suicidal ideations. It is this kind of brutal honesty that makes her so relatable. You can connect with her and trust her, no matter what your grief journey entails. By openly sharing her own struggles, you feel encouraged to share yours, no matter what they may be.
No matter how well-written a book may be, you aren't likely to get much from it if you feel disconnected from the text or the author. Even if your situation is nothing like Jennifer's, her honesty and acceptance will earn your trust. I never dealt with suicidal thoughts, but I did feel an extreme amount of guilt about all Sadie went through. I still found comfort in Jennifer's words.
Sharing her life after the struggle.
If you have gone through the pain of trauma, loss, and grief, you know that it never really ends. You learn how to move forward and you find a way to go on. But that pain won't go away. Not fully. But it's important to know that as dark as it seems now, there is light on the other side. You can find joy again.
Jennifer shares about all she does now to help others. Every aspect of her professional life is spent helping other people overcome their battles. She has a strong family life and has found a wonderful partner that supports her. Her life is a beautiful example of finding peace and happiness after trauma.
Sometimes you may think you're too broken to find love or support. That no one would want to deal with your "baggage." But that isn't true. If a person doesn't want to deal with the weight you carry, then they aren't worthy of you. Jennifer shares about her life now and is a ray of light and hope, proving that you can find joy in life again on the other side of the darkness.
Worksheets for self-awareness.
At the end of her book, Jennifer includes many worksheets for you, the reader to fill out. These are designed to get you thinking. As you work through them, be honest with yourself. Only when you are fully honest with yourself can you heal and move forward. This is YOUR journey, no one else's. Sure, you can have a support system, but healing begins with you.
Some of the great worksheets Jennifer includes are:
A flowchart for emotions and feelings
Sheets to break down your barriers in multiple areas including financial health, mental health, etc.
Knowing and understanding/resetting your intentions
All these things can be completed at your own pace, in the privacy of your own home. If you need to bury your head in a pillow and scream, let it out. If you need to ugly cry, break out the tissues. NEVER be ashamed of the emotions you feel. NEVER feel like you are grieving "the wrong way." Your journey is personal, and Jennifer is there to guide you. Below are some examples of the amazing resources she's created.
Even if Jennifer and I didn't know each other and were not friends, I would still recommend this book. Her non-judgmental approach, her vulnerability, and her story speak to my soul. Reading this book is more like having a conversation with a friend. The resources make it invaluable. Whether you are going through your own trauma, know someone who is, or would just like to better understand the ins and outs of grief and loss, I know this book will benefit you.
Here are some great resources Jennifer offers to those in need of direction and guidance:
Get your copy of "From Deepest Darkness to the Light of Hope" here.
Find hope by shopping Jennifer's Borrow My Hope Collection here.
Visit Jennifer's Redefine Your Mission Site here.
Sign up for the grief guide here.
Jennifer and I also have exciting news! She and I are partnering together on a wonderful project to offer even more resources for those struggling with grief. The project is still in the works, but I'm very excited to share more details as we go along. As we continue to develop this project, I will add a button to this post where you can sign up to be notified when it officially launches. Keep checking back for updates!
We at Sadie's Purpose are all about helping families that need it. By partnering with Jennifer, Sadie's Purpose wants to extend our reach to those who are struggling with postpartum depression or the loss of their child. The NICU is a hard enough place, and navigating NICU life while fighting PPD isn't an easy battle. Losing a child is something no parent should experience, but we want to help.
Our collaboration will be more than a resource; it will be a community. It will be a place where you can find nonjudgmental support. You will gain private access to videos, worksheets, and workbooks designed by us that will guide you through grief, loss, depression, and PPD, and it will help you learn to love and fight for yourself.
Remember, if you are struggling, PLEASE reach out to someone who can help. Use the resources shown in the picture, see your personal physician, or call a friend or a family member. Just SPEAK UP! Your story matters!
I want to thank Jennifer personally for allowing me to review her book. While I haven't endured all the same struggles she has, I can empathize with many parts of her story. I know the pain of losing a daughter. I know the pain of always thinking about how your surviving twin should have her sister there.
Jennifer and I may have connected in a professional capacity, but I have a wonderful friend for life now!