When he was 12-years-old, he was diagnosed with a synovial sarcoma which required the total amputation of his right arm. My son’s illness persisted over a six year time frame and we tried many cancer treatments; some helped temporarily, others not at all. Finally, the cancer took his life and this loss was the most difficult and traumatic for me. A secondary loss was already in place and beginning to erupt. My faith was temporarily shattered, and I no longer understood the God I had loved and worshiped since my youth.
Linda J. Schupp’s story as compiled by Miriam Gautier
“Darkness is all around me; thick, impenetrable darkness is everywhere” (Job 23:17).
Linda is my high school friend. I have told many people of Linda’s dark days of one after another painful tragedies. I can only retell the facts. No one else can tell the real agony and despair of the dark days of her life except herself. She lived them!
“…Here on earth you will have trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33).
Linda’s Story in Her Words
The experience of grief is not a dry, dusty, textbook theory for me. I have personally felt the intensity of its pain in the laboratory of life. I have grieved the deaths of my mother, father, two husbands and my 18-year-old son, all who died in either shocking or unexpected ways.
My mother was walking along the sidewalk in downtown Miami, Florida, when an out-of-control car spiraled down a parking lot ramp, entered the street, hit my mother and hurled her through a storefront window. She lingered unconscious for five days, then died.
My father died unexpectedly in a nursing home from a medical mistake which caused heart failure. Despite his pitiful pleas to stop the procedure, his cries went unheard, and his heart stopped instead.
My teenaged husband went to sleep at the wheel of his car; it hit an embankment on the side of the road, and folded like an accordion. Though there was not a broken bone in his body, his liver was crushed, and he died several hours after the accident.
Later in life, I suffered the loss of another husband through suicide. When I returned home from work, I heard an engine running in the garage. I opened the door and found my husband alive but unconscious, from carbon monoxide poisoning. The helicopter, “Flight for Life,” took him to the hospital, but he couldn’t be resuscitated.
Though these deaths were painful and shocking, my most severe psychological wounding was the death of my son, Cliff. When he was 12-years-old, he was diagnosed with a synovial sarcoma which required the total amputation of his right arm. My son’s illness persisted over a six year time frame and we tried many cancer treatments; some helped temporarily, others not at all. Finally, the cancer took his life and this loss was the most difficult and traumatic for me. A secondary loss was already in place and beginning to erupt. My faith was temporarily shattered, and I no longer understood the God I had loved and worshiped since my youth.
“But it is God who has wronged me, capturing me in his net. He has uprooted my hope like a fallen tree” (Job 19: 6, 10).
I have buried five out of my six immediate family members, having only my precious daughter, Jackie, remaining in this life. Heaven was much richer for the addition of my loved ones, but earth was poverty-stricken for me.
“My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart’s desires are broken.” Job 17:11
Have I turned to normal after experiencing all these losses? Absolutely not, to return to normal implies that I am the same person I was before I encountered these events. A person is forever altered by traumatic grief, and we must choose what we will do with those experiences. Much healing has occurred in my life by choosing to find meaning in the grief. Grief has carved a vacuum within me that has now been filled with compassion for my fellow sojourners. If I can lighten their load, shorten the grief journey, help them avoid certain pitfalls, or provide them with sustenance on the way, then God’s mission for me has been completed.
Many wounded healers have gone before me and I am simply following in their footsteps. Many trauma specialists are “there” because “they have been there.” If I can ease someone’s burden, shed light on the way, walk the stony pathway with them, listen to the pain and devastation of the trauma, carry them through the dangerous and treacherous hills and valleys, or simply love them through the process, then my journey has been a meaningful venture.
“Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction….” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
The old adage, “Physician, heal thyself” certainly was applicable to me, and I am thankful that I can represent my “reconstructed self” to a hurting world as a hopeful and humble survivor. During my times of intense grief, I made a conscious decision to “search for meaning, not happiness.” Interestingly enough, happiness often follows as a by-product. I have purposed in my present life that my tears will serve as waves of movement that thrust me forward towards others of like suffering. I went back to school to learn how to help.
I have written two books to help others through grief, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD). These books would not have been written without the honor and privilege of my being the mother of two wonderful children. My son, William Clifford Taylor, taught me courage and how to live in the face of death. My daughter, Jacquelyn J. Beaudoin, gave me hope and taught me how to live after a death. My grandson, Jeremy Beaudoin, and granddaughter, Tara Reinbold, were pleasant distractions from my ever present pain and grief and kept me walking and moving until I could do so on my own. In my present life, when days are gloomy and I need a lift, I turn to my great granddaughter, Taylor Hanson Beaudoin, who never fails to brighten my day.
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward” (Psalm 127:3).
Dr. Linda J. Schupp, Ph.D., is a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress, is a nationally and internationally known author and speaker, who has trained tens of thousands of people in her seminars. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, and an M.E.D. in Guidance and Counseling. For ten years Linda has trained health professionals all over the United States in seminars addressing trauma. Her misery became ministries.
To God be the Glory!
Miriam Gautier is a member of Treasure Coast Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Stuart, Fla.