IN 1998, AWARD-WINNING writer Linda Lawrence Hunt and her husband, Jim, were forced to consider a question no parent wants to ask: How do you find meaning in life after losing your child?
Their 25-year-old daughter, Krista Hunt Ausland, had just died in a bus accident in Bolivia while volunteering with the Mennonite Central Committee.
“Your joys become more intense,” consoled a friend whose family had also lost a child.
This resonated with Linda, especially since Krista was known for her energy and enthusiasm. Linda and her husband, now retired professors of English and history at Whitworth University, had always encouraged Krista to travel and take part in community service, but even they were amazed by the intense joy Krista exuded serving as a school teacher in inner-city Tacoma, Wash., or volunteering in poor communities in Latin America. Writing about that joy might help to recover some of it in Linda’s own life, she thought.
Fifteen years later, Linda’s newest book is more than just an ode to a remarkably happy daughter. Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child is a collection of ideas and insight from more than 30 parents who decide in their darkest hours to “face grief in creative and intentional ways.” The book, which contains study questions at the end of each chapter and references new research on grief, is intended as a resource for grieving parents, as well as for those hoping to support them in the right ways and at the right times. “Closure is an illusion,” explains Linda, but she describes multiple examples of parents finding strength and even joy in sacred spaces and rituals, as well as in giving and receiving symbolic acts of kindness.