By JENNIFER K. BAUER
For Jim and Linda Lawrence Hunt of Spokane, that shipwreck was the death of their daughter, Krista Hunt Ausland, who died at age 25 after a bus plunged off a remote Bolivian cliff. It was 1998 and Krista was six months into a three-year humanitarian project in the country. People told the Hunts their lives would never be the same. Someone warned them that after the death of a child, most marriages end in divorce.
The Hunts, now retired professors from Whitworth University at Spokane, grabbed hold of the one thing they could change, their reaction. In the years after Krista’s death, each wrote books about individuals who challenged grim circumstances to do great things.
Linda Hunt wrote the award-winning “Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America,” the true story of a mother of eight who walked across America in 1896 in a bid to win $10,000 to save her family farm. Jim Hunt wrote “Restless Fires, Young John Muir’s Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf in 1867-68.”
Then Linda sat down to write the story of their own loss and grief in her 2014 book, “Pilgrimage Through Loss, Pathways to Strength and Renewal After the Death of a Child.” The couple will sign books and present their talk “Bold Spirited Resilience and Healing after Loss” Tuesday, Feb. 24 in Clarkston.
When Linda Hunt sat down to write their story, she interviewed 30 other people who had also lost loved ones asking the question: How do you continue to live creatively and open to the world in the midst of sorrow?
“This is not prescriptive at all,” says Hunt, in a phone interview from Spokane. “Here are things that worked for people that might be helpful as you go through your own journey.”
While the book came about because of the death of a child it applies to any kind of loss, she says. The Hunts use the metaphor of a shipwreck to illustrate loss as, “anything where we thought life would be a particular way and it gets torn apart.”
For Muir this was the near loss of an eye in a factory accident that led him to become a wandering botanist, a choice that changed the nation. Loss can inspire traumatic growth, says Hunt, but it’s a challenging journey. In the U.S. obstacles include living in a “mourning avoidant” culture.
“There’s a lot of pressure that people feel on having pretty quick closure after a loss and people not wanting to talk about it,” she says.
She found a common complaint at a weekend retreat for women who had lost children of all ages to suicide, accidents and illness. All the women said the one thing they longed for was to hear their child’s name but nobody wanted to mention it because they were afraid they’d cry. At family reunions it was like their child never existed.
The Kubler-Ross model of the Five Stages of Loss and Grief has proven to be inaccurate, Hunt says. There is no stair-step path to overcoming grief. Some people need solitude, others community or nature. People expect closure within a few months, “but closure is really a modern term, only in the last 20 years,” she says.
Listening to others’ stories, she came to believe in “a well-spring of love that is beneath all sorrow.” She and her husband drew from this to create the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship. Named after their daughter, the foundation mentors people in their 20s over four years of humanitarian service. It now supports about 17 people a year.
Other parents in her book shared creative outlets they pursued.
“It doesn’t take away the loss,” Hunt says about creating a foundation in memory of a loved one. “It gives you and your family and friends a way to take the energy of your sorrow and use it in a positive way.”
if you go
WHO: Authors Jim and Linda Lawrence Hunt
WHEN AND WHERE:
– 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, book signing at And Books Too, 918 Sixth St., Clarkston
– 6 p.m. Tuesday, presentation and discussion, “Bold Spirited Resilience and Healing After Loss,” Asotin County Library Annex, 407 Sycamore St., Clarkston