Twelve years ago, when our family was living in Italy due to my husband’s work, I lost the five most important people in my life. While my mother, sister, and niece were visiting from the States, my husband and I, along with our two young boys, ages four and six, took them on a week-long sightseeing tour around that beautiful country. As we were driving from Venice to Florence, just outside of Bologna a semi-truck lost control and slammed into our minivan, giving my husband Bart, who was driving, only a second to react. My sister and I were the only survivors of this tragic highway accident.

Imagine living each day with the fear of losing someone you love. A good friend does not text for a while, your spouse is gone longer than expected, or your child has a high fever, making you immediately preoccupied with the unimaginable death and loss of that person. You feel angst penetrate every ounce of your body, leaving you with a sense of pending doom and numbness.

Countless times during the twelve years since my family’s accident, such feelings have overpowered my ability to experience happiness. In the beginning of my grief process, I was paralyzed by the thought of loving someone again for fear of losing them. As a result, I held people at arm’s length. I avoided my father, who had had a stroke a couple months before the accident. I kept my distance from my nieces and nephews. I pushed away friends and other family members every chance I got. Although I did not consciously behave this way, in retrospect I see clearly that such actions were an attempt to protect myself from experiencing another catastrophic loss. I felt as if I were sitting on a fence, one side of which represented living in a normal society, the other a life of insanity. And I could not risk losing my mind.

Teaching myself to risk feeling love again proved difficult. Being numb, I had to figure out how to reawaken my senses. I also had to summon the courage to love, knowing I couldn’t ultimately ensure no future loss. I began slowly allowing people to reenter my life by making friends and family a part of daily routines, such as sharing a meal or going to a movie with them. In this way, I gradually learned to again trust the presence of others in my life without constant fear of imminent calamity. For a while, whenever I nevertheless experienced some type of disappointment or loss, I felt I was thrown back to the beginning of my grief journey and had to begin building trust in love again. Gradually, though, I became stronger and better able to act less from fear of losing a loved one and more from hope for the continuation of love and life.

Over the past twelve years, I have also learned that fear of losing a loved one is a permanent part of me requiring acknowledgment. Sometimes I am still debilitated when thinking of which loved one I might lose next. Yet I know that I cannot prepare myself for, or predict, future losses. Nor can I resurrect my loved ones who have passed. I can, however, consciously opt to live in the moment. I can live in the abundance of love I have in my life now. Since the accident I have remarried and, with my new husband, created a beautiful, healthy five-year-old boy named Franklin. I now choose to feel love—both past and present—and honor life by not dwelling on the sorrow that stirs within me. I accept that losses occur to everyone and that I have not been selected to suffer more then most. Life happens to us all, and we all have fear of losing loved ones. What matters is how we react to this fear and the power we give it to affect our lives.

Almost daily, I still experience some degree of fear of losing a loved one—a constant reminder of what I have lost and the potential despair I could feel again someday. But instead of allowing myself to be overcome by it, I choose to embrace my fear and face each moment I have with gratitude and love.

Jill Kraft Thompson lives in McCall, Idaho, and is the author of Finding Jill: How I Rebuilt My Life after Losing the Five People I Loved Most (Mind, Body, and Soul Productions, 2013).


Jill Kraft Thompson

A native of Weiser, Idaho, Jill Kraft Thompson now lives in the mountains north of Boise. Shortly after the ninth anniversary with her husband, Barton Kraft, he and their two young sons, along with her mother and niece, died in an automobile accident that she survived. Four years later, she married again. Her second husband, John Thompson, never asked her to stop loving Bart. He even created their wedding rings to incorporate all of their birthstones. After much discussion and trepidation, the Thompsons added to their family. Today, at four years of age, Franklin says he’s excited to someday meet his brothers in heaven. Jill’s two families are now combined, allowing her to freely love her past while still having hope for the future. “The loss that occurred is horrible. But that was a split second of my life. The love lasts forever,” says Jill . She remains dedicated to helping women and men of all ages and backgrounds navigate the grief recovery process. " Jill Kraft Thompson is the author of Finding Jill: How I Rebuilt My Life after Losing the Five People I Loved Most. She lives in McCall, Idaho, with her husband, John, and their five-year-old son, Franklin.

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