Before and After


The coronavirus has brought into focus the recognition that our lives can change overnight. Our lives have been moving forward with work commitments, aspirations for our careers, and quality time with family and friends. We’ve tucked in exercise, vacations, and reunions. Our lives were rich with activity and purpose.

And then, everything changed almost overnight as we were told to leave our workplaces, hunker down at home, and distance ourselves from others if we have to go out of our homes. Our lives have been turned upside down.

Now, we’re experiencing trails of losses, waves of uncertainty, and for some, tsunamis of grief. Facing a sudden, new way of life imposed upon us is daunting. But, for those of us who have experienced a life-altering diagnosis for a loved one or for ourselves, this blast of caustic change is painfully familiar. Our lives were chugging along well and then after an MRI, a surgery, or even simply feeling lousy for a few weeks, a call from a doctor changed it all.

After my thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth’s sudden diagnosis of a life-threatening condition and after my own cancer diagnosis many years later, I know the BEFORE and AFTER syndrome. And after years of struggling following my daughter’s death, and my recovery I’ve learned many life lessons. Some of them are applicable now:

  • we can never know what the next day will bring;
  • changes, even life-altering changes are part of the tapestry of life;
  • thoughtfully choosing how we want to live our lives is imperative;
  • we will experience loss, even for some of us, loss that you thought you couldn’t survive;
  • but, within each us is an inner strength waiting to be borne out of our suffering;
  • you can rebuild your life and discover new meaning.

One day in our own ways, we will recognize that our lives will be tempered by loss but will also be rich in meaning and focused in purpose. For many in the world, this time of change will be now.


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About the Author

Faith Fuller Wilcox believes that self-expression through writing leads to healing. Her writing is reflective of a growing body of medical research about “narrative identity,” which illuminates that how we make sense of what happens to us and the meaning we give to experiences beyond our control directly impact our physical and psychological outcomes. Faith learned these truths firsthand when her thirteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer that took her life. Faith’s journey from grief and despair to moments of comfort and peace taught her life-affirming lessons, which she shares today through her writing. Faith is the author of Hope Is A Bright Star: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning to Live Again that will be published in June 2021. Faith is also the author of Facing Into The Wind: A Mother’s Healing After the Death of Her Child, a book of poetry.

A longtime resident of greater Boston, Faith leads a journal writing program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children for patients and their families designed to give participants the opportunity to express themselves, alleviate stress, celebrate victories, and honor their grief. As a member of MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s Family Advisory Council, she works with parents and medical staff to improve the lives of patients and their families.