In A Mother’s Journey of Love, Loss & Life Beyond, Jennifer Scalise tells the harrowing story and her fight to survive after the death of a child.
Jennifer Scalise and her family took a vacation in paradise -- an eco-tourism experience in Costa Rica. After lunch one beautiful day, everyone hopped on their all-terrain vehicles.
Her 12 year old daughter Brooke was in the ATV in front of her and her companion George had her other daughter Paige with him, bringing up the rear. They could not see the guide in front, so they rushed to catch up. Trailing farther and farther behind him, they sped along the road. They had no idea that the narrow road ran less than a few feet from the edge of a sheer cliff. Unaware, they drove on not realizing that Brooke had missed a turn, and gone careening off the 260-foot drop.
The event triggered an aftermath of staggering events that challenged her strength and spirit, captured the hearts of complete strangers, and that make it nearly impossible for anyone to doubt that there is life after death.
"You really have two choices when it comes to dealing with tragedy; you can let the grief consume you and ruin your life altogether, or you can choose to survive it and become a stronger, better person because of what you have been through. I choose the latter," says Scalise.
In the days that followed the accident, hidden discoveries and a series of simultaneous events too parallel to be deemed coincidence reveal that Brooke’s life had a greater purpose and that her soul had been preparing for the journey home. As she begins to unravel her daughter’s messages, somewhere between conviction and proof, Jennifer finds an unshakable faith in eternal life and serenity in knowing that Brooke remains by her side with a love unabridged by death.
Although she endured an incomprehensible pain she slowly and steadily overcame the challenges and after staring death in the face transformed her life. Drawing upon the personal experiences she and her family endured, she skillfully relates the many lessons that she learned from her daughter’s death.
She has established a nonprofit organization in Brooke's honor that focuses on increasing faith in junior high school-aged children by providing church camp scholarships.
She offers important and helpful guidance for those forced to face the reality of how to survive after the death of a child.
Here are just some of the valuable insights to help you survive after the death of a child or loved one:
- Loss is inevitable, be prepared.
Although death is something each of us will encounter in our life, there is very little to help us plan for this emotionally or prepare us for what to expect. Instead you are left struggling for answers in the midst of your darkest days feeling alone like an outcast. In reality you aren't alone - there are many others going through exactly the same thing, far more than you can comprehend. Death is all around us and should not be feared but instead must be understood.
- Adversity is a means to grow.
Life's challenges teach us to open our eyes and see life in a new light. It is typically in the midst of our hardest times that we turn to God to find peace. It is unlikely that if everything were perfect, we would feel the need to seek God in our lives. It is through these difficult times that we grow spiritually furthering us on our path of our life journey. Life’s challenges are meant to cause you to reach within your soul to discover the real you. This is how we learn, grow, and find wisdom and strength for our continued journey and what lies ahead.
- Death does not separate us from our loved ones.
Our loved ones truly never leave us. Be open to new experiences and let your faith guide you. Although they are no longer with us in the physical realm, they live on spiritually and their energy is often present. Society teaches us this is unnatural and eerie when in reality these reassurances are incredibly comforting and healing. It is possible to still communicate through intense love and awareness. Follow your intuition it will become more and more prominent and lead you to many answers.
- Grieve your own way, do not feel the need to conform.
Peace comes from making your mind happy. By identifying the things that make you feel good and avoiding situations that cause you anxiety or pain, you can help yourself heal faster. Your healing must be specific to your needs. Be selfish; do not let others tell you what you need to do. Only you know what you need. Don't worry about being "socially acceptable" or fitting into “the norm.” Focus on making yourself feel good because that is what you deserve.
- Treasure your memories.
Although we may have suffered loss or tragedy it doesn't erase the good times. Allow your mind to sense the pleasure and feel the love and connection as you relive these moments in your mind. By recalling these good times often and "escaping there mentally" you can trigger a feeling of tremendous peace and happiness that you can go to in times of need.
- Appreciate every moment, you never know when it is your last.
Tell the people you love that you love them. Try not to walk away angry or mad. Be sure to kiss your loved ones good-bye. Be prepared and try to live so you won't later have regrets. Never take for granted that you will have tomorrow with the ones you love.
- Time and people are your most valuable assets.
Make the most of the time with those you love. Eventually you come to realize it is far more important than anything else in life and something you cannot control no matter how hard you work or how much you are willing to pay for it. What is destined to be will be.
- The world is a dangerous place, take precautions!
Be cognizant of the dangers associated with traveling in foreign areas. Realize that bad things can happen to you.
As Americans we have a false sense of security that the safety regulations that protect us in the United States are the same elsewhere. We need to have more awareness to the dangers of international travel, especially to tourist areas in third world countries.
There are many dangers associated with excursions and tours outside of the United States that we fail to properly warn and prepare travelers for. Medical services are far from adequate in many places we travel and often our health insurance doesn't cover areas we visit.
Many parents whose children have died from accidents on ATV’s have expressed the same thought of, "If only I had known". Parents need to understand the dangers associated with ATV's being ridden by minors.
No child under 16 should drive an ATV, they simply are too powerful and dangerous. Far more children have been killed on ATV's then most are aware. Educating on safety and creating awareness to the dangers will save the lives of many.
Jennifer L. Scalise is a devoted, single mother who resides in St. Charles, Missouri with her two children, Blake (17) and Paige (8). After her daughter’s death, Jennifer brought to life the Brooke Scalise Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to enrich the lives of junior high school-aged youth and has awarded over 70 church camp scholarships to a diverse group of youth in honor of Brooke.
Scalise now dedicates her life to inspiring and offering strength to others through the gift of her experiences. She is an a member, speaker and writer for several national grief organizations. Alongside her efforts in building awareness regarding the dangers of traveling to third world countries, Scalise is an active member of Concerned Families for ATV Safety.
Jennifer has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Missouri- St. Louis. She enjoyed a successful career for 20 years in the payment services industry, with the same fortune 500 company FIS/Certegy, as Vice President/Sales.
She is an experienced media guest and has been interviewed on ABC’s Brian Ross Investigates, Good Morning America, World News with Diane Sawyer, Nightline and more.