When in Doubt, Love Harder

Last week was emotionally rough. Really rough.

It started out with hot beignets and a long walk around New Orleans’ French Quarter. It ended with a Thanksgiving spent with friends who generously invited us to share in their family celebration. But in between those highlights was news from home that was heart shattering.

My brother Jay, who was arrested almost two years ago for bank robbery, was finally sentenced. With that sentencing came answers to questions I’ve been avoiding asking for almost two years. Questions like “how long?” and “how bad?” The simplest answer I can give you here is very. Very long, very bad, very painful.

When I got the news, I immediately began looking for mental avenues to run down. I tried this isn’t fair and this can’t be happening, but I met dead ends at every turn. There was simply no escaping the reality that this is how things are, and that they are this way because of choices my little brother made.

With nowhere to hide, the pain settled into my chest. The ache of endless sorrow choked me, and I lay down beside Jared angry at the enormity of it all, angry at my own helplessness.

“There’s no silver lining,” I said. “There’s nothing good that can come of this, no positive spin or secret meaning we can’t see. It sucks from every direction.”

“I know,” said my husband.

“It hurts so damn bad, Jared. I want to take my heart out of my chest so it doesn’t hurt, and I’m furious that I can’t.”

“I know,” he said again.

“Just… love me, please.”

I don’t know what I was asking for exactly. I was just angry and sad and needing to ask someone to do something to help. I think a part of me wanted to ask for help only so that I could be angry at Jared when he couldn’t. I needed someone to carry part of the burden, someone besides a man in a cell hundreds of miles away who could no longer “help” either.

“OK,” Jared said.

He wrapped his arms around me, sliding one underneath me so that he could pull me closer and encircle me completely. He buried his face in my hair. He squeezed.

I found I could breathe a little more easily.

“Thank you.”

He wrapped his legs around mine and pulled me closer into his chest, shifting again so that his entire body seemed to curl around me. He squeezed.

I was reminded of being in labor. When you’re having contractions, especially in your back, the best way to ease the pain is to have someone push into it, to counter the pain basically with a force from the other direction. The harder Jared held me, the less I could feel the physical ache in my chest.

Of course, instead of pushing towards new life, we were just holding on in order to survive the first night of many.

And we did. I did.

I fell asleep not in a heap of tears, but in an embrace that was childlike in its intensity. I woke up to the same reality, but with oxygen at least in my lungs.

It’s been a few days and I’m still in awe of the power of what was essentially a really long hug. I realize it all sounds very ridiculous and more than a little melodramatic, but it was shocking in both its simplicity and effectiveness. I’ve found myself rethinking the way I see the world and how we handle the unsolvable.

I feel as if maybe I’ve stumbled upon some kind of tool, some type of answer, but I’m not exactly clear on how, when or where to use it.

The only thing I know for sure now is this:


And then love harder.

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  1. Britt, I'm very sorry about your brother. I've been through the baby brother in jail horror, it's all so incredibly painful. Soul-crushing, really. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts.

  2. daniel says:

    I'm sorry. Continue to love him.

  3. naomi says:

    Ditto Daniel, continue to love him. I'm sorry to read about this … wasn't reading you then, so didn't know. Loving harder is always a good idea, in any and all situations!

  4. Dory says:

    I'm so sorry. Take care of you. Praying for you and your family for peace and comfort.

  5. Haley says:

    I'm so sorry you and your family have to go through this. But you are so right, and I think you've hit upon something very profound (and therefore very hard to articulate) — when things are hard and you question, love is the answer.

  6. Love harder. Yourself. Your brother. Each other. Just love each other and go through this together. My heart aches for your pain.

  7. Linda powers says:

    Beautifully said. Too often pain pushes love aside. Embrace the love . You earned it.

  8. Marsha says:

    I'm very sorry about this. You and your family in my thoughts. Love. And then love harder. I am going to remember that.

  9. i'm so thankful that in the depths of such heartache you have your rock.

  10. Hockeymandad says:

    Sending lots of love and hugs to you and your family. Love is all you need.

  11. annabelle says:

    BrittI'm sorry about your brother. I've read you for a long time and I remember when all of this went down. I've wondered how your family is absorbing it all.I want you to know, that this post has inspired me. That's partly why this blog, right? I have a person in my life that I have no choice but to accept. She is mean spiritted and every interaction I have with her has me crying "This isn't fair!" There is nothing I can do to change her actions. There is nothing I can do to create a silver lining or pull out a positive slant for me and my family.I have been encouraged to pray for her and frankly, I just can't bring myself to do it. So I am going to try LOVE. I am going to LOVE my husband more when she attacks him, LOVE my stepkids more when she uses them to hurt their father or prove a point. I am going to try to find more and more LOVE to drive out this hate and self pity hat is residing in my heart. You're right. LOVE is the answer. Sometimes it's the only answer.

  12. Lisa says:

    Sometimes all you can do is let the pain wash over you. I'm so glad you had Jared to hold you tight through the storm. Sending you all my love too XOXO

  13. Momma says:

    OHGODOHGODOHGOD So sorry. I'm grieving for you and your family, especially your Mother. Heavy heavy heart.

  14. Bre says:

    Britt, I love you. I'm glad for this post because I interpret that no matter what the future holds I can still love Jay's family as my own. I'm heartbroken. I, too, had been putting off facing the reality of this mess and was just trying to live day-by-day. I love the title of this post and will replay those words in my mind often. Love harder. Yes.

  15. Elaine says:

    I know firsthand that to share a story of pain and what some might think unspeakable will bring forth another story of pain and understanding by someone who has been there too. We are one humanity and have more in common than one might think. To share your pain will lessen it, and you just did. I love how Jared was there for you. That counts for a lot.

  16. Megan says:

    About a year after Mack was born, I found a lump in my breast. In throes of a lingering post-partum depression, I freaked out, convinced it was going to be cancer. What made me feel better and got me through that first night was Mitch holding on to me. I don't think I would have ever gotten to sleep that night otherwise.Love is always a great answer. xo

  17. Alan Labovitz says:

    I am so sorry for you and your family. I've been reading your blog for quite a while. Yes, love harder, especially if it works for you folks. I'll keep reading both here and on facebook.

  18. Carrie says:

    Wow. Thank you for trusting enough to put this out there.What a strong girl you are. So many would turn the other way. I'm not sure I wouldn't be one of them.My heart hurts for you and your family. Bright days will be with you again though…I'm sure of it.

  19. I'm so sorry for your family. Finding that silver lining is so hard when the grey cloud eclipses everything in sight. I'm so happy that Jared's love for you can be that counterbalance your soul needs so dearly.

  20. Amanda says:

    I am so, so sorry about your brother. I wish there was more that I could do, or say, to make you feel better, but just know that you are being sent warm thoughts from me. As far as the simple effectiveness of hugging, I think it works. I've been having a hard time lately and haven't been dealing with things well. I remarked to a friend the other day that I think part of the problem is I'm not being hugged very often. Last year, I was surrounded by people to hug and be hugged by. Many of my friends were "huggers" so I would be embraced many times throughout the day. I was in a relationship so I was embraced each night. Now, no hugs. I still have friends but they aren't the "hugging" type. (My friends who hug have moved away). Anyway, hugging makes a difference. Embracing makes a difference. Thank you for this reminder to "love harder." I'll be praying for you, Jay, and the rest of your family.

  21. Carol says:

    I am the mother of a child who was in prison. He's been out since August. This holiday season is the first we've been together in several years. I've come to realize that he had to go to where he was in order to get to where he is today. Today he is a much stronger man, more confident in himself and his abilities. More willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. This whole experience has taught him so much, and me too. It was many many years of blaming myself (after all, if your kid is bad, you must be a bad parent, right?) before I realized that HE made his choices, and that I AM a good parent. That was my biggest "aha moment". I'm so sorry you are going through this. I will pray for you and your family as I know firsthand how difficult this time is. You are all in my thoughts.

  22. the muskrat says:

    Sucky. I hope he can get out early…I'm glad you had an otherwise happy Thanksgiving!

  23. This is beautiful. I'm so sorry for your brother and your family. But happy that you found solace. Husbands do make pretty awesome havens. Hugs to you.

  24. Cindy says:

    I'm so sorry for the pain you and your family are experiencing.

  25. Kristin says:

    Beautiful Post! Thoughts and Prayers are with you all. Call me sometime.

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