I have known Teresa Hunt since 1993 when we were in college together in Seattle, Washington. From the time I met her, she was an inspiring person to me. I describe her as serious, committed, and talented in many areas. She has always had a deep faith in God and her wisdom has always impressed me. She’s also such an example of hope and healing.
My history with Teresa
Both Teresa and I got married around the same time in the 1990s during our college years. We all went on to graduate college and start our families. Teresa and her husband Lenny had two sons. Dawson was born in 1998 and Devin was born in 2001. Teresa and her family lived in the same area and we did during that time. We saw each other a few times but then lost touch, as college relationships sometimes go.
We recently reconnected and she agreed to share her story with me. I am honored to be able to document her journey. She has said that telling her story is healing for her and that she is willing to share if it will help someone else.
When we sat down to talk about this interview, we immediately launched into a deep conversation after not having spoken for over 10 years. Immediately we skipped passed the superficial to the real topic at hand. That topic? How she is healing after tragedy struck her life and impacted her in a permanent and life-altering way. I found that same well of wisdom she has always had, and the deep understanding she has of life, love, and loss.
Her story is both devastating and inspirational. I think you’ll see that there is hope, no matter how deeply you have experienced loss. Also that faith in God is a key to healing, despite tragedy.
Both Devin and Dawson were energetic, easy to smile, and active boys. Teresa loved being a stay at home mom and raising her children along with Lenny. They lived in Mt. Angel, Oregon, a quaint town. It’s the kind of town that you can walk to the corner store, school, and visit the abbey that is the centerpiece of this historic location. They had a typical, supportive, and enjoyable family life.
In 2011, Devin was 9 and Dawson was 12. Teresa focused her time on raising the boys, and was an integral part of their school experiences. They participated in the things that normal growing families do. Things such as play dates, church on Sundays, and homework in the evenings. As we spoke, Teresa’s eyes lit up as she recalled memories of the boys waking up to watch early morning cartoons, and memories of friends coming over to play. Some of those friends were so close they were almost a part of the family.
On January 22, 2011 everything changed for their family, permanently. In one swift moment, the life that they all knew was taken from them. That Saturday morning, Lenny was out with the boys in the car. They were on a geocaching trip, an activity their family enjoyed partaking in often. Teresa was not with them at the time.
Lenny was in a car accident, with the two boys in the car. Devin was in the front seat and Dawson was in the back. Both boys were killed instantly in the crash. Lenny was rushed to the hospital via helicopter. Meanwhile, Teresa was notified of the accident. She was reeling from trauma and loss. Not even knowing what to do, Teresa rushed to the hospital to see Lenny, reeling and in a state of shock.
When she arrived, there was a support group already on the way. Teresa and Lenny’s family and friends gathered around to help them cope. None of them knew what to do or what to say. The one thing that was clear is that they were loved. One of the hospital staff commented that this was the biggest support group that she had ever seen. Lenny was in the ICU and their family, friends and loved ones were able to wait in the waiting room.
Since they couldn’t be physically with Lenny and Teresa, they stayed in the waiting room and gave their support through prayer and just being physically present.
Teresa’s first thoughts after the accident
Teresa told me that the first thoughts she can remember were that God was going to use this tragedy in some way and she imagined herself telling her story to support others. She said that the only way she believes that she was able to see any hope in those moments was because God came alongside her.
Even now she said that it doesn’t make sense that she was having these moments of clarity so early on, but she knew that God would use it, somehow. I can testify to the fact that God is using this tragedy in many ways, because of Teresa’s willingness to have hope.
Her family and friends supported her through those early days after the accident. The memorial service was on January 29, 2011 for the boys. Both Devin and Dawson were honored and loved that day. Even now, their memory lives on.
After the accident, Teresa had to start her life completely over. She was a stay-at-home mom prior to this event so when the tragedy happened, she had to start from scratch on building a life that she never wanted. Teresa wanted to raise her boys and she no longer had that, it was stripped from her.
In the days that followed, Teresa dedicated her time to just getting through each day. She was in a state of shock for quite some time and she was able to navigate her days by relying on her support system and professionals to help her cope.
Teresa and Lenny ultimately parted ways and she continued to just put one foot in front of the other, living in each day. Teresa got a job after she split with Lenny, beginning her career path. It was a massive transition since she had been a stay-at-home mom prior to the accident.
The second year was harder than the first year, and she says that is typical of the grief process.
Grieving is a process that will never fully be complete for her
This year was the 10 year anniversary of the accident. It’s been a journey to get to this point and she says that the healing will continue for the rest of her life. Teresa says that she is still grieving today, and that she has learned to work through it and to be gentle with herself. There are times when she needs to take a break from her life in order to continue grieving. She has learned how to recognize grief, although sometimes she doesn’t realize she is grieving, and she relies on her support system to help remind her to take care of herself.
She keeps the memory of the boys alive and finding hope and healing
One thing that has impressed me is how she has embraced the loss, and she and her family spend time memorializing the boys regularly. Teresa had Facebook in the time preceding the accident, and even now, her Facebook memories from they boys’ early lives will pop up with pictures and posts from those years past when she was enjoying the routine events of her boys’ lives. She shares them regularly to keep their memory alive. It is difficult at times too, seeing these precious moments, it just depends where she is at in her grieving each day.
Teresa has supportive family that helps her cope
Her family is still extremely supportive. They are a close-knit group, and she has benefitted from that and they also spend the boys birthdays and the accident day together each year, in addition to other holidays, family functions and events. The family has an established a routine of being together on those hard days especially. Her family is very understanding and honoring to her when she is struggling with grief and she has learned how to navigate family functions, sometimes needing to take a break or go home early to grieve.
How she is moving forward now after 10 years
Losing children is an unimaginable loss to most people. On of the difficult things is when people say, ‘God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.’ This saying is one that is familiar and meant to be comforting, but Teresa’s perspective is that God doesn’t protect us from hurt. It will happen, we are humans and living in an imperfect world. When those words are spoken, it’s as if someone should be able to handle the loss of their children. No one ever can ‘handle’ that.
She has had the opportunity to share her story over the years and it’s healing to her. It also gives honor to her sons’ memory and keeps them at the forefront of everything she does. She is doing some amazing things since the accident.
Teresa went back to school, becoming a licensed counselor, graduating from college in May 2015 with a Master’s Degree in Counseling. She has now dedicated her life to helping others deal with difficult situations. There is no one better qualified than Teresa for a role like this. She is a straight-forward, yet compassionate communicator. Her clients are privileged to have someone with such a well of understanding supporting them.
In addition to her vocation of counselor, Teresa has always had an interest in photography and she has continued to expand on that interest and has a growing photography business. I’ll be featuring her photography in another blog post coming up soon. You won’t want to miss that interview. Photography has been an integral part of her life all along and it has helped her to continue to heal and grow in the days since the accident.
Teresa is such an example of hope and the ability to not only persevere, and is using her traumatic experience to help others as well.
This post is written in memory of Devin and Dawson, and for my dear friend Teresa. It was a humbling honor to document this story in hopes that others will be encouraged by her journey and how she is moving forward, despite such tragedy.
I also pray that Teresa will feel the love of community, standing by her, loving her, and holding her up in support.
Teresa has a blog, called Clinging to Hope. Please check it out! It’s a wealth of information about her story and the grieving process. Here’s also a link to her photography site: Teresa Hunt Photography.
In memory of Teresa’s sons:
Devin Tyler Hunt February 26, 2001-January 22, 2011
Dawson Harrison Hunt December 21, 1998-January 22, 2011
Leslie Anderson, Andersons of West Hills – If you have a story of hope and healing, I’d love to hear it and feature you on my blog.