Our Toddler Died In A Car Accident, And Joe Biden Inspires Me To Keep Going

by Sheri Roaf
Originally Published: 
As A Parent Who Has Lost A Child, Joe Biden's Grief Gives Me Hope
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Trigger warning: child loss

Dates hold meaning. History tells a story. My narrative with November 8th is one of trauma and loss. In 2013, our 18 month old son died in a freak car accident. In an instant, our world upended.

Courtesy of Sheri Roaf

Nothing in the world prepares you as a parent to lose your child. It simply goes against the laws of nature. My mom had died when I was a teenager from breast cancer and that was tragic. Holding my son as he took his last breath was indescribably horrific. It changed who I was as a person and shocked me to my core.

I wanted to hide; I still do sometimes. Grief can be immeasurable and unending. Learning to live with that pain and move forward has been one of the hardest lessons of my life. Some days I do well and other times I fail. I measure my success by my ability to get through the really hard days. And let me assure you, there are plenty.

Joe Biden’s story of loss and grief has always struck a chord with me. Unless you have lived through the trauma of losing a child, you cannot possibly understand. My heart broke when his son Beau passed in 2015. He had already survived the loss of his wife and daughter decades earlier. How does one suffer so much loss and continue to live?

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In the last few weeks, I’ve been reading posts on social media referring to the current President as “strong.” He’s strong because he “beat” the coronavirus. He’s strong because he talked over Joe Biden in the debate. In a September Gallup Poll, he was viewed as more of a “strong and decisive leader” than Joe Biden.

As Americans, how are we defining strong? What type of strength do we seek to elect in our leaders? I asked a question earlier, “how does does one suffer so much loss and continue to live?” As someone who struggles every day with the heavy weight of grief, I know the answer to this.

We can call Joe Biden “strong” for surviving the immeasurable losses he has had to endure. What choice did he have? But as someone with an intimate knowledge of grief, I would prefer to tell you that Mr. Biden is brave. Because he could have just as easily given up. He has hope. He wouldn’t be running for President if he didn’t have hope for this country. He has the ability to empathize. Because you can’t afford grief without empathy. He has quiet integrity born of self-reflection through loss.

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Every time I see Mr. Biden talk, I see so many of the qualities that I mentioned above in how he speaks and interacts with others. I hear well thought out and detailed plans on how he wants to move this country forward in the wake of 2020.

What I see, as a fellow griever, is a man who was dealt a really crappy hand in life and loss. And he still has hope. After everything, he still wants to make our country a better place. This is how we should be defining strength.

I’m not saying Mr. Biden is strong because of his losses, I’m suggesting he’s strong in spite of them. Because in the darkest of days, when he could have chosen to walk away and he could have chosen to give it all up, he didn’t. He exemplifies the beauty of the human spirit, which goes to show you that when you have hope and love and support, anything is possible. And if he is able to do that for himself, I have faith that he can also heal this country. Elizabeth Warren once said, “Hope isn’t given to us, it is created by us.” This is why I have voted for Joe Biden, because I believe in that hope.

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