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What do you do when someone you love irrevocably changes—and time is forever divided into before and after? 

Hit Hard is the story of the McLeod family, a family affected by ambiguous loss. When Pat and Tammy, Harvard chaplains for Cru, receive the call that Zach, their 16-year-old son, collapsed on the field during a football scrimmage, their first thoughts are about how it will impact the football season.

Coming from a long line of football players, Pat says, “We McLeods knew about hard hits. We knew risks exist with any sport. They’d all seemed worth it. But at that moment, as I held Zach’s limp hand and searched his face for the slightest flicker of life, I realized I didn’t know anything at all.”

Pat and Tammy alternate telling the gripping story of Zach’s arduous recovery and how it affected their family, including Zach’s three younger siblings.

Following emergency brain surgery, Zach is placed in a medically induced coma and the McLeods are left to ponder what their son’s future will look like. “How does a person manage a loss that isn’t?” Tammy wonders.

Not dead but no longer the son they once knew, Zach becomes their greatest teacher. They discover that ambiguous loss is a dance with no familiar steps. It must be learned and is often experienced differently by different people. It can feel very isolating because your grief has no end and no outlet.

I embarked on my own journey of ambiguous loss six years ago when my brother—my only sibling—told me he believed he was transgender. Before long he had walked out of my life, changing his name and appearance. My brother no longer existed, and yet his heart still beat. No funeral marked his passing, yet I was stuck in the stages of grieving every day.

“Living with continuous uncertainty and loss is the most stressful loss people can face,” says Pauline Boss, an expert on ambiguous loss whom Tammy consults.

“Both [Tammy and I], along with Zach’s siblings, were faced with the daunting challenge of holding two thoughts as real—both having Zach and not having him the way we once did,” says Pat. “All forms of ambiguous loss hold those truths in tension.”

With raw honesty, the McLeods offer their story as a testimony to God’s goodness in the wake of tragedy. More than a decade after they were hit hard, Tammy says, “If what makes us most human is our ability to love God and people, then I would say I know of few people who are more human or live out their purpose in life of glorifying God more than Zach.”

The beauty of God’s redemptive grace shines throughout Hit Hard. I felt enlightened and empowered to view my own story of ambiguous loss through the lens of hope. (Tyndale)

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