By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff
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When she was 32 years old, Astrid Hendren suffered a massive stroke when a brain aneurysm burst. Living with her two young children but with her family miles away in her natïve Netherlands and without close friends to lean on, Hendren turned to writing to aid her recovery from the near-death experience.
She started working on “My Red Letters,” a series of lessons that she compiled in notebooks for her children. Hendren promised herself that if she could live to 50 then her children would be okay.
In 2015, the Medfield resident celebrated her 50th birthday and began to turn those lessons into a book and this month she announced the release of “Surviving Lasts a Lifetime: A Parent’s Journey Through Medical Trauma.”
“When I suffered my brain bleed,” Hendren explained, “I was eager to meet someone who had survived a medical trauma while having children, and preferably someone old…so it would have provided me with hope and courage.”
“Since I turned 50 last year, I wanted to reach out to others who are going through it now, and try to provide that hope.”
Hendren said that the publication of the book was both “exciting” and “scary.” While she has a long career in public speaking (currently she works with the American Heart Association), she deemed herself to be a “private person” and this book exposed a lot of her thoughts and her life to the public.
While the prospect of sharing her experiences in public is daunting, Hendren knows that she has important messages to share with others who may also be dealing with traumatic life events.
“I hope I am providing the idea for a coping strategy by writing things down,” she said. “A way to sort of ‘become immortal,’ which for a parents is a big part of the fear; writing those letters helped my anxiety and fear of death.”
Hendren also wants to reach out to the community to begin a dialogue about the need to speak about end of life care and being more aware and more understanding of the internal trauma that many are dealing with whether from a medical incident or other circumstances that brought major changes to a person’s life.
She added, “I hope this paperback brings awareness to the fact that the pain and anxiety which trauma causes, is often invisible, at any age. A death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job, being bullied in school, there are so many people who are surviving tough chapters.”
The stroke caused a profound change for Hendren, who believes that she is more “empathetic to people’s needs” since that experience, but after battling down the road to recovery she also knows that others have the strength to “find a new normal” as she did after the brain surgery that saved her life.
“Once you have moved a mountain, you expect others to at least climb it!” she explained. “It is easy to remind myself how lucky I am and how many people have much tougher chapters to get through or live with.”
The most difficult aspect of her recovery was not necessarily the fear of her own death but not being able to share her experiences, her knowledge, and her life lessons with her children. Not knowing if she would be there for her family was a difficult hurdle to overcome.
“Writing this book made me feel less powerless,” Hendren said. “I can have it be known that I care, and the person that reads the book, knows that he or she matters!”
Hendren is also creating a blog about the people she has met down the years, called “Extraordinary Ordinary People,” to help shine a spotlight on people who have helped her or inspired her.
When asked about how she is feeling now, Hendren said that she still deals with chronic pain and other issues, but that she is “no different” than thousands of others dealing with similar maladies.
“At the end of the day, those moments I have enjoyed seeing my daughters grow up, something I could only hope for at the time it happened, and those moments spent on helping others, have been the ones I find most rewarding and make me feel alive and healthy.”
“Surviving Lasts a Lifetime” is now available at www.astridhendren.com or at Amazon.com. It is available in paperback and an e-book version should be released in the coming week.
Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.