Love and loss

Local woman’s book seeks to help families, youngsters work through trauma

Nichole Christian | 2/9/2023, noon
Amanda Lynch’s 10th book as a self-published author is one that she wishes she’d only imagined. But the book’s core …
Amanda Lynch, 42, of Henrico County, is the mother of four children who became a widow when her husband of eight years, Marcus Lynch Jr., was killed in baltimore on Oct. 30, 2022. His murder is still unsolved. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Amanda Lynch’s 10th book as a self-published author is one that she wishes she’d only imagined.

But the book’s core is the 43-year-old Richmond author’s ongoing nightmare, a family trauma she thought was one almost too gutting to live through, let alone write about.

The book, available in June, is titled “A Million Little Stars: A Kid’s Book about Loss, Love and Healing.’’ The focus: a young girl named My’Angel and the torment she feels grieving the sudden death of her daddy.

Like each of the books in Mrs. Lynch’s children’s series, this is a tale for elementary-age children. But this time Mrs. Lynch, a former Richmond special education teacher turned trauma and resiliency coach, ripped the details straight from a tragedy altering her life and her children’s lives.

The spark was a poem she wrote for her 8-year-old daughter, Violet-Hazel (Hazy), also the muse for the book’s main character, My’Angel.

Mrs. Lynch and her family were reeling from the news that her husband, 42-year-old Marcus Lynch, had become a victim of gun violence in Baltimore, Md. On Oct. 30, 2022, he was shot in the back, apparently at random.

Case number “277 out of 331,’’ is what Amanda recalls detectives telling her. The bullet that struck Marcus, a long distance-truck driver, pierced his lungs. He died 30 minutes later at a hospital.

Shortly after the incident, a Maryland Crime Stoppers group offered an $8,000 reward for information about the shooting. Mrs. Lynch says police still have no clues, suspects, or arrests her husband’s case.

Four months later, she is a widow and a mother robbed of closure.

“If I’m not working, I’m crying,’’ explains Mrs. Lynch. “I lost the love of my life; a soul mate. We deserved to grow old together.’’

“My girls,’’ she adds, her voice trembling, “they deserved to have their daddy come home.’’ Together, the couple co-parented four children, including an older son and older daughter from Mrs. Lynch’s first marriage.

A photograph shows Marcus Lynch and his daughter, Primrose, framed on the family’s coffee table in their Henrico home.

A photograph shows Marcus Lynch and his daughter, Primrose, framed on the family’s coffee table in their Henrico home.

In fact, Mrs. Lynch says it was the children (Amani, 23, Ava, 16, Hazy, 8 and Primrose, 6) who pushed her to transform her initial poem into something more, something healing. The words, they said, deserved to be heard.

My Angel, I know your heart is aching. I know you’re very sad.

It’s okay to feel that way because you miss your dad.

His love is in the cuddles and the laughter that we share,

And in the quiet moments when no one else is there.

Part of the goal in writing the book also was to create a sense of shared healing. The outpouring of support directly after Marcus Lynch’s death included dozens of books about children coping with tragedy and trauma.

“People were so kind and caring,’’ she says. Still, Mrs.Lynch, a former Richmond special education teacher, noticed that none of the books featured Black or culturally diverse children.

Details like that have helped Mrs. Lynch slowly begin tapping into her own training as a trauma and wellness expert. She now works as a trauma and resiliency specialist for the Crater Health Districts in Petersburg where she trains individuals, teachers, and families to identify the signs and symptoms of traumatic experiences. Mrs. Lynch also is the founder of Rethinking Resiliency, which provides private and community-based trauma resources and tools.

Creating access to such resources is especially vital in Black communities that are typically underserved and overburdened by the need for help, experts advise. “The historical Black and African-American experience in America has and continues to be characterized by trauma and violence more often than for their White counterparts and impacts emotional and mental health of both youth and adults,’’ according to the “State of Mental Health in America,’’ a recent report from Mental Health America (MHA), a national resource and mental health advocacy and prevention nonprofit.

The report also notes: “In 2018, 58.2 percent of Black and African-American young adults 18-25 and 50.1 percent of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did not receive treatment.”

Mrs. Lynch said her husband battled unresolved trauma and mental health starting at age 6 with the death of his 28-year-old father. “He spent his whole life trying but he never got the full help he needed as a child,’’ she says.

Experiencing such personal trauma gives Mrs. Lynch new resolve.

“With all the resources and training that I have, we’re still on a waiting list for family group therapy,” she explains. “It’s been months. That shouldn’t be the case for any family in pain.’’

It is a raw understanding which Mrs. Lynch is intent on “transforming into purpose.’’ The book was merely a starting point. She’s launched a $500 scholarship to honor graduating trauma survivors at the Maryland high school where Marcus graduated. “As a teacher, I saw how trauma that’s never dealt with can show up in behavior and in other ways. This has given me a very hard personal connection.’’

Still Mrs. Lynch insists that while grief is now at the center, she and Marcus will forever be a story rooted in love.

The couple married in July 2015 after reconnecting on Facebook. They’d initially met in 1999. She was a freshman at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton. He was a standout track star at Virginia Military Institute. A party at James Madison University brought them together but life ultimately took Marcus back home to Baltimore.

Ten years passed before they reconnected in 2013, after Mrs. Lynch’s first marriage ended in divorce. During a conversation on Facebook, Marcus casually asked for her phone number. She obliged. Four months later, he moved to Richmond.

“We never really looked back.’’

Amanda Lynch’s book, “A Million Little Stars, A Kid’s Book about Loss, Love and Healing’’ will be available through her website, www.rethinkingresiliency.com; and on Amazon.