Photo above: Jayne Jacova Feld with her son Ravi in 2016

After the sudden death of her son Ravi when he was 17, Jayne Feld turned to her writing as she worked to heal from the loss. In a special chapter of the new book “The Life-Changing Power of Self-Love”(Brave Healer Productions),  SJ Mag Media’s Contributing Editor writes about discovering the journals she wrote as a teen – and then the stumbling upon Ravi’s journals – and how exploring them has helped uncover her core self and lead to a better understanding of her purpose in life. She shares this excerpt with SJ Mag readers.

 

May 26, 1984 

“There is this kid in the hallways that always harasses me. He pinches my ass, rubs his hand on my pants, stares at me all the time, and sometimes says stuff. A few of my friends know, and I finally told Mommy. They say I should either ignore him or tell my guidance counselor. I’ve been ignoring him, but he still persists. I’m scared.”

Almost 40 years after writing that diary entry and rereading it today, a wave of nausea crashes over me. While the precise memory may be hazy, the tide of fear that formed those words hasn’t receded. It feels as though danger still lurks in the surf, churning up insecurities and pent-up anger. 

Once again, I’m questioning: Was revisiting my written past really such a good idea? I’m close to shutting this exercise in self-reflection down, slamming the cover shut, and shoving my teenage diary under my bed back into the darkness. Being 14 was confusing enough the first time around; why go through it again?

Yet it’s this very passage that makes me realize I will read on. That teenage girl is crying out to be heard. And I can’t abandon her. I can’t be yet another person who fails to take that girl seriously. 

Deep breath.

I envision my young self: big, teased hair in an unlikely shade of reddish-brown (thank you Sun-In); skin-tight red parachute pants, and a Flashdance-inspired off-the-shoulder sweatshirt. I don’t judge her; she’s tough enough on herself. Instead, I imagine taking her in my arms, assuring her she’s not being a drama queen, or “acting like Sarah Bernhardt,” as my father would say whenever I dared to voice my displeasure about anything. 

It fucking sucks to have to walk to class with the fear of being groped, I tell her. It’s not all in your head.

You’re safe, sweet girl, and I’m on your side.

Lifting this decades-long burden is freeing. And now, a truth emerges: These journals I’ve stockpiled for years were kept for a reason. They hold more than memories. Each offers fragments of my evolving self, representing a past that’s a part of me. It may hold the key to why, now that I’m grown, I’m falling short of living my soul’s purpose.

Starting with this first diary – which sets the scene in that Orwellian year of 1984 – I plan to read them all, cover to cover. It’s hard work, emotionally. So it may take a while.

According to the version of me who wrote so earnestly in that inaugural journal, I’m living someone else’s life.

Jayne Jacova Feld during her senior year of high school

* * * *

Oct. 8, 1985 

“I’m sooo psyched about being a writer. It’s all I want. I have to start writing more. But I start stories and can never finish them.”

This entry resonates so clearly. My younger self was set on leaving the New Jersey suburbs in search of herself and never looking back. She dreamed of writing genre-bending novels that would put her name on the top of The New York Times bestseller list. She’d find it surprising – scratch that, she’d be outraged – that 15 years post-high school graduation would find her returning from a vibrant life in New York City to her pedestrian hometown to start a family. 

With the passage of time (I’m 54 now), I can truly say I have no regrets about coming home to my roots. It’s the path I envisioned for my life as a storyteller where I feel I fell short. Yes, I became a writer, but not the way I’d pictured. As a journalist, I weave tales, but rarely my own. The deepest stories of my heart are still buried inside.

* * * *

The Life Lesson of Ravi 

Exploring these memories is more than just a path to healing old wounds and breaking through writer’s block; an urgent necessity drives it. 

On April 3, 2021, my son Ravi lost his life in a tragic car accident that the rest of us – my husband and Ravi’s two younger brothers – escaped with only minor injuries. 

I’ve turned to the power of words to wrestle with the unimaginable. Instead of seeking comfort in the Kaddish, the traditional Jewish mourning prayer, I chose an intentional grieving path more in tune with my bond with Ravi. For an entire year, I penned insights on paper about my forever 17-year-old. It felt like the truest way for me to honor his beloved spirit and to feel his presence.

The words spilled out for this gentle introvert who greeted life with curiosity and awe. Like me, Ravi found inspiration, understanding and joy through the written word. Unlike the dramas that play out in my teenage diaries, Ravi’s short journey was marked by simplicity and intentionality. He favored genuine bonds with family and a small circle of friends over the fleeting fun (but clearly a lot of boredom and drama) of the teen party life and mind-numbing distractions.

Ravi was my greatest life lesson. From the day of his birth, his love dismantled the walls of protection I had built. Through him, I realized a profound truth that was unavailable to me before motherhood: that the essence of true connection is rooted in vulnerability. In his absence, a stark reality emerged: embracing such emotional openness and depth has unimaginable costs. Bearing the crushing weight of sorrow might have been insurmountable without my compulsion to write. The very act of transcribing my anguish – what I recount on paper of my son’s life and all that we’ve lost – has served as an anchor and guiding light. 

Then, months after Ravi’s death, I discovered something incredible. He, too, kept a journal, if only for a precious short time. The black, cover-bound book was hidden in plain sight under his bed, waiting for me to discover it. Finding it felt like an invitation for a cherished exchange between two writers. I see it as a silent acknowledgment of what he knew; of all mementos in the material world, I would most prize hearing his voice. Reading into its pages magnifies the ache of his loss, yet it also brings great comfort.

While the journals of these two teenagers differ, reflecting their distinct worlds and experiences, they both resonate deeply with the person I am today. Together, the journals of mother and son guide my path through this journey of figuring out how to live on.

Considering today’s social media-centric era, a 16-year-old boy penning a journal feels especially profound. In defying these modern norms, Ravi clearly wrote to understand himself. I slip on his voice as I immerse myself in his writings, feeling his presence in every carefully chosen word. His astute observations over intensifying social and political divides leave me in awe. 

January 2024
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