About.....Love of Travel.....Depression

Julia Lee Berg (4/23/1990 – 8/10/2005)

Julia was a complex, courageous, smart and challenging young woman. She was going to be a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Southwest High School in the fall of 2005. She previously attended Lake Harriet Community and Windom Open Schools.

Julia loved music, movies, roller coasters, and travel. She traveled all over the world and around the U.S., to Costa Rica, Norway, China, Italy, Peru, Ecuador, Russia, The Netherlands, Canada, Florida, the American Southwest, the Black Hills, Washington D.C., Seattle, San Diego, Boston, Maine, Niagara Falls, Chicago and more.

Julia’s friends were her heart and soul. She is survived by countless buddies—from grade school to high school, church, and sports. She was the proud owner of an iPod and loved the music of Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Coldplay, Violent Femmes, Marilyn Manson—the popular music of her day—and she shared her parents love of the Beatles.

She swam with the Richfield Swim Club and at Southwest HighSchool. She was a Concordia Language Village camper for three years, studying Spanish. She was a member of the “e3” summer theater program for three years, performing in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Free to Be You and Me,” and “Anything Goes.”

She had her own unique sense of style from her bedroom (pink and orange walls) to her clothes to her hair to her political views. Her passions were social justice, GLBT issues, and the environment. She had recently completed a social justice internship through First Universalist Church, working with the local Sierra Club doing grassroots organizing and issue research. She spoke of taking her activism to new levels in the year ahead.

Julia struggled with depression. She was upfront about it and worked hard at managing it. She reached out to friends and classmates to support them in their own struggles, and she was passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness. In the years since her death we have learned what a critical role she played in the lives of several friends, who depended on her for love and support in their own mental health battles.

She was on the right track and would have made this a better world. We grieve our loss, but we know that she will live forever in the love and acts of justice of her friends and family.

The Reverend Kate Tucker led a Memorial Service at First Universalist Church on Monday, August 15, 2005.   We are profoundly grateful for her words, and we return to them for the comfort that they provide. She honors Julia by offering no easy explanations or spiritual bromides. Rather, she welcomes the full range of emotions and calls upon the wisdom of many faiths to validate and give expression to our pain. 

The text of her beautiful eulogy is available at this link:  http://nebula.wsimg.com/a4dd64d98ebf1f646754176343ec206a?AccessKeyId=FA015CCE8587AAAD5E80&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

Love of Travel

Ever since Julia and Hannah were small, we have made international travel a priority. Beginning when Julia was nine years old, we visited several countries as a family: Costa Rica, Norway, China, Italy, Ecuador, Peru, and Russia.  Many of the pictures featured on this website are from those trips.

We have been very fortunate to be able to afford this travel.  It helps having friends and family around the world welcoming us into their homes, but even without these connections, our travels have been worth the investment.  Memories are, as they say, priceless; and we are blessed with many memories of Julia...

...swimming in a cool, rainforest pool near the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica;

...waiting, for hours and without success, for the sun to set at midsummer off the coast of Alesund, Norway;

...eating exotic foods throughout China;

...exploring the mysteries and wonder of Pompeii;

...and Machu Picchu;

...exploring the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and letting Julia walk alone back to our hotel.

There are many other memories, of course—including stress-induced crankiness, which acquires a rosy glow when it happens in a place like Cuenca, Ecuador.

We had equally wonderful experiences on car trips throughout the U.S., including trips to the Black Hills, Maine, Washington DC, and the desert southwest.

We trust that Julia would have grown as her sister has, to be a citizen of the world, with a taste for travel and adventure. We are so grateful for having had the chance to share this wonderful world with her for fifteen years.


Julia's Struggle with Depression

A message from Julia’s parents…

You can probably guess from the other pages on this website that we loved Julia very much. She was a wonderful, bright, clever, compassionate person, and we will miss her forever.

But there is another side of Julia that she would want you to know. Like many kids, she struggled with the demons of adolescence—peer pressure, self esteem, alienation, etc. But at the age of 13, while studying brain chemistry at school, she came to realize that her pain was different. She felt she was clinically depressed. She did the right thing and sought our help. We will always be grateful that she turned to us, and that we honored her concern with early medical intervention.

But, even so, it wasn’t an easy or happy journey back and forth from depression, and the last two years of her life were filled with emotional pain, fear, and doubt. She was hospitalized twice during this time. Each time was by her choice, in fear of what she might do to herself. She was cutting, and once she attempted suicide by an overdose of over the counter medication.

She was in therapy throughout this period. Twice she asked to change therapists and her instincts were correct. With the third, she found a compassionate, wise and candid professional, both trusting and trustworthy. At the same time, Julia and we entered an intense, six-month program called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). It required three hours of therapy for Julia and two hours for us every week. Plus homework. Our DBT took place over the first six months of 2005. This demanding program, plus her individual therapy, had an enormous impact. Julia knew that she wanted to get better. And she did.

Adolescence is hell, and parenting an adolescent can be nearly as bad. There were times when our conflicts came to an impasse that left us speechless and furious. Most every family encounters such times. Perhaps parents of several children learn, over time, how to do the right thing. We were amateurs with Julia, our first child, trying our best but never knowing for sure what the outcome might be. Eventually Julia came to understand and accept this. She knew that we loved her, truly and deeply. And she loved us.

When Julia died, she had been enjoying the best summer of her life.  She had a Saturday job at a bridal shop in downtown Minneapolis, she babysat for a family with three kids one day a week, and she was completing her Sierra Club internship through a program at our church.  She was looking forward to rejoining the Southwest High School Swim Team, after her freshman season was cut short by a shoulder injury.

Julia had emerged from the darkness of depression. She knew and often said that depression is all about brain chemistry. But she knew that medication is only half of the answer; that effort and intentionality are needed to manage from day to day and year to year.

Through DBT, Julia got to know other teens with depression. She had friends at Southwest and in her First Universalist Church community who struggled with this disease. She was always open about her own condition and she encouraged—even insisted—that her friends seek the help that they needed. It is for this reason—in respect of her own courage and advocacy—that we share this side of Julia.

She would want you to know that depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and that help is available. 

Let this be part of Julia’s legacy.