The Next Chapter

Christa Couture looks at life, loss and lessons learned in memoir How to Lose Everything

The writer, musician and broadcaster spoke with Shelagh Rogers about sharing her story in a new book.
How to Lose Everything is a book by Christa Couture. (Douglas & McIntyre, Jen Squires)

This segment originally aired on Dec. 5, 2020.

Christa Couture is a writer, musician and broadcaster who is currently based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in CBC Arts and CBC Parents. She has also been a columnist on The Next Chapter.

How to Lose Everything is her first book. It is an intimate look at all that Couture has lost over the course of her life: her leg was amputated, her first child died when he was one day old, her second child died as a baby after a heart transplant, her marriage ended in divorce and a thyroidectomy threatened her music career.

Yet How to Lose Everything is a look at hope, joy and love — and living a life filled with compassion and understanding. 

Couture spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing How to Lose Everything.

Resilience sucks

"Resilience is born of suffering. You will discover your resilience by suffering, by enduring hardship. It's something you don't know about yourself until you struggle. 

"So in that sense, resilience sucks. Who wants to be resilient? It means you've had to survive something."

My perspective on disability

"I had been an amputee for about 20 years when I got the flower leg. I call it that because I got the cover laminated with a floral print. I loved the print. It's a very simple technique. It's just laminated onto the fiberglass. 

"Until that point, I'd always kept my prosthetic leg covered, either with clothing or with a nylon foam shape that's supposed to look sort of real. People might do a double take, but they certainly didn't notice it at a glance. 

I had been an amputee for about 20 years when I got the flower leg.

"But the flower leg is unavoidable. If I'm wearing shorts or a skirt, you can't help but see it. It changed how I saw my disability because of how it changed the interactions I have with people."

Writer Christa Couture when she was younger. (Courtesy Christa Couture)
 

Emmett and Ford

"My first son, Emmett, would be 14, if he were still alive today. He died as a newborn after a very complicated and difficult labour. So he had one day of life in our arms and then we held him as he left this world. 

Emmett and Ford are the biggest part of everything, even though the book tells other stories of loss. 

"My son Ford would be 11, if he were still alive. He died at 14 months old after a difficult life. He was born with a congenital heart defect. There were a lot of struggles from the time that he was born. And so we had a year with him. 

"In terms of How to Lose Everything, those two, they are the biggest part of everything even though the book tells other stories of loss."

Feeling out loud

"I feel ready to share these stories with people I don't know — without knowing where it will go or how it will land. I also feel nervous and excited. Excited is a funny word because again, it relates to resilience; it sucks and these are sad stories. But I wanted very much to share them in this way. 

I feel ready to share these stories with people I don't know — without knowing where it will go or how it will land.

"For years, I've been telling these stories through music and then, of course, through interviews.

"I've been looking for a way to tell a more complete story, and I have with this book — and I wanted that for so long. It was actually very meaningful for me to put it here."

Christa Couture is a writer, author and musician. (Jen Squires)

Christa Couture's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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