Coming of age novels chronicle a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood, and often (in movies anyway) the term refers to the first sexual experience. In a broader sense, however, coming of age refers to a young character’s growth during the course of a story, either by losing innocence, assuming responsibility, or by learning a lesson.
It is not only in youth that one has to deal with such growth. Every transition in life leads to a new coming of age, and the death of a mate is probably the greatest of these events. Death is undoable. Irrevocable. By middle age or late middle age, we have all lost people who are dear to us, but losing a mate is different because not only is the person gone, so is the life you shared and the plans you made. Adding to the difficulty, everything you do, everything you eat, everything you see is a reminder that he is gone. Forever. That is a bit of innocence that can never be recouped. A bit of hurt that can never be repaired. A true coming of age that makes one’s adolescent transition seem trivial by comparison.
I have not written fiction for a very long time. Perhaps the story I was meant to write had not yet been lived, so I had nothing to say. But now I do have something to say. I am steeped in grief still, but when I can step away from myself for a moment and am not involved in the pain, it strikes me as such an all-encompassing experience that I would like to explore it in a novel. It is a story that needs to be written — it is so little understood, this coming of age in middle age.