Learning to be Open and Unafraid

A friend wrote me yesterday and told me how much she appreciated my openness in talking about my grief and other traumas and added that it was a learning experience for her. To tell the truth, it’s been a learning experience for me, as well. For decades, I’ve kept my private life private (secretive, some people say, though why they would think they have a right to my privacy, I don’t know), but things change. I changed.

I was more open when I was young. I remember writing long angst-ridden letters to friends when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but stopped abruptly when a friend found one of the letters I’d written to her years previously and read it to me on the phone, laughing the whole while. She thought I’d find it funny, but I didn’t see the humor, only the betrayal. I never wrote another such letter to anyone. Although I talked about my feelings and situations, I didn’t want anyone to have written proof of my follies. And yet, here I am.

computerWhen I first signed up for the internet seven years ago, I didn’t quite know what to do. I figured I’d pay for a year and then if I still hadn’t found a way to make use of the resource, I would disconnect. Within a mere four months, though, I’d entered a contest, made online friends, and discovered blogging. Blogging was my way of getting people interested in me as an author, so I wrote posts about writing, reading, trying to get published, and anything else loosely pertaining to my writing life.

Even though I was living through the trauma of a dying life mate/soul mate, I couldn’t write about my life or his illness. He was afraid people would think less of me if I mentioned his being sick, but even if I wanted to mention our situation, I wouldn’t have. His illness didn’t belong to me. I am intensely loyal and my loyalties were with him. Besides, I mostly took his ill health and our strange half-life for granted and didn’t have much to say about either. I can see now how numbed I was by his dying and the trauma of my life, but back then, I accepted the situation as simply the way things were. Since I was online only to try to promote myself as an author, I tried to be professional — I was disheartened that many people used online forums to whine, and I didn’t want to be another whiner.

After he died, well, none of that mattered. I no longer needed to be loyal to him (the way I figured it, if he didn’t want me talking about our life, he shouln’t have died) and I was so stunned by the way I felt that my feelings just burst out of me. I couldn’t believe the exorbitant pain of grief could be so unknown (unknown to me, anyway), and it seemed important to chronicle what I was feeling. Now talking about my emotional traumas has become a way of life. I am comfortable with writing about my feelings, though I am amazed (and so very grateful) that people don’t tell me to shut up and quit my bellyaching.

And if they did? Well, I’ve accepted that possibility as the price of learning to be open and unafraid online.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

7 Responses to “Learning to be Open and Unafraid”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    You know, one day, somebody is going to collect all of these valuable nuggets and publish them in a book of their very own:

    ” what I learned by opening myself to/on the internet”

  2. Paula Kaye Says:

    I am so glad that you opened yourself up here and in your books. I don’t know how I would be going through my own grief if I hadn’t found you and saw that it is okay to feel it as intensely as I do. My grieving started long before my husband died and I was sure I had grieved enough that I would be okay. And then he died. And I keep remembering how intense your grief was and how you wrote about it…that is exactly how I am surviving my grief right now. I write about it. I pour out my feelings. It helps me so much. Thank you for blazing that path for me, Pat, and all the others who have found you and are grieving their way now. I hope no one ever tells you to ‘shut up.’

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Your grief and mine followed so much the same pattern. I thought I was finished with grief before Jeff died. I know now it was more that I was numb than that I’d finished with grief. It’s still shocking to me how intense and profound grief can be. Luckily, for me, it only came once. My father’s death has left me with sorrow and quandaries, but not the angst and agony that Jeff’s death did. I’m still reeling from that loss. I’m doing well, but I know I will always miss Jeff.

  3. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    In addition to the therapeutic value the posts have for you, they help others with similar issues. My wife’s father is scheduled to come back to his house today from the ICU under the auspices o the local hospice program. I know more about how all they works because I’ve read your posts. Thank you for sharing the information and advice.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, my. I’m so sorry. But hospice really is helpful — it makes caregiving so much simpler. Wishing you and your wife (and her father, of course) all the best. I’m always here if you need to talk.

  4. Constance Koch Says:

    I cannot talk to anyone about My First Love and Soul Mate. We divorced due to he got caught up in the 1960’s Drug Scene. I never stopped loving him and missed him and our life together so much. After 5 years on my own raising 2 teenagers without Child Support and all of us struggling, I remarried. It has not been the same.
    When he died, I got the call from my present husband (I was not home when the call came.). I still remember how I felt when I received that call. I got real cold, felt that my blood had drained out of me, and I had lost my heart. I was in total shock. It has been many years now. I still think about him and miss him. Always will.
    I was my Dad’s Daughter, friend and caretaker for 7 years after my Mom died (She was 10 years younger than him when she passed away). He was devastated
    He was almost 97 years old when he passed away
    I have good feelings and memories from him.

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