Cheering Up a Griever

I belong to an online site where people ask questions of self-professed experts. I’m often asked questions about grief, most of which I have already answered, but every once in a while, I’m asked a new question that flabbergasts me.

Today someone mentioned a friend who had lost their mother, and asked, “What can I tell them to ‘cheer them up’ and express how proud I am for them and the way they’re handling it?”

What the heck kind of question is that? And how smug and ignorant and insensitive does someone have to be to ask it?

The truth is, grief belongs to the griever. It has nothing to do with anyone else, no matter how close that anyone might be to the griever. What an onlooker sees might not show the bereaved person’s real feelings, and anything anyone says in that regard might make the bereaved feel even more alone than they already do because it will show that the “friend” doesn’t understand.

People need their grief, need to feel what they are feeling way more than they need to be “cheered up.” Cripes, if the questioner can’t stand to see the friend’s grief, think how much worse the griever feels at the loss. Wanting to cheer up a griever might be understandable, because grief is one of those things the uninitiated shy away from, but it’s a totally selfish desire. No one wants to have to confront the fact of death — it’s the great unknowable and puts the lie to our cozy existence.

And what the heck did the questioner mean by being proud of the way the friend handle “their” grief? Because they’re not crying in public? Because they’re continuing on with their life? Does that mean that if they were crying or showing their grief in some other way, the questioner would be upset with the bereaved person? Again, how a person handles grief has nothing to do with anyone but the griever. Each griever handles things the best they know how, though most grievers quickly learn to hide their grief so that others aren’t judging them, and letting someone know you are proud of them for how they are handling their grief is definitely a judgement.

Instead of cheering up a griever or voicing a judgement, you can hug the person if you are close friends. You can invite the person to lunch or provide a meal at their house. If you knew the mother, you can tell stories about the mother and say how much you liked her or miss her or whatever. If you didn’t know her, ask about her. People who are grieving sometimes need to talk about the deceased, but most people don’t want to mention the deceased for fear of making the bereaved person sad. They don’t understand that nothing will make the griever sadder. Sadness comes with the loss. There’s nothing you can do to “cheer up” a griever, but you can suspend all judgement. And you can be there for them.

That’s what counts. Simply being there.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

That’s My Story

In recent months, I’ve learned the backstories of some of my new friends, stories that are both horrifying and heartbreaking. That these people are leading normal lives, or what seem to be normal lives, make their stories all the more shocking. And they make me realize, that despite everything I have gone through, I have lived a rather privileged life. At least so far as I know. (One of the stories I was told rivals my book More Deaths Than One for mind control, manipulation, and abuse, which would make anyone question themselves and what they think they know. But I tend to think I do know what I think I know.)

I never felt as if my life was especially blessed — there was too much trauma and poverty, depression and some sort of instability in almost all the characters of my youth. And yet, I grew up, enjoyed mostly good health (meaning that I wasn’t often tormented by terrible pain, trauma, or illness). I loved and was loved in return. I’m settling into what might be a rather benign old age, and even with my extremely limited income, I doubt I will go hungry. Although I’ve never been strong physically, I’ve been strong enough to do what I needed to do. And I’ve been strong enough mentally to get through what I needed to get through.

Those are my realities right now. My privileges. Not everyone has those same privileges. Some people have different blessings — wealth, beauty, acclaim, athletic ability, robust health, great happiness, a fulfilling career, a living — and loving — spouse, cherished offspring.

And some people seem to have very little going for them, often through no fault of their own. Abuse. Disfiguration. Disability. Unending pain. Troubles that seem to multiply. Acute loneliness.

Nothing I can do will ever make a difference to those lives. I can be kind to people I meet, of course, because who knows what pain and horror they are hiding behind smiles or stoic expressions or even scowls. But that’s about all. Being miserable won’t offset their misery. Bleeding for them won’t erase a single moment of suffering. Making allowances for life’s injustices or trying to shoulder another’s mental or physical burdens only goes so far — we each have to live the life we are given.

There’s no way ever to truly understand another person’s point of view, and people who expect that are being unrealistic. We can always only see life through our own eyes, and that’s not a privilege but a reality.

Actually, now that I think of it, my greatest blessing is to be able to turn, in retrospect, a rather messy and traumatic life into one of privilege and good fortune. A nice bit of legerdemain, that.

But that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Elusive Knowledge

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a term for our inability to step back and objectively look at our aptitudes and behaviors. This is especially obvious when it comes to bombastic folk who act as if they know it all. These windbags talk incessantly about their own world view, but refuse to acknowledge the validity of any other. It makes sense, of course, because they’ve boxed themselves in with their pomposity, so that whatever is in the box is all that is real, and they know everything in their box.

Many people are touched by this effect in a small way, so that even if they are open-minded about some things, other ideas are boxed off, and they simply will not entertain different possibilities, especially in areas such as politics, current issues, religion. Which is why I try to stay away from such topics. I don’t mind people disagreeing with my own views if they extend to me the same courtesy I extend to them of listening to what they have to say, but too often, they have to have the last word. Or rather, the only word. And so I’ve learned to let them have that word early on to save a whole lot of aggravation later.

I hope I’m not one of those who are closed off without being aware of it. I do have pet ideas, of course — we all do — but I tend to think the way this Dunning-Kruger effect rules my life lies in a different direction, either by my underestimating my intellectual capability (some people think I’m smarter and more knowledgeable than I feel I am) or, as I so often fear, by my overestimating my capability and thinking I’m smarter than I really am. I have no way of knowing which is the truth because of the above stated inability for us to observe ourselves objectively.

I don’t think I have locked myself into a narrow box, though. I’ve always been aware that there is so much more out there than what I know. (Which is perhaps why I sometimes think I’m not all that smart or knowledgeable — I can sense how little I know, how little I can know.)

From what my mother told me, as a baby and as a toddler, and even into my early schoolgirl days, I idolized my older brother. It seemed to me he could do anything, and that year of life experience he had over me made him seem . . . omniscient. Each year, I could hardly wait until my birthday so I could catch up to him, and it always came as a shock that he was still a year older, still a year wiser.

Having bad eyesight at an early age added to the awareness of all that I didn’t know. It also created a sort of cognitive dissonance where I knew I was smart enough to get good grades but was too ignorant to know what everyone else seemed to know intuitively, such as what the names of streets were and how to tell the different trees apart. Even when I got my glasses and realized how everyone knew such things — they could see street signs! They could see individual leaves! — the dissonance remained.

My father didn’t believe in television for children. He wanted to raise his kids to be independent thinkers (as long as we thought the way he did), and that lack of cultural conditioning added to the feeling of not knowing. I remember a group of girls giggling about double-barreled slingshots, and they laughed at me when I asked what those were. It wasn’t until many years later when I happened to see a Beverly Hillbillies show that I got the joke. Way too little, way too late!

This idea of elusive knowledge, of knowledge waiting for me made me excited about school every year. For a week or two. Then I realized that whatever knowledge I wanted was still out of reach (I was one of those kids who read the school books during the first days of school, so I knew exactly what I would and wouldn’t be taught). I especially remember senior year in high school. “This is the year I will get to learn,” I thought. I was going to finally have a great teacher. (At least that’s what her previous students said.) On the first day of class, the teacher gave us an assignment: “Write an essay about what you expect to get from your senior year, and don’t give me any sycophantic nonsense about wanting to learn.” I just stared at her. This was the teacher who would finally teach me? As it turned out, no. Too many seniors wanted to take her class, and even though I had been one of the first to sign up, I was kicked out. (The only time my name was ever drawn out of a hat.)

Luckily, there were books. A lifetime of books. And just when I got to thinking I had a grip on some of what life had to teach, Jeff died, and the realization of how little I knew started all over again. If something as immense as grief had been hiding from me all my life, what else has been hidden? That question haunted me for many years, and in fact helped drive me through the worst of my pain. I thought perhaps something wonderful was waiting for me on the other side, but the only thing wonderful that happened was that I survived. And I gained a lot of knowledge about grief that has been of benefit to many people.

The sense of impending . . . something . . . has pretty much dissipated over the years since Jeff died, and I now let life offer me what it will.

Well, except for bombastic folks. Those I walk away from whenever I can.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Best of Social Networking

Although I have always been a fan of social networking on a personal basis — getting to know people, making friends, feeling connected even when I am alone — I am also aware that it is a platform for the dissemination of a particular brand of ideas. Anything that doesn’t fit the narrative of that brand is labeled “fake news.” That most people don’t see they are being herded by this one-sidedness shows the efficacy of the brand. That those same people heap shame on those who don’t agree with the stated beliefs shows how deeply entrenched the brand is.

And yet . . .

During this past week, I have been enormously pleased to see so many posts by black people decrying the current narrative, ie: downtrodden blacks, liberal saviors, white racists (and according to this narrative, all whites are by definition racists).

I understand that the black/immigrant/minority experience is different from mine, but that does not negate my life. Does not make me better. Does not make me a racist. It makes me . . . me.

Whatever anyone experiences makes them who they are. The current narrative defines certain people by their race, not who they are individually. The posts I’ve been reading and the videos I’ve been seeing are not from blacks living the “black experience,” whatever that might be. They are individuals living their lives, refusing to claim the victimhood the narrative foists on them, refusing to be seen as anything other than as themselves, as a member of the human race, as an American.

These people don’t want reparations, don’t want to be identified with the rioters and looters, don’t want to be limited by what other people are doing and saying. They want to grab whatever opportunity (legal opportunity) they can to create good lives for themselves. They want to take responsibility for what they do without the mitigating (and oh, so paternalistic) factor of needing special compensations because of their skin color.

Normally, we don’t get to hear what these people have to say because it doesn’t fit with the point of view the media forces down our throats. And we need to hear their voices. We need to see these folks as they see themselves — not victims, not un-“privileged.” But people dealing with life as best as they can.

This — getting to hear different voices, getting to listen to people tell a different story than what we expect — this is the best of social networking.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Being Herded

Social and cultural conditioning are processes where members of society consciously or unconsciously herd the other members into behaviors and thoughts that are acceptable to the group as a whole. This form of herding one another is a great survival tool out in the wild where cooperation is necessary, but now seems to only stifle those who can’t be or won’t be herded. Conditioning is one reason it’s so hard for others to grasp the scope of grief. Not only can non-grievers not understand grief, they can’t accept it. Their every interaction with the bereft is geared toward herding grievers back into the fold of societal norms.

The jargon of grief is that of illness, of negativity, of . . . fault, as if somehow we who are grieving chose our state and now we have to overcome, heal, recover, move on, get over, return to normal. By blaming us for grieving too long, by refusing to admit that our grief is normal, by assuming our inability to respond to their herding instincts is due to our stubbornness or damaging behavior, onlookers to our grief can more comfortably return to their own lives, and leave us alone with our sorrow.

This herding is called behavior priming and is prevalent in almost all group interactions. I was painfully aware of the process after Jeff died, and I’m particularly aware of it now, when certain phrases are bandied about with no objective, it seems, other than to force us into groupthink. For example, “We’re in this together.” No, we’re not. As I’ve mentioned before, everyone is coming at this situation from their own unique point of view. A person who lives alone, who has been laid off, who is in danger of losing their home or business is not living through the same crisis as a person who still has a secure job and comes home to a loving family.

“Safer in place” is another example of a phrase used to herd folks, but again, they are simply words without any real meaning. Sure, a person who lives alone and never sees anyone is safe, but what if that “place” is a nursing home? Definitely not safe, considering that in Colorado, as in many states, the majority of deaths have taken place in nursing homes.

Which brings me to the point of this particular discourse. The most common priming comments from people who disagree with those who urge the reopening of the economy are “You don’t value life,” “You’re trying to kill people,” “You want your grandmother to die,” or variations of the same, all herding people toward a certain ideology without taking into consideration the deaths and devastation that are already occurring because of the lockdown and will continue to occur when the strictures are lifted.

Besides, if the goal was to protect the elderly, then we failed abysmally, considering all the nursing home deaths.

This is what keeps going around and around in my head. If 80% of deaths from The Bob occur in those over 60, that means 20% of deaths occur in those under 60. If you subtract out the 60% of nursing home deaths from “free range” elderly, you also get 20%. So, it seems to me that if a person isn’t in a nursing home, there is no reason to protect the elderly more than the younger folks since the death rates are more or less the same.

Just another very confusing aspect of this Bob situation.

None of my cogitation will change anything, but it does help steer me away from being primed, keeps from reacting emotionally to those trying to herd me into the fold, and allows me to ponder the various ramifications of our current situation.

And that’s all to the good. My good, anyway.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Viruses and the Human Organism

By now it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I have reservations about this whole quarantine situation. There are just too many repercussions that are being ignored, such as people who are in lockdown with their abusers and no way to escape, or rich people who are fleeing infested cities and bringing diseases to places that would normally be safe.

Another repercussion that few people are discussing is what will happen when people are once more free to mingle. Unless there were a significant number of cases of people who got The Bob and recovered (and no, there aren’t such cases because there simply is not a great enough percentage of people who are getting sick), there is still a chance of a second upsurge. Some epidemiologists say that flattening the curve will prolong the disease, but so far, no one is saying what will happen when people are again doing “nonessential” activities, such as getting together with family and friends.

Another thing that no one is talking about is the danger of isolating people.

Viruses are everywhere, in fact, they are perhaps the most common being on earth. There are an estimated 10 nonillion of them (10 to the 31st power.) Without viruses and their ability to move genetic material from one cell to another, life on Earth might never have evolved. Among those nonillions of viruses, only a small fraction, way less than 1%, are dangerous to humans. Most seem rather benign. Others are actually beneficial, and help our immune system. For example, some viruses infect and destroy dangerous bacteria in our bodies. Other viruses protect against harmful viruses. Some have actually become part of the human genome.

Even harmful viruses are good in that viral infections, especially at a young age, help develop the immune system. If children are prevented from getting sick, they are much more vulnerable to disease as they grow older.

It is the benign viruses that move from person to person, exchanging cell materials between people who are close, such as husband and wife, that makes grief for a spouse so hard. Not only does it feel as if we have been severed from our other half, we have, in actuality, been severed. Because of the visceral nature of grief, three to four years seems to be the half-life of grief. Our cells are continuously dying and being renewed. If it takes seven years for all the cells in one’s body to be renewed, then at two years, most of our cells still bear the imprint of our deceased mate. At four years, less than half our cells bear their imprint. At seven years, we are solely ourselves.

Viral exchanges are a way of communication, body to body. It’s a way of keeping a community unified and healthy. You don’t always have to get sick to become immune to a disease — if someone close to you is immune, their immunity can be conferred on you via benign viruses. If you stop viral communication, what will happen? I don’t know. No one knows, though it’s possible that when people are allowed out among others again, not just The Bob will have an upsurge, but so will other diseases.

Although no one asked me, I would have suggested protecting the vulnerable and letting everyone else lead their lives. Some people would have gotten sick, but for most people, The Bob is relatively benign, no more than a cold, if that. Many people who are infected, show no symptoms at all.

The human aggregate is an organism. Are we damaging the organism by these draconian measures? Probably not, since the lockdowns won’t be that long, all things considered, but if it went on too long, groups who developed immunities to certain ailments could infect others who haven’t developed such immunities.

It’s hard finding out the truth in this time of “fake news” since any idea or research that goes against or beyond the party line are labeled fake, when in fact, what we are told is “truth” might be less than true.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if there would have been a better solution to this situation than by isolating everyone, not just the vulnerable.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Repercussions

There is much talk about the financial fallout from the stay-at-home orders and the quarantine, but there are other possible repercussions no one is mentioning. For example, with families being forced into a closed environment, any issues or potential problems could be exacerbated. Problems like abuse. Problems like incest.

Shortly after my first two novels were published, I had a text conversation with my sister, who had just finished reading the books. I asked her if it was strange reading a $&X scene written by her sister. (Just so you know, I am not averse to using the word, I’m just trying to hide it from google.) I posted the conversation here on my blog because I was so tickled with her observations.

A couple of months later, on the list of search engine terms people use to find my blog, I noticed a lot of incestual queries. There was no mistaking the meaning of the terms. They were explicit: how to F*** my sister, tips to have $&X with my sister.

Not one to sneer at a gift from the writing gods, even such a sleezy gift as this, I wrote a blog: $&X With Sister Tips — Writing Tips, That Is. (The more views a site gets, the higher it’s ranked by search engines, and so the more views it gets.) It is by far the most viewed blog I have ever written, but in the past couple of weeks, with so many people staying at home, the views have more than quintupled. People don’t want to know how to write about it. They want to do it. The terms people used today include: how to f*** your sister; how to make $&X sister tips; how to do $&X with my sister; how can i have $&X with my sister.

Even worse, people are leaving comments such as: “I really love my sister she is so cute and gorgeous but how do i ask her to have $&X with me? I want it really bad with her like right now.”

All those poor girls. Do they know what creeps their siblings are?

I wonder how many people are huddling fearfully in their rooms now that they can’t go to school or work or the mall to get away from abuse or potential abuse. And why aren’t we hearing any of these stories? You can’t tell me the stories aren’t out there. You can’t tell me people aren’t suffering. But then, such stories are almost always kept quiet to keep from destroying the family.

I considered deleting the articles I mentioned above, and yet, there are writers who use incest as a theme. Besides, it’s not going to stop people from wanting what they can’t have, and it’s not going to stop them from trying even if they weren’t forced to stay at home. But it does give the saying, “There’s no place like home,” a different meaning.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

I am a Ten-Year Grief Survivor

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day Jeff, my life mate/soul mate, died and to be honest, I don’t really know what to think of it. It seems such a very long time and yet no time at all. Has it really been ten years? It must be. I no longer feel that if I could just reach far enough I could touch him. I no longer expect him to call and tell me I can come home. I am home. For so long, my home was wherever he was, and now my home is where I am.

My life is so different now from what it was with him that it seems as if the loss happened to someone else. I miss him, of course, think about him almost every day, still feel a hole in my heart/life/soul where he once was, but there has been no real upsurge of grief this year. It could be that too many years have passed, but I think it has more to do with my current situation.

Physical pain somehow has a way of overriding any emotional pain, which is why so often, when new grievers get sick or injured, they get a respite from the effects of grief. I know I did. I’ve always hated being sick, hated colds especially since they linger so long in my system, and yet, those first few years after Jeff died, I welcomed those illnesses because it gave me a break from the worst of my grief.

When I was doing the research for my book, Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One, I discovered that the answer to this anomaly has to do with brain fog and the role the brain plays in grief.

Those of us who have lost our mates know that grief is not merely emotional, but also spiritual, physical, and especially mental. The whole brain is involved in the grief process, but the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that seems to contribute the most to brain fog, the grief-induced amnesia, dazedness, and fogginess that shroud us after the death of a life mate — the prefrontal cortex is considered the executive branch of the brain and is associated with rational thinking and making sense of emotions, developing and pursuing goals as well as coordinating the brain’s activities. Because we grievers are on total emotional overload, our prefrontal cortex is unable to process all the information it is being fed from all parts of the brain. The more we try to suppress our emotions and try to think our way out of grief, the more overloaded the brain becomes.

When one is assaulted with some sort of physical trauma, such as an illness, the brain seems to heave a huge sigh of relief, as if to say, “This I understand!” No more scurrying around in the far recesses of our minds, looking for the truth of death . . . and life. No more lizard brain screaming for the loss of its survival unit. (We humans are essentially pack animals, and our very survival depends on the strength of this unit, one of the many reasons we are so deeply connected to our life mates.) No more conflicts between fight or flight hormones.

All the brain does is hunker down and send all its resources to getting the body well. And once that’s finished, grief again takes hold.

So what is my situation? A couple of weeks ago, I must have tweaked my knee while asleep because I woke up with a pain that wasn’t too severe, but kept me from doing things I normally would. I could still walk, and so I did. But the knee never got better. And yesterday, when I took a wrong step, my poor knee gave a loud crack (the kind of crack like knuckles cracking not like a bone cracking) and I felt a horrible pain. So not fun! (I now know that trekking poles make good canes.)

So today most of my energy is going toward taking care of my knee. And no, I’m not going to urgent care. (The last I heard, the closest urgent care was closed because of a case of The Bob.) And no, I’m not going to the emergency room. Considering I am in the high-risk group, I’d have to have a bone poking out of my skin before I’d take a chance on being around sick folks. And no, I don’t have a doctor. Even though I’ve been here a year, there was no reason to find one.

So here I am, taking care of my knee, doing the best I can to take care of myself even though I can barely walk. And the tenth anniversary is passing.

I miss not feeling the connection with Jeff — even though it’s only a connection of sorrow and loss — that I generally feel on the anniversaries. It’s the one time I can still feel him in my life, and I miss that. I miss him. I miss us. I miss who I was when I was with him.

The person I am today is a direct result of both my life with him and my grief after him. Is this a good thing? Am I a better person? I don’t know. I do know that, despite the constant barrage of news, all that’s going on in the world seems like . . . life as usual. When you’ve experienced one of the worst things a person can experience, all else seems rather tame.

Despite this almost blasé attitude, you can see that I still do not put myself in harm’s way if at all possible. I owe it to Jeff to live the best life I can, to savor the freedom his death gave to me. It was an inadvertent gift — his dying — but it has given me ten years of learning and experiencing and new beginnings rather than ten years of being worn down taking care of him.

Would I wish it were otherwise? I don’t know because I don’t know that woman any more. All I know is today.

And today, I am forcibly alone, missing Jeff, wondering about that road we could not take together. Would he be proud of the roads I did take? Would he be proud of me? Silly questions, I suppose. Considering the itinerary life handed me, I can’t be other than who I am today.

And today, I am a ten-year grief survivor.

And today, like every day, I miss him.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

Six Months

Six months ago I embarked on a challenge to blog every day for 100 days, and I am still going, but the world sure is different today than it was back then. The weather, of course, is not the same; then it was winter, now it is spring. Back then, people seemed almost innocent in their ability to block out anything that did not touch them personally, and now everyone is hunkered down over something that may or may not have a devastating effect on the total population.

But it doesn’t feel as if anything is different. With a few small exceptions, the local grocery store is fully stocked.

The library is still lending books, though patrons have to call or email their selections ahead of time, and a librarian will meet them at the locked door to hand over the books. (I can’t help it, but this is such a clandestine, spy-ish sort of thing, that it tickles me. And oh — what a dream job! A library full of books and no annoying customers.)

And people are still struggling with devastating diseases.

I spent the morning with a dear friend who is suffering through chemo. I’m sure she’s only one of many people coping with serious illnesses while the whole world is focused on something about which there is no clear consensus and the draconian measures that may or may not be needed.

I don’t know the truth of the matter. I only know my small corner of the world (though I did face time with a woman in Bangkok today who told me about the steps Thailand is taking to keep people inside, such as closing the malls and dine-in restaurants.) And in my corner of the world, my friend is battling cancer.

It’s amazing to me how many people develop or die of various illnesses every year, including hundreds of thousand dying of the seasonal flu, and yet no one cares. But now, with this particular virus, suddenly the whole world cares.

Except me. I’m more concerned about my friend than those I only know through the various media.

During the next six months, things will change again. The virus will have passed on, will have killed us all, or will become just another disease no one cares about it until it hits home.

And, in six months, my friend will be through with her chemo, and will finding her way back to health.

And I will still be blogging, maybe not every day, but one way or another, I’ll still keep plugging away.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Pat

I spent yesterday with a friend who was recovering from an operation. Her husband had to work and didn’t want to leave her alone, and since they’re like me, with no extended family in the area, we’ve adopted each other. So of course, because I’m family, he was able to go against his usual independent nature and ask me to stay with her. (Not a hardship, believe me. She is truly a delightful woman.)

While I was there, a friend of theirs stopped by to check on her. As our mutual friend slept, the woman and I got to talking. She mentioned that she’d lost her husband a year ago, and I commiserated with her. She seemed surprised that I understood, so I told her Jeff had died ten years ago.

Her eyes got big, and she exclaimed, “You’re the Pat! I have your book! As soon as you mentioned Jeff, I knew who you were.”

As astonishing as that encounter seemed (and yes, despite this being a small town, and despite the simple explanation that follows, it was astonishing), we quickly sorted out the coincidence.

Soon after I moved here, a new acquaintance mentioned that a friend of hers had recently lost her husband and was feeling bereft and alone. I gave the acquaintance my book Grief: The Great Yearning to give to the new widow. The widow called to thank me, and we talked for a while, but then I never heard from her again. I suppose I should have called her, but since I didn’t know her, I didn’t want to come across as a crazy stalker author, and eventually, her number disappeared from my phone.

Yesterday, we met again as old friends.

Life is truly a marvel at times. There we were, three women, now three friends, from three different countries. The United States. Thailand. Malaysia. (Before I knew where she was from, I’d asked the widow if she was from Singapore. It surprised her that I came so close geographically, but her accent was the same as a woman from Singapore I once knew. The widow acknowledged that the accents were very similar.)

Just think of all the living, all the stories, all the convoluted paths and journeys, all the intertwining fates and destinies, it took to get the three of us together in the same room.

Once, I craved adventure, but now, it seems, being “The Pat,” is itself a great adventure.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.