GRIEF: THE INSIDE STORY is now available!

Coping with the death of a loved one can be the most traumatic and stressful situation most people ever deal with. As the bereaved struggle to make sense of their new situation, they often find that the advice they receive is produced by medical professionals who have never personally experienced grief, is filled with platitudes and clichés, and is of very little practical help.

How long does grief last? What can I do to help myself? Are there really five stages of grief? Why can’t other people understand how I feel? Will I ever be happy again? Grief: The Inside Story answers such questions while debunking many established beliefs about what grief is, how it affects those left behind, and how to adjust to a world that no longer contains your loved one.

Although the subtitle is “A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One,” the book is written especially for those who have lost someone intrinsic to their lives, such as a spouse or life mate, and who now struggle to cope with their new realities. People always want grievers to “get back to normal,” but as Grief: The Inside Story shows, there is no “normal” to get back to back to, but grievers can eventually find renewal in their lives.

Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Inside-Story-Guide-Surviving/dp/0368039668/

If you have read the book and it proved valuable, please leave a review. The more reviews, the more visible this necessary book will become. Thank you.

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Pat Bertram is the 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 Twitter. (@PatBertram) Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Next Week is Here!

Every time I talked to the contractor who’d agreed to fix the foundation of my enclosed porch, he told me he’d be able to do it “next week.” Well, yesterday he showed up! He and his worker got right to work, and ripped up the old floor of the porch. If the basement isn’t enough of a setting for a horror story (or at least a rather trite novel about a new houseowner who finds a buried body), this boardless porch certainly would add to the creepiness of the story.

We found an old cistern under the floor and decided not to open it. Not that there would be anything in there, though the contractor did admit he has found bodies buried at some of the sites where he worked. (That’s not as sinister as it sounds. In Colorado, some counties have no laws — or at least they didn’t — about not burying your deceased on your property, so many country-folk buried their own dead instead of forking out for the undertaker.)

Still, burial site or not, I took a photo of the hole under the porch in case I ever need inspiration.

By the time this particular job is finished, the porch truly will be enclosed. The new concrete foundation will go all around the porch, keeping out critters, moisture, and any nefarious types who might want to dig for whatever might be buried in the cistern, but the hole will still be there.

Out of sight, out of mind? Let’s hope so!

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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.

Life on the Trail

I haven’t yet taken up my perennial pastime of long rambling walks, though on one lovely spring day I did follow a road out of town to see where it went. I didn’t go far, only a mile and a half or so, and what I saw was . . . a whole lot of things or a whole lot of nothings depending on your point of view. Mostly, there was the road bounded on both sides by brown-grass fields, an occasional field overrun with purple mustard (which smells like sour milk to me and melted crayons to other people).

A few creatures stopped to nod at me and welcome me to the neighborhood.

And at the beginning — and end — of my journey was the courthouse.

I am living on the Santa Fe Trail, though in this particular political climate, I’m not sure what to think about that. Is it something to brag about, be ashamed of, or ignored altogether? Whatever the truth, it’s hard to ignore the trail since some of the roads around here follow the trail, and there are reminders everywhere. (It’s odd to think how often I thought of living — backpacking — on a long trail, and here I am. Life seems to be something of a punster.)

I used to love history, no matter whose history it was, because it seemed to me past events and other cultures were an indication of who we are as a species, but nowadays, with accusations of “cultural appropriation” heaped even on youngsters decked out in tribal wear for Halloween, I’m not sure it’s wise to see myself other than what I am today. (Whatever that may be.)

It’s amazing to think I haven’t even been here a month. I’ve made friends. (Meet Butters, who loves my little awning.)

I’ve joined the art guild, made plans to go to a dinner theater put on by a local church, am getting to know a couple of street people, and frequently visit the library.

Next week, workers are supposed to come to do some repairs around the house, and I’m hoping that this time, next week will actually come. (He’s been promising “next week” for weeks now.) It would be nice to finish unpacking, though I am getting used to making my way around the maze of my belongings.

As for today, well . . . when I finish here, I’ll fix asparagus in my new asparagus steamer (a housewarming gift) in my new kitchen and read a new book from the library.

Life on the Trail is good.

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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.

Unsettled

I’ve been feeling a bit down the past couple of days. My nest building has come to a standstill because I can’t do any more unpacking until the foundation of the enclosed back porch (soon-to-be exercise and storage room) is fixed, and the guy who promised to fix it has so far been too busy to do the work. It’s always “next week” and apparently, next week never comes.

That’s not really a major issue, though, just a bit of frustration that adds to my overall feeling of being unsettled.

My meeting people has also come to a standstill. Although people I encounter have been nice to me, I spend most of my time alone, which isn’t a new development, of course, but that aloneness, too, adds to my feeling of being unsettled.

What isn’t coming to a standstill are all the small things that demand attention, such as a breaker box that was stuck (it took a guy from the electric company two hours to dismantle it and put it back together), smoke alarms that need to be replaced, scammers sorted out from the official folks I need to deal with. All these things make me wonder if I’m in over my head, which contribute to my feeling unsettled.

Mostly, though, it’s the date. I’d forgotten tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of Jeff’s death, but a tightness in my chest and stinging eyes have reminded me of why I am here in this place, this house.

Because he is gone.

My sadness this anniversary is more nostalgic than painful. My missing him doesn’t feel as personal as it used to. For most of my years of grief I lamented that I never felt any different. Lamented that I hadn’t changed. But being here in this house, trying to create a new life for myself, tells me the truth. I am not at all the same person who struggled to live while her soul mate struggled to die. Not at all the same person who witnessed the death of the one person who anchored her to life. Not at all the same person who screamed her angst to the uncaring desert skies. That woman, I am sure, is still feeling the agony of his absence, but she is not me. She could never do the things I am doing.

Despite all the changes, I still worry about stagnating — becoming the crazy cat lady sans cats — and so far, there is nothing in my new life that precludes this from happening.

I tell myself to be patient, that my new life will be revealed (will unfold?) in the years ahead, but for now, I’m feeling . . . unsettled.

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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 Dark Underbelly of Home Ownership

Although I was hesitant to post a photo of my creepy basement, enough people wanted to see it that I figured I should go ahead and post the image.

I don’t suppose it’s really all that creepy, just . . . old. The little room off to the left is the old coal bin back when coal used to be the most up-to-date heating system. What doesn’t show in this photo is the crawl space that surrounds this dug out part of the basement. The walls are only about shoulder height — the rest is a wasteland of dirt, junk, cables and conduits.

It seems the perfect setting for a murder mystery, or rather it did until I realized how trite the setting would be.

One day, though, when the  contractor has time to redo the floors and walls, I have no idea what (or who) we might find buried behind those cracking walls.

And so the adventure continues . . .

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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.

Buyer’s Remorse

I’d forgotten about buyer’s remorse. Not that I ever had reason to remember the concept because until last week, I’d never owned a house. (Until a couple of months ago, I’d never even considered owning a house!) It’s come as something of a surprise that I am now not just a homeowner, but a house owner.

So far, though, it’s been great. No remorse!

There have been a few frustrating episodes, such as trying to get set up with the internet. What a chain of errors, lies, and miscommunications! But I’m set up now, so that’s good. There’s so much work to do to get unpacked and settled that I didn’t really miss the internet, but it does help to be back online. It feels normal and familiar in a world where little is familiar. New house. New (to me) furniture. New town. New folks to meet. New chores. (I’ve never been obsessed with neatness, but I have discovered how lovely it is to wake in the morning and see my beautiful living room, so I make sure I do a quick clean before I go to bed.)

And then there was “that” day. For the most part, the weather has been ideal, but shortly after I got here, a bomb cyclone hit. We didn’t get the blizzards that Denver and other areas got. We just had a bit of rain and insanely high winds. Being in town helped moderate the winds because other houses provided a bit of a wind break, but even though we didn’t get the 80-mile-an-hour gusts that were recorded at the local airport, the wind was still severe.

Luckily, this house really is solid. No drafts, no whistling or rattling windows. The electricity, however, did go off for a couple of hours. After about an hour, the smoke alarms started screeching. To be honest, I don’t see any reason for smoke alarms to be wired into the electric system — individual alarms seem to work just as well — but that’s what I have here: inter-wired alarms. When one goes off, they all go off.

Which is overkill. A beep from cell phone can wake me. Why would I even need four alarms screeching at me all at once? I dismantled all the alarms, but they still continued to screech. It wasn’t until I took out the batteries that silence finally prevailed. When the electricity came back on, I reattached the alarms. Or tried to. Two did fine, but one chirped and one screeched. Thinking it might be a circuit problem, I ran outside in my stocking feet for just a second to check the breaker box, but couldn’t figure out how to open it. I ran back to the door, but the screen door had latched. (I think the wind banged the door shut with such force that the latch latched.)

So there I was, in the rain and mud, with winds that about blew me over, in my stocking feet, and no way to get inside. I had the keys, but the screen door didn’t have a keyhole. I ran down the street to where a handyman lived, but no one was home. Then I ran to my next-door neighbor, and asked if he knew how to jimmy a lock. He did. Took about a second. (But he couldn’t figure out how to open the circuit box, either.)

Such an adventure!

I’ve been trying to connect with people. I went to a spaghetti lunch put on by the historical museum and introduced myself to a few people, spent a day with the previous house owner, (she wants me to join their bowling league, but as much as I enjoyed being with her and her friends, I’m not a bowler, and don’t really see myself ever becoming one), and had tea with my next-door neighbor. When she saw me in my hat, she donned one, too. That was fun. I’d never lived next door to someone close to my own age and, as it turned out, I’m the answer to her prayers. (She prayed that someone nice and friendly would move into this house.)

And tomorrow, I’m going to a meeting of the art guild.

Not bad for being in town just a bit over a week!

I’m looking forward to new adventures, new people, new plants. I found some green poking up through the awakening soil, a couple of lilac bushes hiding behind the garage, and a few periwinkle plants.

So no remorse! Of course, I don’t know what the coming days, weeks, months will bring, but although I miss the friends I left behind, I’m interested to see what will happen next.

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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.

My New House!

People worried about my buying a house I’d only seen in photos, but I knew immediately it was my house, and so it is.

Some things need to be fixed such as the enclosed porch foundation (which I knew about) and the crumbling crypt that passes for a basement, but I have been assured by two different inspectors that the house is solid. Other than that, the house is perfect for me.

I am especially enjoying the antique touches from the 1920s when the house was built — original hardwood floors, glass doorknobs, and the pull down seat in the now-modern bathroom.

Even more, I love the new kitchen And the walk-in shower. And … well, all of it!

I haven’t done much exploring yet, except for the house itself, but I did go and get a library card. The library is only about four blocks away, so it reminds me of when I was a kid and walked to the library every day in the summer.

The weather has been great, and I have a hunch it will continue being great because I need a storm. The contractor who is going to fix my porch and basement is so backed up with outside work, that he can only make time to do this inside work when the weather is too harsh for his other jobs.

But it will all work out. Meantime, I will enjoy the rest of my house.

My home!

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(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.”)

Good Madness and Magic and Dreams and Surprising Myself

Good madness and magic and dreams and surprising myself are all pinkie promises I made to a friend on New Year’s Day. My newest adventure (buying a house — a very small, very old house in a very small, very old town to be sure, but still a house) fulfills all those promises.

Did I surprise myself? Oh, yes! I don’t particularly like owning things — they weigh heavy on my soul — and I especially never wanted to own a house (so many possible problems and such a responsibility), but after the death of my homeless brother this past summer, the idea got planted in my head, and I let it blossom. In a way, it’s his final gift to me.

This latest adventure, while potentially life-transforming, has been relatively sedate so far. Mostly, I’ve just been e-signing documents, figuring out the logistics of a move, and packing.

It should be interesting, after all these years of feeling lost, of not knowing where to go — of not knowing how to even figure out where to go — to see what happens now that I’ve made my decision. What will I do with the empty space in my head? The space all that thinking —and rethinking and re-rethinking — has taken up.

So many possibilities!

Some people think it’s weird that I am buying a house I have never seen, but I have seen photos and had two different inspections, so I’m not exactly walking into the situation blindfolded. I don’t know how I will feel when I walk into the door and see the house in person for the first time, but I expect to be excited, to feel trepidation, maybe even to . . . fall in love with the place.

I’ll have to wait until I get there to post photos. I don’t want to post the link to the house because I don’t like the idea of the whole world knowing exactly where I will be living, but soon we will all see it!

Closing is in six days. I won’t be there for the closing, but I will be there a few days afterward.

And then my grand adventure of good madness and magic and dreams and surprising myself will really begin.

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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.

Going Home

It wasn’t until after my Jeff, life mate/soul mate, died that I understood what home meant to me. It turns out, he had been my home. Wherever we were, as long as I was with him, I was home.

And then Jeff died, and suddenly, just like that, I lost my “home.”

For me, home was definitely not a case of “home is where, when you go there, they have to let you in.” I left the house and state where Jeff and I had lived and moved 1000 miles to go look after my aged father. I’d visited my parents several times while my mother was dying, but I had never lived in that house, so it was not in any way a homecoming. And although I was there for four years with my father, it never felt like home. I was awash in too much grief, missing Jeff, feeling bereft and lost and adrift.

When my father died, the house had to be sold, so I lost that place of residence, too. And oh, I wanted desperately to go home. But my home was gone from this earth. Because he was gone, and because I felt lost and rootless wherever I was, there didn’t seem to be any reason to be one place rather than another, so I drifted.

I tried to find home within myself, and to a certain extent, I succeeded because wherever I am, there I am. I have lived on the road, babysat houses and a bed and breakfast, stayed with friends, rented rooms, camped out, spent more nights than I can count in motels. It worked because one place felt no different from any other. I was always myself, always doing my best to celebrate life despite missing my dead.

Recently, my homeless brother died, and I started thinking of a different kind of home — a house of my own I can turn into a home. A place where I can set down roots. A place where I can grow old in peace, maybe.

Such a strange feeling! I’ve never wanted to own a house. Never wanted the problems, the aggravation, the expense, the very fact of owning something so . . . big. Jeff and I were minimalists before minimalism became a fad — we didn’t even own much furniture — and yet, here I am, all these years later, suddenly wanting, needing, a house to turn into a home.

I daydreamed a house into existence — a very small, very old house in a very small, very old town. A house just big enough for one person, a house with a walk-in shower and a modern galley kitchen.

I’m now in the process of buying the house (closing is almost upon me — in thirteen days to be exact), and I am starting to feel as if I am going home despite never actually having seen the house, only pictures of it. And oh, yeah — I don’t know anyone in the area, either. I am going back to Colorado, but to a corner of the state where I’ve never lived.

I’m taking a leap into the unknown, into my future. An epic adventure!

It’s actually not as much of a risk as it sounds. An inspector and a contractor both assured me it was a cute little house, and solid. More than that, what do I need to know? I will have a refrigerator to myself!! A kitchen of my own. A yard.

If anything comes up, I will deal with it. If I don’t like something, I’ll change it. If it doesn’t feel like home, I’ll create a home within its walls. If neighbors are noisy, I’ve learned to live with earplugs.

But none of that is important. I’m going home, not to settle down (which still scares me because I am afraid of stagnating) but to settle in (which sounds comforting).

I truly have no qualms about any of this. I don’t understand it, but Jeff’s death shattered my life and my world, and now it feels as if my brother’s death is gluing my life back together. I feel as if this house is meant to be.

It’s hard leaving my dance teacher, who has become like a sister to me. It’s hard leaving dance class and my dance friends.

But . . . a house!

A home.

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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.

Video Trailer for “Grief: The Inside Story”