Facing My New Year With Courage and Wisdom

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. It turned out to be a nice day, and only intermittently sad. One of my fellow bereft sent me an email, “Is it wrong to wish that it’s just another day for you? Maybe it is, but I hope that you can acknowledge it with a nod and then let the day become like any other. We can’t make shrines out of these anniversaries. I’m weary of worshiping a ghost. I’m trying very hard to listen to this advice as I prepare my own countdown.”

Her message was exactly right, and I hoped for the same thing, that I could acknowledge the anniversary with a nod and then let the day become like any other. It’s important for me to remember him, but instead of remembering the horror and sadness of his death, I would rather remember that I loved him, that he was a special man, that he lived — and died — courageously.

The day turned out to be not just a day like any other, but better — a day of peace and friendship, a day apart from my daily responsibilities and cares.

I’d planned to go to lunch with friends I met through my grief group, but at the last minute, I almost reneged. I was teetering on the brink of sadness, and wasn’t sure if I could handle being around so many people, but I donned my “glad rags” (black hat I’d decorated with red poppies and matching red shirt and black slacks) and kept the appointment. Whether it was the silliness of the hat or the power of the black and red clothes, I felt uplifted and was able to enjoy the lunch. Since it was more to celebrate another woman’s birthday, we only gave a passing nod to my anniversary, which was good — I didn’t want to dwell too much on missing him. Afterward, one of these friends went walking with me in the desert, which was especially nice. I got to see the desert through her eyes, and I got to show her my “back yard.”

Today I start a new year. (In many respects, this is more of a birthday for me than the anniversary of my birth because after he died, I was born into a new life.) I’m not sure what I hope from this year. Peace, of course, but perhaps also adventure and challenge. (Sounds oxymoronic, doesn’t it?) But mostly, I want to accept whatever comes with the same courage and wisdom that helped me face the past three years.

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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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

It Takes Courage to Grieve

People have often mentioned how courageous I’ve been by writing about my grief, but the truth is, for the most part, it didn’t take any courage. At the beginning, I was in such incredible pain and bewildered by all I was feeling, that I tried to make sense of all the emotions and physical symptoms the only way I knew how — by writing.

There were two times, though, where it did take courage. The first time was when my grief continued far beyond what I had expected, and I was afraid people would think I was weak or self-pitying or self-indulgent, unable to move beyond the tragedy. I am moving, but at my own pace.

The truth is, when you lose your mate, you lose not only the person who meant more to you than any other, the person who connected you to the world, you also lose your best friend, your confidante, your support, your sense of self, your hopes and dreams, your shared world, your faith in a universe that makes sense. The changes are so vast and so sudden, it can take years to process them all.

I’d been honest about everything I’d been feeling, so I continued telling the truth about my grief even when I thought it made me seem pathetic. No one wants to show a weak side to the world, but someone has to explain how grief works, to show the ramifications of a certain type of loss. We are steeped in a culture of couplehood. Many songs and movies extol the joys of meeting the one person who makes life worth living, yet when you lose that person, you are expected to continue as if it didn’t matter. Well, it does matter. And it matters more when you lose that person to death. It’s almost impossible to fathom the absence of a person who once breathed the same air you did, who was there through every crisis and triumph, and who now is simply . . . gone. (Well, if I’m going to tell the truth, then I should tell the truth. It’s not almost impossible. It’s totally impossible.)

I’m past worrying about how people see me and my grief, so I’m back to not needing courage to write about how I am doing. I’m just continuing to chronicle the journey of a woman who is trying to rebuild her life after an immeasurable loss, both the steps forward into hope and the steps backward into sorrow and tears.

The second time I needed courage was when I published Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. It’s one thing to write about grief in the backwaters of the blogosphere, and a completely different thing to put my grief out there for the whole world to read. Well, the whole world isn’t reading the book, so that’s not an issue, but more importantly, those who do read my story find they are reading their own story. Although grief is unique to each person, the pain and angst and bitter losses are the same. And so is the way we make this unwanted and terrible journey . . . one step at a time.

And that takes courage.

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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.” Connect with Pat on Google+