Interview: Talking about Grief and Being an Author

What inspired you to write Grief: The Inside Story — A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One?

When Jeff, my life mate/soul mate died, I was completely unprepared for the depth and breadth of my grief. I had never felt such pain, pain that escalated by the minute. I never even knew such pain existed. How could I? I’d grieved the deaths of my mother and my younger brother, but what I felt after Jeff died in no way resembled those earlier bouts of grief.

I started writing about grief not only to make sense of my own feelings but also as a rebellion against a society that reveres happiness at all costs. There is something dreadfully wrong with a society that expects the bereft to hide their grief after a couple of months simply because it makes people uncomfortable to see outward shows of mourning. Seeing grief makes people realize how ephemeral their lives really are, and they can’t handle it (which leaves the bereft, who already feel isolated, totally alone with their sorrow.) It also cracks the façade of our relentlessly glass-half-full society.

People who are grieving often find comfort in the truth about grief and how long it takes because it matches what they feel and it makes them feel not so alone. And so, after years of dealing with my own grief and that of my widowed blog readers, I wrote the book “Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One” to help explain the grief process both to grievers and those who want to understand what their grieving friends are going through.

The earliest incidents you recall from your life where you first felt you had a writer in you?

I loved books from the moment I learned to read, and I often wrote stories and poems, so I always thought I would be a writer. When I quit a job in my early twenties to start my first book. . . [Click here: to read the entire interview]

Get Over It. Move On.

I notice that my latest grief posts have an edge to them — not anger exactly; more like disapproval.

This aversion is not towards grievers — never toward grievers — but towards those who don’t understand, won’t understand, can’t understand, and yet still feel they have a say in how people grieve.

Not all comments from non-grievers are as appalling as the one that prompted my post a couple of days ago, Grieving at Christmas. The comments are generally more clichéd, such as “get over it” and “move on.”

Luckily, I am past receiving any comment on my grief. Not only do I not let anyone know (except here on this blog) when I am feeling a bit of a grief upsurge, but I have mostly found an internal place to put my loss so that I can think of him and not think of him at the same time. (Or maybe I mean think of him sadly and think of him happily at the same time.)

But there are always new grievers, and the newly bereft do not need people’s attitudes. Do not need to be told to get over it. Death does not negate love. Telling someone to get over it is like telling someone to stop loving.

Sometimes when people urge grievers to move on, they are not expressing insensitivity so much as a misplaced understanding of the nature of grief. (Which is why my book Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One was written both for grievers and for anyone who wants to understand this thing we call “grief.”)

Although people often think they are helping by urging grievers to get over it and move on with their life, they are merely showing that they themselves can’t handle the griever’s grief. Showing that they can’t handle the new person the griever is becoming. Friends and family want grievers to be the way they were before their loss, and the griever can’t be. Loss changes you. Grief changes you.

If those people were truly caring and sensitive to the griever, they would simply be there for the griever even years later, listen to the griever’s pain, understand that grief is a necessary mechanism, realize that no matter how much the griever’s pain upsets them, the loss suffered upsets the griever even more.

What I really want to say to all of those people who are impatient with a griever’s grief is, “Get over it. Move on. Their grief does not belong to you.”

See? Edgy. And not necessarily kind or helpful.

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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.

Dealing With Grief During the Holidays

This is an excerpt from my book: Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One:

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The first year of grief after the loss of a spouse or a life mate is hard because our grief is so new and so raw that it’s all we can do to take one painful breath at a time. All the firsts we experience during this period can make things even harder.

The first holidays are painful. The first wedding anniversary, the first birthdays, the first major holidays. Each of these days brings a greater sense of grief because we are intensely aware that our life mate is not here to experience these once-happy holidays with us. Whatever traditions we developed together become obsolete when only one of us remains to carry on. The pain and the yearning to be together once more during these times can be devastating.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Years are the big holidays with the biggest challenges. These special days are family celebrations, and often we are left alone with our memories and our feelings, even if we are surrounded by family.

After Jeff died, I went to take care of my ninety-three-year-old father. That first Thanksgiving, my brothers and sisters-in-law came to have dinner with us. I felt awkward because my widowed father sat at one end of the table, and I sat at the other end in my mother’s place, even performed her hostess duties. Despite that weirdness, it was a nice meal, but as the guests were leaving, two by two, I fell into a deep crevice of grief that took a couple of weeks to crawl out of.

Christmas is even more challenging because if we do opt to join the family in festivities, assuming we have such an option and want to make use of it, our families don’t know what to say to us. They are afraid of saying “Merry Christmas,” because they know there can be no merriment for us. Their fumbling to find something to say makes us so much more conscious of our situation than the rote greeting, “Merry Christmas,” would have done. After all, no one truly is wishing us, or anyone, merriment. It’s simply the thing we say.

We each have to find our own way to deal with the holidays. Talking to someone about our loved one, perhaps sharing a special memory can help, and if there is no one to talk to, writing a letter to our deceased mate can make the upsurge of grief around the holidays easier to handle. There is great power in writing to our dead because it gives us a sense of connection and continuity. We are verbal creatures, so putting our feelings into words can be therapeutic and can decrease the stress of the holidays.

Sometimes we grievers find comfort in doing things the way we always did because it makes us feel closer to our departed loved one. Sometimes we need to create new traditions for us alone, which is how I dealt with the days.

Jeff loved Christmas lights, and since he still lived in my heart, or so people said, I took him for a walk that first Christmas Eve and showed him the abundance of lavishly decorated houses in the neighborhood. As fanciful a notion as that was, it helped.

Over time, as we build new memories on top of the old ones, the emotional resonance of the holidays and anniversaries diminishes, as does the dread leading up to these days. The upsurges of grief we experience soften to a feeling of nostalgia and even gratitude that once we were loved, once had someone to love, once had someone with whom to share our life.

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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.

And the Streak Continues!

Can you believe it? It’s been fifty days since I started blogging every day again. Wow, that went fast! For me, anyway. For you, it might have been a long slog since my post topics have been all over the place, with only a thin theme to bind them together: what goes on in my life and in my head.

I blogged every day for many years, and then things happened to get me off the track. Buying a house. Moving. Starting a new life. Even before the house, though, I’d stopped blogging about whatever came to mind. When I was trying to find an agent for Grief: The Inside Story — A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One, I needed to present myself as someone who knew what she was talking about, and a post about apples, for example, just wouldn’t cut it. So I tried to focus on grief topics.

The problem was that I had nothing left to say about grief. I’d spent months working on Grief: The Inside Story, and I included everything I had learned about grief in the book, especially the things that the professional grief community got wrong.

When I started writing the book, I’d been more or less pain free for a year or two (there are always upsurges of grief that one cannot plan for), so I had to dig deep to reconnect with my grief, and in doing so, I’d wrung myself dry.

Consequently, there were no non-grief posts, but no grief posts, either.

As it turned out, it wouldn’t have mattered whatever I wrote for this blog. Literary agents are only interested in people who have tens of thousands of followers, and I’m nowhere close to that number. The irony of it all is that if I had such a following, I sure as heck wouldn’t have needed the agents!

By that time, though, I’d lost the habit of daily blogging, so I finally challenged myself to blog daily for 100 days in an effort to kickstart my writing.

Now here I am, halfway through that self-imposed 100-day blog challenge, and enjoying it immensely. I’d forgotten how good it feels to find something to write about each day, something that happened, maybe, and try to show why it was important.

The challenge ends on January 2, 2020, which means there are forty-eight days left until the end of the year.

What are you going to do with those days?

I know what I’m going to do: blog!

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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.

Press Release for Grief: The Inside Story

I’m trying to write a press release. Grief: The Inside Story is an important book that has helped many people, but it needs to find a wider readership. To that end, I’d like to send out a press release.

A press release sometimes prompts newspapers to contact the author for more information. Sometimes the newspaper will print the item as a whole if they need a filler. Either way, the release needs to be compelling. Short, but compelling.

Since I am not well known, the press release has to depend on factors other than name-recognition to make it newsworthy. This is what I have so far:

Death is No Longer a Fact of Life

Death used to be a fact of everyday life. Today, however, the average American has a life expectancy almost a decade longer than it was in the 1970s. That’s great news, but as Toby Scott, head of communications at Hospice UK, a charity for end-of-life care says: “It is rare now for anyone to experience being with someone who they know is dying let alone anyone who has recently died.”

For the boomer generation, often the first time they experience death is when their parents begin to fade. It’s no wonder that few people understand grief, know what to expect, have the skills to cope with the emotional upheaval.

Not only do boomers have little firsthand experience of death to prepare them for the many ways grief affects them, but the complex and painful experience of grief for a spouse, life mate, soul mate is not something people regularly see on television shows, in movies, or read about in novels. So, like others of her generation, when author Pat Bertram lost her husband, the very presence of grief shocked her.

In the United States a death occurs approximately every twelve seconds. And almost every one of those deaths leaves someone behind who is shocked and bewildered by what they are feeling.

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?

In Grief: The Inside Story, Pat Bertram, author and grief survivor, answers these and other big questions in a straightforward manner. Bertram acknowledges the pain that others so often try to hide, shows how important grieving is, and gives hope that yes, there is happiness on the other side of grief.

Grief the Inside Story by Pat Bertram is available on Amazon (www.amazon.com/dp/0368039668), and through all good bookstores.

Any comments? Suggestions?

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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.

Grief: The Inside Story

One common challenge facing all of us — grievers, friends of grievers, and health care professionals — is how to help those who are experiencing grief after bereavement.

Coping with the death of a loved one can be the most traumatic and stressful situation most people ever deal with — and the practical and emotional help available to the bereaved is often very poor. I found this to be true as I recovered from the loss of my life partner.

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? Questions like these aren’t easily dealt with, and much of the literature aimed at the bereaved can read either like a medical textbook.

My new book Grief – The Inside Story: A Guide to Surviving the loss of a Loved One aims to answer these big questions in a straightforward way, and it may be of help to you or someone you know.  If you would like to know more a free easily-downloadable sample of the book, and a complete and detailed listing of its contents, is available here: https://www.docdroid.net/klBIjLB/grief-by-pat-bertram.pdf

The book trailer is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtLwOpGpm_w

Grief – The Inside Story is now available from Amazon (www.amazon.com/dp/0368039668), and all good bookstores. If you have any questions I’d love to hear from you.

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.

 

Video Trailer for “Grief: The Inside Story”

Continuing My Lonely March Into the Future

An older article Resuming My Lonely March Into the Future was inexplicably posted to Facebook yesterday as a new blog post. People have been responding with care and support, and at first I felt guilty that I was gathering sympathy for something that was long past, but when I re-read that five-year-old post, I realized that most of it reflected current feelings. I was particularly sad this Christmas season, more than I have been for a long time. I did shed a few tears, though to be honest they came more from self-pity than raw grief. I simply could not bear another minute of trying to move on with my life. The void of his absence is still there, though of course nowhere near as strong as it was five years ago, and I am tired of his being dead. It remains true that sometimes the hardest thing we have to do is keep marching into the future, especially when the person who connected us to the world lives in our past

More than that, though, the past year was a hard one. I often felt unwell (nothing serious, colds and allergies and the lethargy that results from them). I stopped going to dance class for a while because it was no longer a haven. I delved back into the depths of my sorrow so I could write an honest book about grief. (Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One) Despite all my efforts to fulfill my dreams, this year I finally had to let go of my two-decade-old dream of finding a major publisher, my three-decade-old dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, my forever dream of getting youthfully fit, and oh, so many things. I also had to deal with my older brother’s recent death, which has shaken up my life and made me realize I need to start finding ways to prepare for taking care of myself when I get old. (Like finding a place to settle down, perhaps.)

But, as I did five years ago, I let myself wallow in sadness and indolence, and now I’m steadfastly (and optimistically) resuming my solitary march into the future.

Wishing us all a year filled with wonderful new dreams and good surprises.

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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.

Spreading the News

I’ve joined a new online site, Quora.com, to help spread my message of the importance of grieving and perhaps to find readers for my new grief book: Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One.

Much of what is written about grief is either shrouded in dense scientific terminology or filled with meaningless platitudes and slogans. Very little relates to the lived experience of grief, leaving many bereaved bewildered and troubled by the unhelpful advice they are given, which makes my book — and my mission — so important.

Quora is a question and answer site where anyone can ask a question, and anyone can answer.

For example, someone asked: How do you stop missing deceased loved ones? I responded:

I don’t think you ever stop missing deceased loved ones because they are always gone. The miracle of grief is that grief will diminish with time, rather than continue growing. Since every year takes us further from our beloved mate, it would seem as if the pain of loss should deepen, like layers of watercolor washed one on top the other until the shape of the missing part of one’s life is darkly hued. And yet, through some miracle of grief, our pain does not increase through the years, but instead, the watercolors lay softly on our lives, reminding us of what we had, reminding us of the loved one we still yearn for.

However, that being said, one way to stop missing them so much is to do new things, things you would not have done while that loved one was alive. Travel someplace you would never have gone with the deceased. Try something you would not have done if they were alive (in my case, it was dance classes). Every new memory you make takes you one step further from the past and one step further into a future where you can still miss the person but live a happy and fulfilled life. For example, if you have strong memories of the loved on Christmas, create a new tradition for yourself alone.

My profile on Quora is: https://www.quora.com/profile/Pat-Bertram-1 If you too are on Quora, please follow me so I can follow you.

Another way you can help me spread the news about Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One is to post a review on Amazon after you have read the book. The more reviews, the more Amazon’s algorithms kick in, and the more people see the book.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

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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.