What Everyone Should Know About Grief – Part 9

I recently read that Nietzsche said people tended to exaggerate their traumas. I don’t know whether Nietzsche actually said it since I couldn’t find such a quote from him, but I do think the sentiment is true, at least to a certain extent.

It’s this tendency to exaggerate our traumas that leads others to downplay the role that grief plays in our lives. If we tell the truth, they assume exaggeration, and so they shrug off as hyperbole what is very real to us. Since most people have experienced some sort of grief in their lives, they assume they know what grief is. If we try to explain what we are feeling when we lose someone intrinsic to our lives, someone to whom we are profoundly connected, it doesn’t match with what they feel, so they think we are over dramatizing ourselves.

It’s not surprising people can’t imagine what we feel. Most of us who lost our mates couldn’t believe what was happening to us — couldn’t even imagine it though we were living it. Because of this all-consuming feeling, there is no way we could ever have imagined grief exaggerated beyond what we experienced.

The truth is, there is no way to exaggerate profound grief. Profound grief is exaggeration — an immense magnification of emotion. An amplification of loss. An excess of pain. A trauma that affects every part of us and our lives. A process that changes us and our relation to ourselves and all that surrounds us.

This blog post itself seems an exaggeration, especially in the bright sun of this day so many years after Jeff died, and yet, I know the truth.

My message is as it always is — if you are experiencing what seems to be an insane level of grief, it is normal. Horrendously painful, but normal. Know that one day, you will find peace.

If you haven’t experienced such grief, be kind to those who are dealing with a profound loss. If you think someone is exaggerating grief years after the death of a child or soul mate, give them the benefit of their own truth. Don’t dismiss their feelings or downplay their grief as self-dramatization. I’m sure they wish that’s all it was — a bit of melodrama — but be assured they still feel the loss in every cell of their being.

Wishing you all a peaceful — and kinder — day.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

What Does Not Destroy Us Makes Us Stronger. Or Weaker. Or More Fearful

Nietzsche said, “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.” I’m not sure if that is strictly true. Sometimes that which doesn’t destroy us makes us makes us weaker because it makes us fearful of living, fearful of more trauma, fearful of fear itself.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

In life, we often have to do the thing we think we cannot do. Too many times during the past eighteen months I’ve felt that I can’t survive the pain of losing my life mate (we were together for 34 years). Panic kept washing over me, as if I’d been set down in the middle of an alien world with no idea how to deal with all the horror being thrown at me. I feared every new step, every change. I’d been especially fearful of growing old alone. Sometimes I still am. I’ve seen what dying can do. It’s a terrible way to end one’s life, and it seems even more terrible when one has to face it alone. Of course, there’s a chance that it will be decades before I have to face the grim reaper, and who knows what will happen until then?!

Well, I do know one thing that will happen: this discussion about life, writing, and the writing life!

So, what do you fear? How do you deal with your fear?

If you are a writer, how does that fear work its way into your stories? What do your characters fear? How do they deal with the fear? Is the fear a plot driver, something that drives the story forward or is it more of a subplot, a way of developing your character? Is the fear justified? Is the fear realized? (I mean, does the thing the character fear happen, and if not, why not?) How does the character deal with the fear? How does the fear change the character? How does facing his/her fear change the character?