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.

***

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+

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4 Responses to “It Takes Courage to Grieve”

  1. mlfhunt Says:

    Pat, you are so right about all of this. I agree about how impossible (yet somehow possible) this loss is and I am so glad you have shared your journey so far (and I assume will continue) as I know it has helped so many. Yes, putting that book out took courage and you are one courageous woman. As you and I proceed to the 3rd anniversary of our soulmate/husband’s death, I see our journeys paralleling each others in so many ways. Onward…

  2. Juliana Says:

    You write the words that so many of us don’t have the skill to capture precisely. I’ve given up trying to express my grieving to anyone. It’s been a little over a year since my husband died, and people think I should be getting over it now. They’re all busy getting on with their lives and I’m busy maintaining a large empty house. The sheer magnitude of the task is overwhelming. I’ve never hired anyone to do the work around the house. My husband and I did it all. I continue that tradition sometimes even amazing myself. Each new task accomplished helps me to feel that I still have control over wht world around me.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Juliana. I’m sure you recognize this post as a response to your comment the other day mentioning my courage in writing about grief. Yes, I can put what we are going through into words, but truly, the real courage for all of us comes in dealing with life as it comes. I can’t imagine how you deal with a big house and all the memories that live there. That takes courage.


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