A friend wrote me yesterday and told me how much she appreciated my openness in talking about my grief and other traumas and added that it was a learning experience for her. To tell the truth, it’s been a learning experience for me, as well. For decades, I’ve kept my private life private (secretive, some people say, though why they would think they have a right to my privacy, I don’t know), but things change. I changed.
I was more open when I was young. I remember writing long angst-ridden letters to friends when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but stopped abruptly when a friend found one of the letters I’d written to her years previously and read it to me on the phone, laughing the whole while. She thought I’d find it funny, but I didn’t see the humor, only the betrayal. I never wrote another such letter to anyone. Although I talked about my feelings and situations, I didn’t want anyone to have written proof of my follies. And yet, here I am.
When I first signed up for the internet seven years ago, I didn’t quite know what to do. I figured I’d pay for a year and then if I still hadn’t found a way to make use of the resource, I would disconnect. Within a mere four months, though, I’d entered a contest, made online friends, and discovered blogging. Blogging was my way of getting people interested in me as an author, so I wrote posts about writing, reading, trying to get published, and anything else loosely pertaining to my writing life.
Even though I was living through the trauma of a dying life mate/soul mate, I couldn’t write about my life or his illness. He was afraid people would think less of me if I mentioned his being sick, but even if I wanted to mention our situation, I wouldn’t have. His illness didn’t belong to me. I am intensely loyal and my loyalties were with him. Besides, I mostly took his ill health and our strange half-life for granted and didn’t have much to say about either. I can see now how numbed I was by his dying and the trauma of my life, but back then, I accepted the situation as simply the way things were. Since I was online only to try to promote myself as an author, I tried to be professional — I was disheartened that many people used online forums to whine, and I didn’t want to be another whiner.
After he died, well, none of that mattered. I no longer needed to be loyal to him (the way I figured it, if he didn’t want me talking about our life, he shouln’t have died) and I was so stunned by the way I felt that my feelings just burst out of me. I couldn’t believe the exorbitant pain of grief could be so unknown (unknown to me, anyway), and it seemed important to chronicle what I was feeling. Now talking about my emotional traumas has become a way of life. I am comfortable with writing about my feelings, though I am amazed (and so very grateful) that people don’t tell me to shut up and quit my bellyaching.
And if they did? Well, I’ve accepted that possibility as the price of learning to be open and unafraid online.
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+. Like Pat on Facebook.