One cold November morning I woke up to find my seemingly healthy fifty-six-year-old husband dead. Sid had suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep.
Devastation, shock and the worst pain I had ever felt in my life followed that awful fall morning. For months I mostly just hid in my house and cried.
As the numbness slowly wore off, I did what I had always done when things seemed hopeless. I wrote about my feelings. Obviously I had never been as depressed as I was after I lost my husband. Still, I was drawn to trying to ease my pain through thoughts and words from deep in my heart.
I began journaling about my sadness. I was part of a wonderful grief group at the time. Weeks after writing my first entry, I shared what I was doing with other members and they were anxious to read my story.
Most of us had read numerous grief books that we didn’t find very helpful. We all were struggling with various issues that we didn’t see covered in so many other books about healing.
I started to really listen to members of my support group so that I could add individual stories about battles with the enemy we all called grief. We shared a tragic bond, yet we had unique journeys as we traveled down the road to recovery.
After several months I shared my manuscript and the response from my grief group was overwhelming. Using all of our experiences, I covered topics many authors had not like safeguarding, skin hunger and happiness guilt.
It took a long time before I emotionally could go beyond my grief group. About a year after Sid died, I realized I had a book full of heart wrenching confessions, concerns and even some humor. If members of my grief group found my words helpful, would others in the midst of deep grief feel comforted too?
I will never forget what my grief counselor told me: “Don’t ever stop trying to find a way to get something positive out of your negative experience.” She encouraged me to reach out to others with my unpublished work and was also instrumental in getting an excerpt printed in a local hospice newsletter.
A friend who had a small publishing company had been very supportive after Sid died. I finally got the courage to tell her about my book. With her help and a lot of editing and rewriting, Crossing the Minefield was finally published several years after Sid’s death.
Now the book is part of bereavement programs and grief libraries in forty-three states, including the MD Anderson Cancer Center Patient and Family Library. It was also recently chosen as a monthly selection for the Grief Book Club of the Hospice of Frederick County, Maryland.
I am not an expert on grief. And many people have suffered through tragedies much worse than mine. But the one thing I have learned is that my counselor was right–when you are dealing with something awful in your life, try to find a way to grow and hopefully blossom from it.
Writing your way through grief or any other difficult loss like divorce is cathartic. It doesn’t matter if your work is professional or if you ever become a published author. What matters is that you reach deep down into your soul and try to find your voice. That voice can be very helpful in your own healing and possibly in the healing of others.
Life can be very tough and writing can sometimes help you see that first little glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel of despair. And when you see that glowing light–pass it on so others can see it, too.
I have moved on to a new, happy life in the ten years since I lost my husband. But it doesn’t mean Sid is not still with me. He is always in my heart, just a smile away. I feel he would be proud that through his death I learned how to help myself and ultimately help others with Crossing the Minefield.
My publisher suggested that it also might be encouraging for others if I wrote a much lighter book about a widow and her struggles. The result was Heir to a Secret, published a few years after my grief book.
After the emotional upheaval I went through with my grief book, it was fun to write a fictional story that included more about the humorous things we widows encounter farther down the road to recovery, like issues with men. (Those never seem to change no matter how old they are!)
Right after Sid died, I never could have imagined that I would go from writing about the depths of sorrow to spinning a tale about an older widow who discovers that it is never too late for happily ever after. But how wonderful it has been to go from grief book author to chick lit author.
You can cross that minefield–whatever yours is–and come out on the other side a better, stronger person, who still finds life fun and joyful. More importantly, you can reach out and touch others in a positive way by sharing details about how you overcame your challenges.
Like the saying goes, the longest journey starts with the first step, or maybe that should be the first word.
Updated: June 19, 2016