A debut author offers meditations on coping with loss and learning to live again after the death of a loved one.
When Mertins’ husband died following a long illness, she wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming grief that followed. In the immediate aftermath, she had to “fight just to tread water and not drown.” Simply getting through the day was a challenge, as she vividly chronicles in this series of brief, journal-style entries on her feelings of loss, anger, depression, frustration, and, ultimately, joy in the years following her spouse’s death. The candid, contemplative book is divided into three lucid sections. The first focuses on “the terrible awful beginning,” or the first year or so after her loss, when grief was at its rawest and most potent. That’s followed by “the messy middle” and finally the livable “lasting non-ending”—the point when “finally…grief was no longer the place where I started and finished my day.” Mertins is hardly the first author to tackle the topic of losing a loved one, but what makes this work unusual and compelling is her adamant refusal to file the rough edges of her emotions in order to make readers more comfortable. Speaking to others who have experienced a similar loss, she clearly encourages them not to deny or hide their emotions simply because society has set an arbitrary time limit on sorrow. As one sympathetic person told her, “It’s grief and it will take as long as it will take.” Nor is the author a fan of the concept of moving on, a phrase that “suggests closing the door on what was.” Instead, she prefers to think of “moving forward,” which involves acknowledging “the love that carried me through those years and helped me become who I now am” while also accepting that it’s possible to build a new and meaningful life. This may not be the most elegantly written book on grief, but in sharing her unvarnished emotions, Mertins will surely provide some comfort to those facing a similar loss.
A thoughtful, honest take on the messy, complicated process of grieving.