Slices of Life: Making good on grief

Grief cut me off at the knees. It tried to control me. It tried to tell me who I am. Its grip has been relentless. But in the end, grief is not in control. I am.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

A few months ago I was attacked by something so powerful I didn’t know if I’d survive.

My husband of 33 years died much too soon, much too young. I was left here, alone. The lone survivor, except this was no reality show. It was the real deal. And it sucked. Still does.

I was left in the throes of grief. Infinite, foreboding, unyieldingly cruel grief. I was literally drowning, fighting for each breath, not sure if I would ever live again. I felt caught between life and death. And that’s exactly where I was. In between one world and another. It was — it is — an extraordinarily lonely place. I still spend much of my time there.

However, I’m trying to get out. To escape.

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Almost immediately after grief encompassed my entire being, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to live again. To step beyond grief and feel again. To laugh. To breathe without effort. To remember fondly. To take sleep for granted. To find the things that made living worthwhile.

To be something more than that poor lady who lost her husband at much too young an age. To conquer not only the grief, but the pity.

And the thought of that flooded me with a realization.

Grief cut me off at the knees. It tried to control me. It tried to tell me who I am. Its grip has been relentless. But in the end, grief is not in control.

I am.

And despite its utterly cruel nature, grief has unwittingly given me gifts.

Yeah, you read that right.


Grief has made me a warrior. A fighter. A survivor. Grief has challenged me in ways no one wants to be challenged, but in the end, I am still breathing. I’m still alive. And that gives me a one up. By surviving, I am winning. I am beating grief. And I am determined not only to beat grief but also to learn from it and take from it and become someone better than I ever could have imagined before.

Take that grief. I will have the last word, the last laugh, if you will. Irony fully intended.

Grief has made me stronger. And strong doesn’t just involve muscles. It involves grit and the will to survive. It involves doing the undoable. Creating a new normal. Living it out in the same body with a completely revised attitude and outlook on life. Building a future you never would have imagined Before Grief.

By beating grief, I am overcoming the insurmountable and that is empowering.

Grief has made me bolder than ever before. I know what loss is like — firsthand. From the front lines. After experiencing a loss so great, I have nothing left to lose. That makes me bold and strong and unapologetic.

If I want something, I will not be timid. I will be brave and fearless in my pursuit of life. I will laugh unabashedly, without caring what other people might think. I will dare to try new things, even when they are far outside my comfort zone, because my comfort zone was crushed by grief. I will become someone I probably never would have imagined pre-grief.

I will grab grief by the tail and create something bigger and better than before. I will not take this lying down. I will not give up. Grief, you picked the wrong adversary when you decided to descend upon me. I may look weak and small, but I am strong, and I don’t give up easily. I don’t give up period.

So take that, grief. Give it all you’ve got. Because, you know what? I’ve got more. And I’m going to live it out. Fully. Every day, in every way.


It may come in small steps, but I will conquer you. And I think you know it. So take that.

J ill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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