Marianne Bette has survived tremendous grief — experiences that helped her when, as a family practitioner in Lancaster, her patients would ask for her help confronting their own difficulties.
“Sometimes they came to me and would say, ‘I think I’m going crazy.’ And I would say, ‘You probably are. If you’re feeling crazy, acting crazy or doing crazy things, it’s appropriate — you’re suffering and if you really do go crazy, you will come back. I promise,’” she said.
When Bette was a young doctor, her fiancé died in a small plane accident. Years later, she married and her husband died of lung cancer. Bette put those experiences and those of some patients into Living with a Grieving Heart, a how-to book aimed at comforting and guiding all those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.
“I wanted people to get a feeling for the whole process and to give them encouragement,” Bette said. “So many people are grieving now especially because of COVID and drug overdoses. I’m hoping this will help people to carry on and get through. You don’t have to carry that grief around.”
Living with a Grieving Heart was published this month. It is Bette’s second book, following Living with a Dead Man, a memoir based on how she and her daughters faced her husband’s final year of illness.
As she tackles the subject of grief and loss in Living with a Grieving Heart, Bette offers sensitive support and this matter-of-fact view: Loss of a loved one is difficult and it will stay with you forever. Bette herself suffers from migraines every December, the anniversary of her marriage to her late husband.
The early days of grief, which include much anger, are the most difficult. “It always felt like a rattlesnake curled up in my core, shaking its rattles like it wanted to strike,” she writes. “But it would not control my actions.”
“There is no finish line with grief,” Bette adds, but Living with a Grieving Heart contains examples of how to cope and accept the reality that a life has ended. For example, accept offers of help from family and friends. Even though they don’t know what to say and may feel uncomfortable with the subject, sometimes just having another person nearby is enough to make the grieving person feel a little better.
Additional chapters deal with “Hurtful Things People Say,” the struggle of reliving “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda, If Only…,” the many decisions the caregiver must make, and the hopeful “Moving On.” Bette says she wrote the book for all the people who believe there is no way out of the grief, and she offers many ideas for moving on with examples and encouragement in a “kitchen table” style.
“In my doctoring experience I met with patients who are devastated by a death or drug addiction or cancer, and I would say, ‘You know, it’s not always going to be like this, this awful.’ We are all going to have this experience. We will have to live through it — hopefully with the least devastation. That is where you find your strength and the truth that it is still a beautiful life out there, and you are going to enjoy it again.”
Marianne Bette lived in Palmdale and had a family physician office in Lancaster from 1982 to about 2000. She was named Doctor of the Year by readers of the Antelope Valley Press. Published by Emerald Lake Books, Living with a Grieving Heart is available wherever books are sold.
[Information via news release from Emerald Lake Books.]