This is where the past and the future meet. This is after my mother was killed by a speeding car, after my son died in a motorcycle accident, and after my husband passed away from esophageal cancer. It’s years after my father married a woman three decades younger than himself. It’s after I enrolled in graduate school to earn an MFA in literary nonfiction. This is when I began to heal by writing about loss.   

 This is before Richard, my boyfriend, before Kai, Sawyer, Natalie, Koa and Branson (my grandchildren). This is where my stories come together. This is right before spring in the year 1999.

 It’s the time I came home after working a night shift on Mother’s Day and found my son waiting for me in his car in front of my house to take me out for breakfast. It’s the time he drove over to my house, loaded up my bicycle in the back of his pickup truck for a day of off-road biking. It’s when he moved two miles away from my Windsor Square home and I was able to ride my bike over to his house in less than twelve minutes so we could work out together. This is the last spring I will spend time with my son. This is the heart. This is, every day, this is. 

 I’ve been thinking about changes we go through after a death. We never know in which direction loss will take us. When my mother died, four months before I graduated from nursing school, I grieved in a way that would make her proud. I graduated on the Dean’s list and began working on a Medical surgical unit in a large hospital. All the little old ladies with blue hair became my mother. I treated all my patients as if they were family.

 After my son died, I began writing and publishing essays about loss, not just the death of a child, but about all losses that are suffered throughout life. The death of my son ended up being the catalyst for a graduate degree in creative nonfiction and a career as a nurse \ writer.  It also allowed me to travel and speak on the subject of healing as it relates to writing. 

 When my husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I continued to publish the effects of his illness as they progressed. An esophageal cancer support group was established early on from readers who followed my columns. Before my husband died, he turned to me and said, “You have to keep the group going long after I’m gone. It’s so important.” This group, now five years old, has since morphed into a cancer group with different presenters each month.

 When a loved one dies, it’s easy to stay bitter. I know because for a while after my husband died I felt sorry for myself and wondered, “Why me” But luckily that frame of mind didn’t last long. There was too much to do and too little time to accomplish it. As we lose people we love, we realize how short life is and how important it is to work on our goals and accomplish as much as we can within the small amount of time we are allotted.

About TRatner

Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences." Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children (Thomas J. Pappas) to wellness communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for a variety of national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.
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2 Responses to THE UPSIDE OF LOSS

  1. Connie says:

    Fathers was amazing. It took me back a long, long time ago.

  2. Jami Updike says:

    Terry’s post reminds me how one side of life always has another side to it. I share in the feelings of your loss, although I cannot understand it. I believe I can see the other side to where we all can go-walking in hope and sharing our lives with others. You, Terry, contributed by sharing your side to life we all hope no one faces. I pause, I question, isn’t sharing much, MUCH like caring? Applause for your caring to share!
    ~Jami Updike~

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