Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Coming Soon from Friend Grief

It’s very busy in my house: spring cleaning, office reorganization and the next book in the Friend Grief series about to be published. So I thought this is a good time to let you know what’s coming in the next couple months:

I’ll be in the first AuthorHub at Book Expo America, May 29-31. It’s a special area for self-published authors, and includes such superstars as Hugh Howey. (I’m definitely not in his league, but it’s nice to bask in the glow.) If you’re attending, please stop by and say hi!

Here on Friend Grief during May, leading up to the next book’s publication, I’ll have a series of posts on people and organizations I’ve met during the research, including Stop Soldier Suicide, American Women Veterans and the National Veterans Art Museum. My hope is that you, too, will be motivated to help them and their cause in whatever way you can.

I’ll also be guest blogging on a number of sites next month, and I’ll share those links with you soon.

Like my books on AIDS and 9/11, there’s a wealth of information out there for people in the military: books, films, organizations doing important work that helps those who have lost a friend in battle. Some are listed in the book, but more will be available here and on my Pinterest page.

In June, I’ll be signing at Printers Row Lit Fest and Chicagoland Authors Promoting Success. If you’re in Chicago either of those weekends, I hope you’ll stop by and meet some terrific writers.

July 1st I’m launching my first email newsletter for my readers. Sign-up info coming soon!

Lastly, and most important, Friend Grief and the Military: Band of Friends will be released on Memorial Day. It will be available, of course, in paperback and e-book. You’ll be able to find it on IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBookstore. I’m pleased to share this synopsis (the cover design will be revealed soon):

“They were killing my friends.”

That was how Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy justified his heroic actions in World War II. As long as there have been wars, men and women in the military have watched their friends die. Experts warn that delaying our grief will complicate our lives. But what about those who have no choice but to delay it until the battle is over?

In Friend Grief and The Military: Band of Friends you’ll meet military and non-combatants who struggle with the grief and guilt of losing their friends. You’ll learn, too, in the amazing ways they help each other, that “leave no one behind” is a life-long commitment.

Like they say, stay tuned. There is more excitement in the works that I can’t wait to share with you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Policing the Grief Police

A couple weeks ago we considered the Grief Police. They’re the people who are more than willing to tell you how to grieve the death of your friend. In fact, they’re probably telling you that you’re making too big a deal out of it.

I asked what people want to hear when a friend dies. It’s not really that different than what anyone who’s grieving wants to hear: a simple “I’m sorry” or “I’m glad to listen if you want to talk about it.”  But those comments require a certain amount of empathy, basic human compassion. And frankly, not everyone is capable of that.

So, how to respond when someone says something stupid like “it’s not like they were family”? I suppose, if you’re like me, your first reaction is to want to smack them. It might even provoke a sudden burst of tears. But in talking to people and thinking back on the times I’ve grieved a friend, I discovered that the answer is really very simple.

If we are to expect respect from others, we must give voice to that respect ourselves. How can we expect others to understand the grief we feel for our friends if we don’t express it? That means we have two very simple things to do:

First, tell your friends you love them. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable saying the L word, but do it anyway. Tell them what a difference they made/make in your life. And tell them while they’re still here, so you don’t have to add a layer of guilt onto your grief when they die.

Second, tell others that you loved your friend. When someone is dismissive of your grief, just say “They were my friend and I loved them. Why wouldn’t I grieve?” If they’re stupid enough to persist with comparisons of those they deem more worthy of your grief, stop them with “I love a lot of people, and many of them are friends.”

The size of our family may be limited; our circle of friends is not. But the loss of one is still deeply felt. And deserves every tear we shed.




Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Friend Grief and Medics

Conlan Carter as
Doc on "Combat!"

Imagine you work in an emergency room. You’re an orderly, maybe – no rank in the pecking order. You might be the only one there to help, or you might have help, but not from a doctor or nurse – there aren’t any. It’s all on you.

Every day – in bursts of activity that last for hours – your workplace is filled with patients. They’re screaming and panicky or very, very still. Some are missing legs or eyes; others have horrific head wounds. The floors are covered with blood and bandages and random pieces of flesh.

You’re trying to be in three places at once; responding to whichever patient you think can be stabilized and moved up to surgery. The people you’re working on are barely out of high school. And you know every one of them.

When we think of medics, we generally think of movies and TV shows. They were (usually) guys who were referred to as “Doc”, even though they weren’t doctors. They were often older than the squads they accompanied. Most of their duties consisted of tending to non-life-threatening injuries.

As I researched my next book, Friend Grief and the Military: Band of Friends, I found amazing stories about medics. Men and women on the front lines, their role has evolved, just as the nature of war has evolved.

I was surprised to learn the following:

Medics are allowed to carry and use weapons in self-defense or in the defense of their patients.

US Navy medical corpsmen have earned 22 Medals of Honor, the highest honor for any member of the military.

One of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima was a medic.

We tend to not think of medical professionals as our friends in civilian life. But the uniqueness of war makes everyone dependent on one another: living in close quarters, traveling together, eating together, and sometimes dying together.

They are in a vulnerable position, not being combatants. They rely on their unit to protect them. Trust must be absolute.

The grief they feel when a soldier in their unit dies can be complicated by guilt at being unable to save their friend, who may have died protecting them. They must also be able to assess why someone died, and learn something from it to use in the future.

I read one book by a doctor who spoke with great gentleness about the medics who served with him. They’re the same age as the guys they’re taking care of – 18, 19, 20 – or maybe a decade younger. They are working against the clock – and battle conditions – to save limbs and organs and lives of the friends who minutes earlier were protecting them. And every day they see things that would bring a civilian emergency room physician to his or her knees.

And they, too, like the others in their unit, rarely have the luxury to grieve immediately. That must wait for later.

You’ll learn more about them and their incredible bravery in my book. But next time you watch a movie or TV show set on the battlefield, think about those medics. Their job was and is a hell of a lot tougher than it looks.