Working through the Grief: Guest Post by Betty Bolté

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Inspiration for my debut novel, Traces (Ghosts of Roseville Book 1), came from several sources combining in my imagination into one poignant story. One thread of the inspiration came from considering how a woman might react when her boyfriend/lover/fiancé died saving her life, a situation I heard about after the shooting at the movie theater in Colorado when Dark Knight released years ago. How would I feel if I were in the young woman’s shoes?

I’m no stranger to grief. I’ve watched both of my parents die: my mom from breast cancer that spread to her throat and stomach, and my dad from Binswanger’s disease which affects the brain and causes imbalance and dementia among other symptoms. I was also in the hospital room when they turned off the life support for my dear mother-in-law several years ago. Thinking of that moment still brings a knot to my throat, pressing and choking me. There have been many other relatives and friends throughout my life who have passed, thankfully most from natural causes not accidents or violence.

LSB Cover Art Template for PhotoShopMy main character, Meredith, however, lost her husband and unborn child in a random shooting. Her husband shielded her, but he was shot and killed. As he slumped, she was shot, killing the fetus. I don’t know for certain just how I’d react to this situation personally. There’s likely be anger and searing pain in my heart. When I think about how I’d feel if I lost my own husband, it’s a terrible sadness that grips me. But Meredith is a trained architect and she has her own plan for how to work through her grief and move on:

             Meredith Reed glared at the plantation home she’d inherited from a grandmother she only vaguely recalled and plotted its demise. A pair of ancient live oaks, the inspiration for the Twin Oaks name, guarded either side of the sprawling two-story brick dwelling, providing shade and funneling cool air through the house. Sunlight filtered through the Spanish moss draped on the massive limbs. Meredith raised one hand to shield the glare as she scanned the façade. The architect in her appreciated the symmetry of the Greek Revival style as well as the quality workmanship of the brickwork, but neither aspect added value for the salvage companies.

            First, she’d dismantle it one piece at a time, removing anything of value and selling it off quickly to whomever had the money to buy it. She studied the once-elegant antebellum house, its wide front steps missing a brick here and there, its six elaborate Corinthian columns and intricately carved woodwork surrounding the double doors. The property description listed ten bedrooms, four bathrooms dating from the early twentieth century, a gourmet kitchen, two parlors, an upstairs ballroom, and several outbuildings. Despite the building’s grand scale, the house was too small to warrant using dynamite to implode. Damn. But she could visualize a nice, hot fire licking up the exterior. Yes, a fire would serve the purpose of bringing it down. …

            Why on Earth had her grandmother, whom she hadn’t seen in nearly thirty years, chosen her to receive the grandiose house that stood for everything she would never have? The family she could never have? Pain combined with a deep-seated longing blossomed in her chest. Three front steps led up to a brick porch with its immense white columns announcing to passersby that the building was more than a house. Unlike the small, boxy ranchers and nondescript houses they’d passed on the drive to the plantation, this structure cried out for a large family. Her parents had often carried her and her sister Paulette from Memphis to visit Grandma when she was a young child. Back when love and laughter echoed through the many rooms. The huge yard, graced with several shade trees—the site of barbecues and softball games, with the extended family arguing over who potentially cheated or whooping with glee when a good shot was made—now stood silent, accusing her of neglect and indifference.

            So be it. She stiffened her spine. She would not wallow in self-pity nor give in to the temptation to hug her arms around her waist and cry. She squinted at the glare from the windows nestled into the brick walls, noting the ivy climbing up one front corner. Willy would want her to move on, build a new life, but she couldn’t. Not yet. Even after five years, the grief and anger stewed in her brain, sizzled in her veins, and throbbed in her heart. But soon Twin Oaks would help her define the path to alleviate the pain. She’d finally struck on a course of action that would assuage her turmoil, thanks to the surprising inheritance. She’d bury her grief through the catharsis of a fresh beginning by returning the once-beautiful but now decaying plantation to nature. Let the land heal her, as her grandmother had long ago told Meredith their Irish ancestors believed, though perhaps not in the way she meant.

Of course, her family and Max, the handsome estate attorney who also specializes in preservation law, disagree with her plans. Max, in particular, is aghast and angry she’d even contemplate doing such a thing to a historic property.

For me, working through my grief is a matter of time and writing. I also keep several treasured items that belonged to my parents and mother-in-law. Pictures my mother cross-stitched or embroidered. My dad’s pool cue in its special case, a reminder of the many times we played pool and sipped beers together. I often wear a small silver band on my right pinky finger, the wedding band of my mother-in-law’s biological mother. Wearing it helps me feel even more connected to her.

It’s never easy to be the survivor, the person still alive when a loved one passes. When the loss comes suddenly, as it did for Meredith, it’s all the more difficult to find your way through what I think of as the tunnel of grief, eventually seeing the light in the distance and able to appreciate walking in the sunshine once more. How do you handle grief and working through it?

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About Traces

Meredith Reed, a forty-year-old architect turned demolition expert, desperately searches for the means to bury her grief. When she inherits her family’s historic plantation home in Tennessee, she decides to start anew by razing the antebellum house and replacing it with a memorial garden.  A plan met with outrage from her family and her grandmother’s estate lawyer.

James Maximillian “Max” Chandler needs two things to complete his life plan: become a senior partner and find his soul mate. He’s been promised a promotion once his proposed legislation to protect all of the county’s historic properties is approved. The wife part he finds more challenging, having never met the right woman in all of his forty-six years. If only the talented and attractive Meredith weren’t so aloof toward him and didn’t want to destroy the very property he’s grown to cherish.

Meanwhile, Meredith’s estranged sister moves in and refuses to leave. The memories of their childhood spent there causes turmoil between them. And while Meredith struggles to reconcile her past and her future, she learns a lesson from the spectral Lady in Blue that may save both her family and the family home from destruction.

About Betty Bolté

Betty Bolte-July 2013Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories that feature strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. No matter whether the stories are set in the past or the present, she loves to include a touch of the paranormal. Traces is a contemporary romantic women’s fiction novel set in a haunted plantation home in Tennessee, scheduled for release on April 28, 2014. Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure (2012) is a collection of short historical fiction based on the real-life achievements of 19 American girls in the 19th century, each with a landmark in the United States of America. The first edition won Honorable Mention in the 2003 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards and 2000 Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, while the 2012 edition won the 2014 Literary Classics Seal of Approval.. She’s the author of several nonfiction books and currently marketing a romantic historical fiction trilogy.

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  • Linda Joyce

    Betty,
    I’ll be digging into Traces soon. Congrats on this release! I look for many more to come.
    Smiles,
    Linda Joyce