Michael L. Thal, an accomplished freelancer, is the author of The Koolura Series, Goodbye Tchaikovsky, and The Abduction of Joshua Bloom. He has written and published over 80 articles for magazines and newspapers including Highlights for Children, The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Family Magazine. You can learn more about him at his website or contact him at michaelthal@sbcglobal.net

Michael lives in Encino, CA. He’s the proud father of two adult daughters, Channie (who is also a HOPE therapist) and Koren, and the grandfather of Arielle, Shaye and Jordan.

Grief is part of us, for we’ve all experienced the loss of a loved one. I first experienced this emotion when my grandmother died when I was 10. Later in life my beloved uncle passed away, then my father and a decade later, my mom. I dealt with those losses and moved on, though memories of their lives are still a profound influence on me today. The most difficult loss, however, was the passing of my wife, Jila, who died three years ago from stage four-colon cancer.

Men's grief

Like me, Jila was deaf. We depended on each other for laughter, love and mutual support with American Sign Language as our primary method of communication. As my sister-in-law Julie often observed, “Jila and Michael are joined at the hip.”

When Jila died I was in shock, even though I had five years of warning since her initial diagnosis. But I remained hopeful that a miracle would prevail. It didn’t.

According to David Kessler and Elizabeth Kubler Ross in their book, On Grief and Grieving, there are five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Channie Amato, LMFT, Art Therapist, puts it in perspective, “The stages don’t occur in an orderly progression. Grief affects each individual differently.”

Normally a highly motivated individual, I sank into a sea of depression. What could I do to get out of this funk? A year after Jila’s passing I decided to write a book about her life.

Jila inspired me with her determination, love of life and angelic smile. She helped me with my five young adult novels with her unique perspective on life. In “The Lip Reader,” the working title of my sixth novel, I’m writing Jila’s story as she told it to me during our 16 years together. It’s a difficult procedure, but writing about her extraordinary life permits me to bring her back during the writing process.

We each deal with grief in different ways. But almost no one can handle it by keeping that grief bottled up inside of them. The best advice I’ve heard is to reach out to others, know you’re not alone and share your grief. This act alone will open the floodgates to the pleasant memories you never want to forget about your loved one.