In her new book Feeling Joy Again: Finding Your Light in Your Darkest Times, Lynnette Otero provides comfort and hope to those who are in the middle of turmoil in their lives. While she tells her personal story of the loss of her husband and her journey through grief, the advice and tools she offers could help anyone in any situation that includes coping with a loss, depression, disappointment, or facing other obstacles and adversities that make people feel like giving up on life.
Lynnette divides the book into three sections. The first, "Till Death Do Us Part," tells the story of how she met her wonderful husband, the life they had together, and then how her husband was diagnosed with cancer that sent their world into a tailspin. The section ends with Lynnette caring for her husband through his illness until his death. In the second section "The Fallout," Lynnette describes her journey of grief and pain and how difficult it often was just to get from day to day, especially while raising her blended family of children as a single mother. The last section "Feeling Joy Again" gives practical advice for moving beyond grief, disappointment, or depression, and reclaiming your life.
At times, especially in the second section, Feeling Joy Again dreams devoid of joy as Lynnette details some of her darkest moments dealing with her grief. These pages can be difficult to read, yet I found it admirable that Lynnette was completely honest about the emotions she experienced as she grieved. She describes how friends and family were there for her, but she does not hold back from discussing the harder parts of the journey. At times, a loved one would say the wrong thing, sometimes even a hurtful thing-whether intended or not-that would send her into more pain and agony. Sometimes, people were judgmental of her because of her excess grief that they could not understand; sometimes, they made seemingly innocent comments that she took the wrong way or that they did not understand could be hurtful. Lynnette exposes the pain she felt when some people did not give her the comfort or solace she would have expected from them. She describes the difficulty of watching her children grieve and the helplessness she felt when her own grief was so powerful that she could not be there to comfort them. She relates how hard it was to meet new people, to explain her reactions to people who did not know what she had gone through, and how at times she would just burst into tears because the small thing set her off.
The raw emotions Lynnette conveys will resonate with those who have experienced similar pain and grief; however, Lynnette also realizes that at times the pain she endured may be difficult for readers to bear so she has provided the option for readers to skip over the second section and offers a summary at the end of it so people can get cooked up quickly if they find it too hard to read before moving into the third section that offers helpful tools for returning to a state of joy.
A lot of practical advice follows in the third section about how to return to a normal life. Lynnette is honest with readers that life can never be like it was before tragedy stuck, but that happy memories take the place of painful ones, and life does go on. Lynnette describes watching her children grow up; she sees how they cope with their pain; she even asked them to write down their own memories of their father and how they felt as he was dying and in the years after his loss-memories that she shares in the book. These chapters from her children’;s perspectives will be very helpful for other children and teenagers to read who are dealing with loss so they know they are not alone; these chapters also will help adults to understand what the children in their lives may be feeling after experiencing a loss. Additional topics in this section include learning how to love yourself, finding hope, reclaiming faith, and supporting others.
Ultimately, Lynnette makes it clear that life does go on. Whatever pain exists in the past, we have to move forward, and our loved ones, both living and those who have left us, would not want us to do anything but to go on living. Toward the end of the book, she states:
"I’;ve heard it said that you have to accept where you are in life to move forward. Through time, I gradually cave up on hoping to get back to the person I was. would be different. Our family dynamic was forever changed. No repeat experience would be the same. I had to embrace where we were to find joy again. your heart in the moment because it is all you are guaranteed. When the feelings or the past creep in, accept and embrace them for the part of the human condition they are, but keep your eyes firmly fixed on your bright and beautiful future. "
Lynnette knows she will always grieve for her husband, but also that there is a lot of life in front of her and she will have many joy-filled days in her future. The same is true for any reader going through a difficult situation-in time the pain does heal. Reading Feeling Joy Again can help people move toward healing because it is written by someone who has been there, understands the pain, and has found the light after the darkness.