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A Journey from Loss to Hope

Posted on August 01 2013

A Journey from Loss to Hope
My name is Elizabeth Berrien. By the age of twenty-seven I had already experienced life as a widow. What brought me to creating a space for other women in a similar situation of heartache and upheaval (Soul Widows), was the sudden and unexpected death of my late husband Brian, on August 14th, 2009. He was only thirty-one years old – a Special Forces soldier serving in Afghanistan. He was wounded by enemy fire, and the injury to his head was too severe to be able to save him. His last breath was taken half a world away from me, and I heard about it over the telephone, hours after the injury had occurred. 

Even before the life-changing call, I had felt a difference in the earlier minutes of that day. There was a stillness and emptiness that was heavy in the air. It’s as though I could feel his thoughts had dissipated. I knew something did not feel right. As the time began to reach 4pm in the evening, the warmth of the sun could not even begin to touch my nervous, unsteady heart. The palpitations grew to a fast raging pummel of waves the moment I received the words that Brian was wounded. The man’s voice seemed light at first, as if he were calling to give me a friendly convenience call, to check in on how my daughter and I were doing. And then the words came out. 

Time slowed intensely as I tried to make sense of his perfectly pronounced English words. What language was he speaking? My knees buckled, but I moved through it and began pacing in circles. My late husband had been severely injured, and they were requesting that his family be at his side.

They flew him into Landstuhl, Germany, where the best medical care is…the best doctors. My heart was pounding through my ears. I couldn’t think and hear my heart at the same time. My body was in shock. The word "widow" began slowly seeping through my brain. I couldn’t possibly be one of those. Brian promised me he would be safe, that any injuries would be temporary. That he would come home. He was supposed to be home in five and a half months. He had only been there for six weeks. I thought that if he heard my voice, I might be able to save him. But I could not save him. After a torturous flight to Germany, all I could do was sit by his side, hold his hand, and look at this man who was always so intensely full of life.  I barely ate for four or five days. I had to leave our seven-month-old daughter behind with family, so that I could travel to see her daddy pass from this world. A man she would now only remember through pictures, videos, the voicemails I had saved, and the stories I would later tell. I felt injured, beaten-up, lifeless, paralyzed…dead. I literally saw my life pass before my eyes. 

Since this life transformation, I have become a warrior in my own right. I have fought to the greatest depths of my soul to revive my spirit. That is why I am here today, wanting to give all that I have to support other women, men, and children who have suffered, struggled, and continue to live each day with a loss that is going to forever be a part of us; continually shaping, molding, challenging……and I hope eventually inspiring us. We, in the most painful manner, know the fragility of life. The temporary state of being in this world. Nothing ever remains the same. There is a constant shift happening that we have no control over. Every day is my constant effort to surrender. I have allowed myself to be held by a community of other women in extreme pain (my widowed friends) - all at different stages of their grief. I have allowed myself to be held by the suffering of all those on this planet. Now, I have made it my life’s mission to provide solace, support, and physical and mental health resources to assist others traveling 

the journey of loss. 


Elizabeth is the author of Creative Grieving: A Hip Chick's Path from Loss to Hope (