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Conquering grief with words

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In 2000 Afton resident Diane Dettmann went through one of the hardest times of her life -- the death of her husband.

"Our marriage for 28 years was just the two of us," she said. " We were totally intertwined and madly in love with each other.

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"When he passed away it was the most devastating loss of my life -- I did not want to be in this life on this earth without him."

Dettmann eventually rose out of her grief to put her life back together, and eventually remarried.

Dettmann tells her story of grief and rebuilding her life in her new book titled "Twenty Eight Snow Angels: A Widow's Story of Love, Loss and Renewal." The book was released Aug. 16.

"It's a memoir," she said. "It's about rebuilding my life after the death of my husband. There's a focus on coming back into life and finding meaning again after a devastating loss."

A hard process

"Twenty Eight Snow Angels" has been in the works for the past eleven years when Dettmann began journalling her thoughts and feelings after the death of her husband.

However the book didn't really gain any steam until 2008 when Dettmann traveled to the LaHoya Reader's Conference.

Dettmann has previously released a non-fiction book about the life of her aunt who emigrated from Finland.

"I've always been interested in personal stories," she said. "I just think people can learn a lot from reading about other people's lives."

During the conference Dettmann pitched the idea of writing a book about her grief.

"They said it had some potential," she said.

Dettmann began writing the book by revisiting her roughly 20 notebooks that she used to journal in after her husband's death.

"Part of the process was going through every notebook, which is hard because it triggered the feelings back and the memories," she said. "It brought back the loss so deeply."

During the process Dettmann connected with several memoir writers and read books about memoir writing.

"It's a laborious process," she said.

Dettmann said she went through several drafts and several titles. At one point Dettmann considered writing the book in third person.

"I almost quit several times because it's such a personal story and you reveal a lot of your inner self in the book," she said. "It was a very hard book to write."

But she said the book-writing process became almost cathartic because it helped her revisit her sadness from a further removed perspective.

"It made me realize how difficult the grief was," she said. "For people who have gone through grief, it's with you a lot of times forever.

"Grief is a hard process -- it takes time and energy."

Dettmann said her book isn't without humor. Sprinkled throughout the book are anecdotes of Dettmann's struggles with home improvement projects, financial challenges, starting a new job and re-entering the world of dating.

"It's about the everyday person going through this process of losing a loved one suddenly and trying to redefine themselves and get back into life," she said.

Rebuilding a life

Dettmann said she hopes readers can connect to her book whether they have dealt with the loss of husband, a child, a parent or if they are even going through a divorce.

Dettmann said she hopes her book can provide hope to those who have dealt with loss that they can come back from it.

"I hope they get some sense of hope and that they get inspired to keep going," she said. "I want them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Starting over has its challenges, but with determination you can get through them -- that's the strength and the resiliency of the human spirit."

Diane Dettmann's book "Twenty Eight Snow Angels: A Widow's Story of Love, Loss and Renewal" can be purchased on Barnes and Noble's website and is available in both paperback, and e-Book, on Amazon.com.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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