Everyday Inspirations: Beth Bartos

July 11, 2010
I recently met with Beth Bartos at an outdoor restaurant in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland. She courageous shared her story about living life after losing her father from leukemia in 2007.  She was twenty-nine when he passed away.  She found herself in a unfamiliar place; she was suddenly all grown up.
It was a bright, blue-sky afternoon when I met up with Beth at a local outdoor coffee shop located in a high-end “shopping experience” plaza. We settled ourselves on comfortable outdoor furniture with our tasty beverages in hand. Surrounded by blooming flowers and bees, young families shopping for food, and senior citizens walking their dogs, amid the normalcy of everyday life, we whispered our thoughts and feelings about losing our dearest loved ones.
Please share your recent experience with loss in your life.

I had lost extended family throughout my life, but didn’t truly feel grief until my Dad passed away on October 31, 2007. When your inner circle of family and friends leave this Earth, it’s very challenging to live here without them. In July 2007, my 69-year old Dad had quadruple heart by-pass surgery and was on the road to recovery. Later that summer, he took a standard blood test and it came back with a very high white blood cell count. By September, he was diagnosed with the worst kind of leukemia that you could have. He decided to fight it. He had two rounds of chemotherapy, and had to stay in the hospital during that time due to his low immunity. After about four weeks, he was not improving and moved back home for ten days of hospice care. During those last days at home, I got to say everything I needed to say to him. I only wish I could have sat on his lap longer the last time I saw him. 

How did you find inspiration to keep on going?

I had just started a new job as a art teacher the month before he passed. My Dad was an artist to, and this connection inspired me to keep going at my new job. A few good friends at work listened to me when I need support. I can remember experiencing this weird expected time line from society demanding me to “get over this.” Like, it’s been six months and how can you not be back to normal yet! I just learned to take it day by day and keep good friends around me who don’t mind me talking about this when I need to. I now know that the pain changes over time, and I will miss my Dad and him being around me until the day I die. And, that’s o.k.

Would you say this experience with loss has changed you and/or your life?  How and in what ways?

I am now in the “grief club.” I am so much more empathic to anyone who has lost a loved one. Before my dad died, I was naïve. Then, I grew up ten years in one day. Then, stress kicked in and backtracked me. All of that was going on while I was trying to live in a new reality that I didn’t want to be in.   It’s all sounds crazy, but it’s something that you can survive. 

What have you learned from your experience with loss?

One thing I learned is that death is just part of life, and now I feel that I can react to it in a grounded way. I feel like my dad is always with me and it is so important to keep moving forward in my life. Loss will affect me for the rest of my life. People don’t know how to react to it, so I learned to deal with it my own way.

What advice would you share with someone who just has lost a loved one?

Make sure you get a lot of rest and take care of yourself. The shock of your loss will change to other emotions, but don’t be afraid to talk about them. Your loved one will always be with you and there’s a bigger reason why they are not here. Just because he or she is not in human form, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them among the living. 

What advice would you share with someone who is supporting a friend or family member who is grieving?

Be there for that person. Don’t say I’m sorry for your loss. Hold their hand and let them talk. Make that extra phone call in three months, five months, one year from now – after the title wave hits – that’s when your support will mean the most. Know that they will never be done grieving. Don’t shut them up when they start talking about it – even if you heard the same story before. It’s how healing happens and really helps.


Everyday Inspirations interview conducted with Beth Bartos by Michele McBride on July 2, 2010.  All rights reserved.