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The light at the end of the tunnel


Cosette Bonjour has learned many life lessons.

In her 20s, the Kapoho resident was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and suffered the loss of her father. Years later, she became a widow — twice.

And if there’s one thing she’s learned through the years, it’s life is precious.

“By losing someone when they’re young, you realize we could be here for a long time, and we could also be gone tomorrow. You really don’t have any idea. You cherish your relationships more and really are present with people,” she said.

Now, at age 61, she was portrayed smiling ear-to-ear in a recent AARP photoshoot where she was one of seven people selected out of 6,000 nationwide for the magazine’s Faces of 50+ Real People Model Search. She’s using her life experiences to help other individuals dealing with grief as she works to become a certified life coach.

“I think I might be especially helpful because I’ve been through it twice,” she said. “I just feel like I have something to offer, certainly people with cancer, too.”

Her path to understanding grief started when her first husband died at age 38. She began writing in a journal to help cope with the loss, and recognized certain thought patterns that made her feel as if she was riding an emotional roller coaster.

“It’s cyclical. Some days you start to feel better and other days it’s not good at all. There’s ups and downs to it and that’s part of the process,” she said. “There’s anger and denial, especially because both times for me it was a sudden death.

“At first, life seems very surreal. It’s hard to imagine that things are continuing and moving on when you feel like you’re in a space where everything has stopped,” she said. “You’re in a place, and it’s hard to believe that this has happened. We all know we all die, but I think, underneath it, we think we won’t. I do think the first part is the most difficult.”

It was in those moments of self-reflection Bonjour said she learned valuable lessons about grief, which helped guide her through the loss of her second husband when he died of a heart attack at 54.

“The truth is, when it happened to me for the second time, it was no less shocking or traumatic. I think that because I’d been through the process before, I knew I’d come out of it. I knew it would be OK and that there was light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

With plans to complete a training program with life coach mentor Alan Cohen in Maui next year, Bonjour hopes to pass along her understanding of grief, loss and life to her future clients and friends by being a supportive and active listener.

“We have a certain innate knowledge of what is best for us. I’m just someone to give them feedback about what they’re seeing and who they are,” she said.

And to remind others no matter what you’re going through, to always remember what there is to be grateful for in life.

“What can I be happy for today? The sun is out. It’s beautiful and warm. The more time you spend in that space of appreciation and gratitude, however you can get there, the more you bring that into your life,” she said.

Read Bonjour’s AARP interview at www.aarp.org/entertainment/style-trends/info-11-2013/aarp-model-search-w....

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com

 

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