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January 01, 2013, Tuesday

Grief, crime and punishment: a new year of challenges

December was a month of celebration and fun for many, but not all. Sadly, random shootings, civil war, terrorist attacks and plane crashes have featured in the news.

For me, 2012 was fairly routine and, during the month of December, I began to do some annual reassessing of priorities. As we say in English, I did some “spring cleaning.” I cleaned out a few cupboards to find unused items in good condition to give to those in need. During my time of sorting, I came across my copies of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s major works, “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov.” Both had fallen behind a book shelf.

Some of you this past year have had disappointment, hardship, sorrow and grief. We all wonder what 2013 will bring… Life brings many uncertainties and challenges wherever we are in the world. It has not been that long since I experienced a role reversal in the months before my mother passed away. I can well remember the days when I walked into the care home that had become my mother’s home. As a child, “home” was a place to dwell and feel safety, warmth and love. All the things that made a house a home came from the natural outpouring of love from my mom. The care home where my mother had been admitted was good, but not like being at home. Every day I went to visit my mom there, my heart was sad and I fought back tears as I mentally prepared myself for my visit.

As we enter the beginning of a new year, some of you reading this may be facing the challenges of a role reversal. Coming to terms with this new reality of mothering your own loved one -- be it a father, a mother or a spouse -- is not an easy process. It is hard to believe it when you hear the doctor say the words: “I’m sorry. It is Alzheimer’s.” I will never forget the last few minutes I had with my mom. I gently pushed the door open. She was sitting up in the bed, anxiously waiting for me to come. Her tiny frame was but a shadow in a room alive with the sun’s rays. She knew it was me and we embraced.

This past year has been a struggle for many of you in different ways… Often readers share their problems with me by email. It may be an expat married to a Turk whose marriage is on the verge of a breakup, a mom worried about her teenager abroad or about a relative who drinks too much. We can’t escape problems, but we can learn to cope and manage situations and stress in our lives. Finding the book “Crime and Punishment” made me want to sit down and read it again as I have been distressed about what seems to be an increase in injustice and crime, globally speaking. This classic provides insight into the thought patterns of one who plots to do wrong. We follow someone who is to commit a crime through the planning, execution and aftermath.

Today, we have criminal psychologists and other specialists who try to understand the thinking of those in the world who torture and kill innocent people, especially school children. Their job is not an easy task.

With “The Brothers Karamazov,” I think we can gain insight into the minds of those who are disturbed and distressed. It is a fabulous book of psychology in novel style. The book’s hero wrestles with a new idea he thinks will elevate him in society. However, a barrier has to be crossed which takes him on an irreversible course… We live with the decisions we make. You must read the book, as Dostoyevsky presents the reader with the rich psychological development of his characters, who are complexly human yet reachable.

One thing is for sure about 2013: The world is full of injustice and unfairness. Lives are more complicated and people more complex. I have been asked on occasion if I ever struggle with feeling overwhelmed by the stories I hear or in helping the people who come to me. I would be deceitful if I said no, but I can say at the same time that I am privileged to be invited into the private, confidential inner world of another human being who has read my column or one of my books and share their struggles.

I want to start 2013 telling every reader that you are unique and special. I have great respect for the strength, resilience and courage I uncover in the people I meet through my work.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” -- author unknown

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]

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