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Sarah Bullen on writing 'Love and Above'

27 March 2022 - 00:00 By sarah bulllen
Sarah Bullen has written about her fascinating journey of self-rediscovery and reinvention after coming out of a coma and losing her husband.
Sarah Bullen has written about her fascinating journey of self-rediscovery and reinvention after coming out of a coma and losing her husband.
Image: Supplied

I had no name. No attachments. No family. No form. No purpose. I was a floating, formless, light being. Totally at peace in the vast, beautiful space.  In the real world I was dying. I was admitted into hospital with respiratory failure at age 34, in an induced coma, on life support and fighting for my life. My big publishing job abandoned, my young children alone and my life suddenly vacated. At the same time my filmmaker husband, at just 41, was dying in another bed just 10kms down the road. He had been fighting brain cancer for four years. He had fought it with surgery and medicine, and alternative medicine. He was deep along the path of becoming a sangoma.

“Write about it,” everyone had said during those long four crazy years as I entertained them with our wild ceremonies and rituals in the Botswana bush. I was a best-selling author, journalist and literary agent. I was a writer. But I couldn’t. It was too private.

But we were at the end of his fight. He was dying — just nobody expected me to be dying too. 

He was going to lose his battle, but I wasn’t about to lose mine.  At that stage I had been in a coma for so long I had a 10% chance of survival. I was 20kgs lighter, being fed intravenously. I just didn’t know how to come back. I had been in a coma for so long and I didn’t know how to get back home, into my body.

Love and Above: A Journey into Shamanism, Coma and Joy by Sarah Bullen is published by Tafelberg.
Love and Above: A Journey into Shamanism, Coma and Joy by Sarah Bullen is published by Tafelberg.
Image: Supplied

But after all those weeks of my soul travelling I had my first clear, distinct and real thought. It cut through like a beacon calling me. Come home, it said. It was this thought that drove me for the next week until I finally woke up back in my body, but not before I got a message to bring back.

Waking up from a coma is not a singular event. It is a process of fighting your way out and into consciousness, and then slipping back under. Three days after I came out of the coma, my husband died.

“You HAVE to write about it,” everyone said. But I couldn’t write this.   

I had to learn to walk again, talk again, think again and then get on with the job of being a mom. I lost all my hair. It took me years to reconnect all my neural pathways. I was carrying all my otherworldly secrets with me. Sometimes at night I would just close my eyes and feel myself shooting through the universe again. One phrase kept haunting me that I was given in that soul space. So strange and foreign and frankly unwelcome.

Have more fun.

The instruction I was given, was an answer, a blessing and a message all at the same time. I just didn’t know how to live it. But I knew I had to.

Fun meant moving away from fear and dread and into something else. I was looking for it.

I couldn’t listen to “sensible advice”. That had no real place in my life anymore. I had to listen to something bigger, deeper and wiser.  It was not shouting “be safe”. It was shouting “be wild”. So, I decided to rewrite my life story and life into a new one. I pulled both my small children out of school, I rented out my safe and comfortable house. l left everything I knew and  moved to a small Greek island, slap bang in the middle of winter. Did I speak Greek? No. Did I know anyone there? No. Was there any logic? No. It was radical and ridiculous, reckless and stupid — and possibly the finest thing I could ever have done.   


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