Baby Steps

I’ve heard that the death of a mate and the ensuing grief change a person, and perhaps this is true. If one is part of a couple, when he dies, so does the “we.” One cannot be the same after such a splitting apart. The world one lives in cannot be the same.

I feel like a toddler, taking shaky steps in this newly alien and dangerous world. I exercised this morning, took my vitamins with a protein drink, wrote a letter to my deceased mate (the only writing besides blogging I am doing at the moment), and I took a walk. I even managed to eat. The one thing I had never expected was how the thought of his being gone makes me sick to my stomach. When I do eat, I eat healthy, though. I got rid of all snacks a while back, so all that’s in the house is real food.

All these baby steps that I’m taking serve to take me further away from him, deeper into  . . . I don’t know what. I  just wish I could skip the coming months of pain and go directly to the part where I emerge strong, wise, confident, and capable of handling anything. But, ironically, those painful months will be the catalyst.

I never planned to talk about my grief. I thought I would just continue online as if nothing cataclysmic happened offline, but blogging seems to be in my blood. Once I started writing about my grief, I worried that I would become maudlin, but Donna Russell, a true friend on facebook, said:

You’re not being maudlin, Pat; you’re grieving. There is no right or wrong way to do it, no proper time period for it to last, no right or wrong way to feel. I just finished reading The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood by Nadine Rosin. In her book, Nadine makes this observation: “We are so careful in this culture to ignore death and anything associated with it as much as possible; it is so uncomfortable for us to have it in the open. Grief is such an isolating experience in and of itself, it’s a shame that our mores about it are so quick to support and intensify that isolation.” Perhaps if we were all more open and honest about it, as you are being, it wouldn’t be quite so uncomfortable.

16 Responses to “Baby Steps”

  1. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    Not only death but also life changes us, too. We go from being an individual, to a couple, to a family. Our focus changes depending on the stage and we are indeed different in each one. In a sense there is a “beginning again” in each one. Not every beginning is one we would choose, but even in darkness there is the promise of a new day coming.

    Pat, I’ve appreciated your honest sharing here, and on my blog you’ll find I’ve sent you an award:

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Carol, thank you for your words, the award, and the reminder that even in darkness there is the promise of a new day coming. I hadn’t realized it until today, but I am experiencing a bit of survivor’s guilt. Why should I have that promise, when he never will? That idea will fade in time, or perhaps I will just get used to the unfairness that even though he is gone, I am not.

  2. knightofswords Says:

    I remember how grief always seems to be postponed by practicalities–I think you mentioned these already, the paperwork, the decisions that must be made.

    Then, one day, all the funerals and memorial services end, people stop bringing casseroles to the door, they start catching your eye on the street again because as time passes they think it’s safe to do so.

    What they do not know is that now, after life is settling back down into it’s normal pace, there’s time to grieve, and now the feelings are sharper and stronger just when others are talking about how well he or she is coping with death and getting back into the swing of things as though all the unpleasantness has been swept under the rug.

    I do think that after each of my parents died, I felt stronger about their passing a year later than when I first got the news. I didn’t have a blog in those days, but it would have helped me to talk about things I never talk about as I took my first baby steps.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Malcolm, after less than three weeks, people are already starting to forget, are already expecting me to be ready to move on. My grief gets sharper with each day, however, yet oddly enough, I get more used to being bereft. I just accept that I will feel queasy, panicked, sad, angry, and tearful. I’m also getting used to being sandbagged at least once a day by an errant memory or the sight of an object that meant something to him. I’m also getting a bit nervous when I think of continuing to write about this horrendous and devastating experience. I keep expecting people to say, “get over it already.”

      • Sue Bedoyan Says:

        Dear Pat, have only just come across your blog, been widowed since Aug 23rd 2013, have been on other sites but find yours seems to make some sort of sense of this tragic journey. I see you were widow in 2010, please tell me that the pain eases, we were married for 44 years and together for nearly 50. In some ways things are easier and in others so desperately raw. Many thanks. Sue

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I’m sorry about your loss, Sue. At three and a half years, things did start getting easier for me, mostly because I started taking dance classes, which helped push me in a different direction. But grief was still very raw. People think the further you get from your shared life that things will automatically get easier, but the problem is, the further away you get, the longer he’s been gone, and that goneness accumulates. The miracle is that it does get easier, but you are changed forever. It’s been six and a half years for me, and although I still have grief upsurges and sometimes give in to self-pitying tears when other non-grief related setbacks occur, I am pretty much back to “normal” whatever that is. I still feel the hole, but more like a tooth that’s missing rather than a heart or soul that’s missing. And I miss him. Always.

  3. joylene Says:

    It’s good that you’re able to write and express yourself. That will be good for you for so many reasons. I wasn’t able and I think that made it more difficult. Then again, who knows, really.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joylene, I’m hoping the writing, especially the private stream of consciousness writing I do every day, will help me put our thirty-four years — the wonderful and the prosaic — into perspective. This grief, or at least the constant sense of his not being here, will be with me forever, and I need to find a way to make that a part of me so I can somehow find the strength to live.

  4. Sheila Deeth Says:

    My Mum tells me you never “get over” losing someone. Their absence just becomes part of what their presence always meant, deepening its meaning in memory and empowering you to move on. Years later, she says they’re still baby steps, and its still all too easy to trip up.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sheila, your comment is both comforting and disconcerting. It’s nice to know that eventually my memory of him and what he meant to me will help empower me to move on. But it’s not so nice knowing that I will probably be tripping up years from now. At least I am forewarned.

  5. dancingaroundthetable Says:

    Thank you, Pat, for sharing what you’re going through and for not being afraid to talk about your grief.
    My dad died suddenly a year and a half ago and I still don’t think I’ve given my emotions the respect and attention they deserve. I’ve always been very introverted so talking about feelings is hard to begin with, I get very tongue tied. My friends are all in their twenties and most have not really dealt with loss in their own lives yet. I feel like the window to discuss my grief has long passed and bringing it up seems to make people uncomfortable. But the sense of something huge missing from my life is still so strong and so, so strange. The idea that my dad is not alive anymore is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and I have to convince myself it is true.
    I find the physicality of grief seems to allude words, though I’ve put my journal through many attempts, I can’t seem to find the proper word combination to express the panic, fear, longing etc.
    Anyway, my point (though I definitely took the scenic route in getting to it) is that reading through your entries puts my mind more at ease, calms the racing thoughts because you are very good at putting some of the thoughts racing around into words.
    I’m sorry that you have to be going through what you’re going through. I hope you know that blogging about it is helping many people find some comfort/companionship and to feel less strange.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I know what you mean abut feeling that the window to discuss your grief has passed, but it hasn’t. Truly. I know your friends and family may not be comfortable listening to you, so perhaps a grief group? Or stop by here any time. I will listen. I know how hard this is. Probably the hardest thing many of us will ever have to deal with.

  6. Dennis Says:

    I am 16 months out. How will I make 3 years

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I do not know how you will do it. I don’t know how any of us who were where you are now did it. But somehow we endure. And as impossible as it seems, you will too. I wish I had an answer for you, but there is no answer. I am so very sorry you have to go through this.

  7. Dennis Says:

    They say I am doing better. They aren’t seeing me today. I am 16 ish months out and being washed over by 80 foot waves. The first year was all numb. A cheerful façade presented. I steeled myself for all the firsts. Now come the seconds. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Her birthday, 60th. Valentines Day. All in the next three months. I even tried dating to show myself that I was doing and coping better. I want to be doing better than I am. I don’t know how I am going to get through the next year, 3 years, 10 years. I saw the phrase “solitude in no longer sweet”. Boy, does that hit the nail on the head. All the times and places I used to take and seek solitude from the race are now just empty, lonely, and sad. I am still visiting the anger, blame, sad, bargaining stages. Almost a year and a half and I hope to see her in the kitchen when I get home. All the family and friends activities tell me she isn’t here.

    To all of you that can relate, I say prayers and wish you the strength to endure. That’s our charge from and for the ones we love but can no longer physically embrace.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s no real comfort, but often the second year is the hardest for the very reason you mentioned — that the numbness is gone. By now, everyone else has stopped mourning, and can’t understand why you still are in the same place, which makes it hard. Also, we cling to that first year anniversary as if things will magically be better, but afterward, the truth sets in … again … that they are never coming back, and it about kills you. but it doesn’t kill us. just makes us impossibly sad. And yes, this time of year will always be hard because she will never be there. But someday, you will have a day where you can think of her without pain. And then another day. Not much help, is it? but you already know that. if you haven’t yet done so, check out my grief posts for the second year. (click on ‘Archives, grief posts’ at the top of the blog.) Sometimes it helps to know that others understand what you are feeling. And we who have been there do understand, and I am so very sorry for your pain and her death. If you ever need to ‘talk’, feel free to leave a comment, and I will get back to you.

      Wishing you peace during these next painful months.

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