Six months ago my life mate — my soul mate — died of kidney cancer, and my life changed forever. I survived the first excruciating weeks, and now I am learning to live with his absence and finding ways of going on by myself, but it’s lonely. So few people know how to act around the bereft, and they end up offering us maxims that bring no comfort because the adages are simply not true.
People tell us that time heals. Time does not heal. We heal. Grief helps us heal. Time does nothing. Time doesn’t even pass — we pass through time like persons passing through an endless desert.
People tell us that we’ll get over our loss, but when you have suffered a soul-quaking loss, you never totally get over it. Nor do you want to. Getting over it seems like a betrayal, a negation of the life you shared. The best you can do is eventually accept the person’s absence as a part of your life.
People tell us to on with life. They don’t understand that this is our life. Grief is how we get on with it.
Grief is not the problem. The problem is that our loved one died. Grief is the way we deal with that loss, the way we process it, the way we heal the wound of amputation. By experiencing the pain, by allowing ourselves to feel the loss, we honor our loved one and our relationship, and gradually we move through the pain to . . . to what? I’m not sure what lies on the other side of grief. I’ve passed the worst of the pain but not yet arrived at a new way of living.
During these past six months, I’ve been inundated with information about how to deal with grief. I purposely refrained from reading the material, which is strange for me — I’ve always been one who researches everything — but I didn’t want to know the accepted way to grieve. I wanted to experience my own grief without the current fad getting in the way. It used to be that grief was a regimented experience — one wore black and mourned for a year. More recently, the “stages of grief’ became the accepted way of grieving, though now there are various new ways of thinking about grief. The truth is, grief is personal, and except for the extremes of not allowing oneself to feel anything and trying to find ways of dying so you can join your loved one, however you grieve, that is the right way to grieve.
Grief makes even friends and family uncomfortable, so eventually the bereft learn to hide what they feel. They stop talking about their loved one, but they never forget.
I will never forget.
He will always live in my memory.
September 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm
Pat, yours is a solitary journey, but I, like so many of your friends, support you along its winding path. The conventional wisdom is often wrong about so many things. We each need to find our own strategies for dealing with massive change in our lives.
September 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm
James, I started with the internet as a way to promote my books. After he died, I lost that promotional momentum, but I’ve gained true friends. Thank you.
September 27, 2010 at 8:15 pm
Oh, Pat, everything you say is so true. “Time” does not exist during grief and the people around you don’t understand you’re living in a type of suspended animation. Today, a friend remarked, “You’ve changed.” I didn’t bother with a reply
September 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm
Jan, The only thing that makes this journey bearable is the new friends one makes along the way, friends who do understand what you’re going through. I wish neither one of us had to experience such loss, but I’m glad to have met you.
September 28, 2010 at 3:45 pm
Thank you for blogging…I feel like you are writing what I feel. My soul mate passed away in July after his 3 year journey with multiple myeloma and last week we would have celebrated our 31st wedding anniversay. Some days I don’t know how to go on, and right now the hardest part is that everyone else’s life goes on and mine is still turned upside down. I made a black ribbon that I wear over my heart, just to remind people that I am not who I once was…some people get it, others don’t. I’m thankful for blogs like yours…
September 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm
Karen, I am so sorry. Two months is no time at all when it comes to grief. You’re right — one of the hard things is seeing that everyone else’s life goes on as before while we struggle to find a reason to get up in the morning.
I hope you don’t mind that I am shedding tears for you as I write this.
September 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm
We all grieve in a different ways. That’s our right as human beings because we are not robots. Nor can any person put a timeline on our feelings. We actually cannot precisely know our own self of the moment or the hour that own pain will subside or if it will ever feel okay again. I commend you for the fact that you can acknowledge the grief and express your feelings. The pain of losing a partner or a child or even anyone that you truly loved is mind boggling because it opens a door to so many new thoughts and fears inside us. Do not fear or allow yourself to be so engulfed by the loneliness or even the feelings of emptiness. Do you think that he would, at this moment want you to hurt like this? Nothing will ever be able to erase the memories. Savor in knowing that.
September 28, 2010 at 1:42 pm
Lauren, I know he would not want me to hurt, but I also know that if I were the one who died, he’d feel just as bereft as I do. You are so right to caution about not allowing oneself to be engulfed by the feelings of emptiness. I have tried to embrace my grief without shutting myself off (which is why I blog about it) because I want to make sure that in the future I can also embrace whatever joys might come my way.
Thank you for your wise comments.
September 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm
beautifully put as usual Pat.
September 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm
Thank you, Leesis. What a strange talent I have developed — to talk eloquently about grief.
September 28, 2010 at 5:24 pm
yeah…a week or so ago I lost a dear friend. Now I find myself blogging my own grief process…it’s a weird strange existence sometimes…with warmth
September 28, 2010 at 8:18 am
September 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm
You’re welcome. Thank you for sharing in my journey.
September 28, 2010 at 8:22 am
I enjoyed your article, thank you… “Grief is the price we pay for love.” – Queen Elizabeth II.
September 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm
So true. I’ve come to believe that falling in love and grieving are the bookends of a relationship.
September 28, 2010 at 8:29 am
PS… I posted a quote from this and link back to your article from my blog. I hope you don’t mind ( ;
September 28, 2010 at 1:46 pm
I am honored. Thank you.
September 29, 2010 at 7:54 am
I am the editor of a newsletter called SOS Survivors of Suicide, based in Oshkosh, WI. I would like your permission to print this article in our next monthly newsletter. I could write a short bio about you wherein we could promote your latest books for our readers (cir 300). You can respond at email@example.com. Please feel free to look at our website.
September 28, 2010 at 8:30 am
Lovely, heartbreaking post. How long were you two together?
September 28, 2010 at 9:12 am
We were together 34 years.
September 28, 2010 at 8:41 am
Grief means that each day is a new country that you enter as an exile. What’s on the other side? An adjustment to the new person that you have become, and integrating the empty space (not “getting over it”) as you discover a new, solitary path. When you lose someone, you also lose who you would have been had that person lived. I think that is why grief is so personal.
September 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm
Lorena, I hadn’t thought of that, but it is an astute observation. We do lose the person we might have been if our loved one hadn’t died. I wonder if he would like the person I am becoming. I wonder if I will like that person.
September 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm
I didn’t lose someone through death, but I did lose someone. Sometimes I feel so superficial when I grieve over that loss, because it seems like nothing compared to the losses other people have suffered.
But it is my loss none the less. No matter how much I wish I wasn’t so self-centred, I am often so caught up in my own world that I sometimes don’t know what to say to people who suffer worse.*sigh*
“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10
And yes, I too ask myself if the person I lost would like the me I am becoming. I know I don’t, not very much…
Still moving on! 🙂
September 28, 2010 at 11:27 pm
Junie I just wanted to say having experienced both death and the loss of two relationships the grief is very similar. Indeed any loss creates grief. Proverbs could be put ‘it’s all relative’ …cheers Leesa (Hope you dont mind Pat)
September 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm
Junie, we all feel superficial, including me. Everyone grieves, so why should my grief be different? It’s only different because it’s my grief.
Leesis, I don’t mind at all. Respond to as many comments as you wish.
September 28, 2010 at 8:44 am
You’ve nailed it. You pretend life is back to normal so that all your friends and acquaintances feel comfortable in your presence. I suppose the good part of that is it forces you to pick up your feet and move even if or especially if you don’t want to.
September 28, 2010 at 1:55 pm
Joylene, Normally I keep my grief to myself, but here I tell the truth. It’s my blog, and I can cry if I want to! And I do cry. So many sad tales. So much pain. But it’s also a wonderful experience to create a space where people feel like sharing their grief. Thank you for all the support you have given me during these past months. I wish I could have been there for you when you went through the first agony of your losses.
September 28, 2010 at 8:50 am
your words ring so true.i know what you mean. i lost my one and only sister august 15th, 2010. i still cant fathom that she’s gone. everyday i expect her to bust into our room with her big smile and vivacious nature.
September 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm
Salita, I am so sorry. My heart cries out for you.
September 28, 2010 at 8:58 am
The only way I could describe my grief over the loss of a pregnancy was that it was like falling into a hole and for a while all I could see is the hole, all I could feel is the hole and it seemed like my whole life WAS the hole. But eventually I eased myself out of the hole and back into the world. It takes a while and the hole never fills in, but you learn to build your life and live your life around that hole.
September 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Stef, that is an exceptionally vivid way of describing the experience. Yes, you can climb out of the hole, but the hole never fills. Like you, I am learning to build my life around that hole. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard for others to understand what one is going through. The hole that seems so obvious to you is not apparent to them.
I am so sorry you had to deal with such a terrible loss, but I appreciate your stopping by and telling us about it.
September 28, 2010 at 9:01 am
I have watched my mother go through this journey. It’s been a year now. She is better, but not there – wherever there is. And if there exists.
I recently wrote a blog on grief… I may not offer more than what you have already come to realize, but it might be comforting to know that there are others sharing the same train of thought…
Good luck to you…
September 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm
A beautiful post, Natalia, and so true. We do expect grief to bring families together, but the truth is that grief isolates. Each person is alone in their grief, even if they are grieving the same loss.
I’m glad you’re sharing your personal grieving experience with us as well as with the rain. It helps ease the isolation.
September 28, 2010 at 9:11 am
I have forwarded this to two friends, both of whom have lost a parent recently. You articulate your feelings so well I think it will be a comfort to them to read this. Thank you.
September 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm
Thank you. The only thing good about this journey (if there is anything good) is the way one person’s experience can bring comfort to another. Many strangers (some who are now good friends) brought me comfort. I hope I can do the same.
September 28, 2010 at 9:12 am
Hi Pat…I just wrote something about dealing with loss last week, and now I’m reading your blog. I’m sorry for your loss, at the same time I’m not so sure how to vanquish the pain you’ve to go through except by living each day as it passes by bravely.
You are indeed progressing by sharing this thought here.
September 28, 2010 at 2:12 pm
When I first lost my mate, I went to a grief support group to see if anyone could tell me how to survive the pain. No one could tell me that, of course, but I did learn that one can survive it because I met people who had survived. And yes, the only way to go through it is to live each day. A hard task sometimes.
September 28, 2010 at 9:22 am
I am there too.
thank you for this
September 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm
I am sorry. Too many good people have died recently, and the world can’t afford to lose any of them.
September 28, 2010 at 9:32 am
So true, Pat. I can’t imagine the pain you’ve experienced, and it is your pain alone. No one can tell you how to grieve. I only hope that one day soon, you will find peace over your husband’s passing. No matter what, he will always be a part of you and there is no “getting over” such a loss.
September 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm
Thank you, Jerrica. Peace comes in pieces.
September 28, 2010 at 9:38 am
[…] Six months ago my life mate — my soul mate — died of kidney cancer, and my life changed forever. I survived the first excruciating weeks, and now I am learning to live with his absence and finding ways of going on alone, but it’s lonely. So few people know how to act around the bereft, and they end up offering us maxims that bring no comfort because the adages are simply not true. People tell us that time heals. Time does not heal. We heal. Gri … Read More […]
September 28, 2010 at 9:40 am
Your bravery in sharing this is inspiring. You’ve allowed us into your deeply personal journey, and that is appreciated. There is no accepted way to grieve…you do as you do, and you move through life the only way you know how. Don’t ever forget…
September 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm
Thank you. And I won’t forget.
September 28, 2010 at 9:46 am
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feeling about your loss. I have a lot of hope for you surrounding your grief.
Personally, I find that rituals are helpful. But I have had such insanely different experiences with each death I have experienced.
Most recently my aunt died (http://wp.me/pY8MO-bg) and she hadn’t wanted a funeral. Which makes it less concrete that she’s gone. Sometimes it hits me — like I had forgotten or something — Aunt Sylvia really is dead.
When my godfather died I had sex with a friend and cried on his shoulder while we were both still naked for hours.
When my friend Bob died I thought of plenty of funny stories about him and that helps. He was the type of guy that everyone had a funny story about (http://wp.me/pY8MO-3d).
But the death of my friend Andy, who killed himself, is probably the most painful still. Why did he want to leave? Why didn’t call me? And why did I go to work that night after I heard he was dead? (http://wp.me/pY8MO-2R)
So, I guess my point is — if I have one — that my personal grieving process has been different for each death I have experienced, so I think you’re right that to compare your process or experience to someone else’s doesn’t seem too productive.
I hope for you.
September 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm
Crystal, that’s true — we grieve each death differently. The depth of my grief for his death came as a total shock to me since I hadn’t experienced anything like it before, not when my brother died, not when my mother died.
September 28, 2010 at 9:50 am
A wonderfully written, heartfelt blog. I admire the way you express yourself, and hope it helps in the journey. Sadly, we all have this path in our future, dont’s we? Whether loved one, spouse, parent, sister or brother. I dread the day… Prayers for further healing…
September 28, 2010 at 2:26 pm
Sherrie, that’s the truth of it, and the price one pays for living. When the time comes, you will find the courage to deal with it. And I will be here to listen.
September 28, 2010 at 10:06 am
So sorry to read of your loss Pat. Tomorrow marks the 3 year anniversary of the death of my brother, which I will blog about tomorrow. I found most people didn’t know how to respond to my grief – like when I started crying if they just mentioned my brother. I think they felt bad b/c they didn’t want to make me upset and I couldn’t convey that it was OK and crying was just a normal part of grieving. It gets easier. One day you’ll find that a day went by without thinking of the person you lost. Or one day you can talk about that person and not be overwhelmed with sadness. That time line will vary for us all.
September 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm
We live in a society that believes courage is silent and tearless. Tears, though, are an important — they help release chemicals that build up during stress. People hate to see us cry, so eventually we hide our tears. But as you say, tears are a normal part of grieving.
September 28, 2010 at 10:09 am
thank you for posting about this with such honesty.
September 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm
September 28, 2010 at 10:33 am
life so hard…..hard to live and hard to leave
September 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm
So very true. He suffered much longer than he needed to because life would not let him go.
September 28, 2010 at 10:36 am
You had me crying while reading this. I just lost someone whom I love so much and understand the grieving process. It hurts, everyone wants you to get over it, to act cheerful and stop crying but it hurts so much.
I am sorry for your loss!
September 28, 2010 at 2:35 pm
Don’t listen to those who tell you to get over it There is no need to act cheeful. Being cheerful does not help you process your loss. Grieving does.
September 29, 2010 at 4:14 am
September 28, 2010 at 10:40 am
Thank you for having the courage to blog about a subject that many, many people are uncomfortable with. Grief is a very necessary, very personal process. I am so sorry for your loss, and so happy for you that you built years of memories with a special person.
September 28, 2010 at 2:36 pm
I am trying to be glad I had those years with him. Not everyone gets to experience such a connection.
September 28, 2010 at 10:46 am
I understand. I can never understand your experience, because it’s yours and your soulmate’s alone, but I understand the experience of bereavement. I understand the feeling of having to swallow your thoughts so hard that you literally feel them sinking into your chest as you carry on in social interactions as if a gaping hole is not exposed to the world. I understand. No words can describe my sympathies, I just wish you well in your recovery. And, though we are obviously at very different stages in our grief, and once again I reiterate, experiencing very different types of grief, there may be some blog posts of mine that you may enjoy: http://thedailydimples.wordpress.com/
Thinking of you in your trying times.
September 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm
Thank you for the link to your blog. I did enjoy your posts and your unique perspective on life. You are right — part of you did die that day, perhaps only the part that took life for granted. I hope you continue following your passions.
September 28, 2010 at 10:49 am
Very honest and truthful post about grief. thank you sharing your journey with us. I wish you strength.
September 28, 2010 at 2:45 pm
Thank you both for the compliment and the wish for strength. I need as much courage as I can garner as I prepare for the coming years.
September 28, 2010 at 10:56 am
Pat, this is such a heartfelt, honest post. I hear people say similar things who have lost parents and, horror of horrors, children. What Lorena Moore said is so true, that each day is a new country that you enter as an exile. I remember once in a workshop hearing the instructor say about love relationships, “Every relationship ends with grief. There will be dissolution or there will be death. But there will be grief.” Her point was that thankfully, in spite of this, we still choose to move forward and to create love relationships.
September 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm
I’ve met many women recently who lost two husbands to death. How did they ever find the courage to love again after that first experience with loss? The human spirit and the need to love are very strong.
Thank you for your words.
September 28, 2010 at 11:01 am
What a beautiful post. When I have lost loved ones, it seemed as if time SHOULD stand still, and I felt almost angry that life went on for others. I can’t imagine your pain, and I can only wish you peace. Your insights are valuable for others who have a friend or family member going through a terrible loss.
September 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm
Thank you, Lori. I hope I can help others go through this since so many helped me.
September 28, 2010 at 11:16 am
Thank you for sharing your journey. Your story has inspired me and I am sure it will inspire others. You are in my prayers.
September 28, 2010 at 2:49 pm
Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate your prayers.
September 28, 2010 at 11:20 am
Pat, thank you for being open. It’s amazing to me that, somehow, you learn to breath again, which seems impossible, since the most vital functios were oriented to that person. So much of yourself is what it is because of him and because of loving him. My best wishes to you as you grieve, remember, and grow in a different direction. Keep writing.
September 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm
Abigail, for so many weeks, I could barely breathe, could barely eat. It was as if the world had tilted when he stepped off it, and I couldn’t get my balance. (Like a see-saw when the person on the other end leaves abruptly.) But I am finally finding my footing again. Thank you.
September 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm
I am glad that you finally finding your footing again. But don’t be surprised if you find your world tilting again…and again. I have found that grieving seems to go in cycles.
September 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm
Thank you for the reminder. I have good days, then get ambushed by memories or seeing things of his, and I feel as if I’m starting all over again.
September 28, 2010 at 11:42 am
Thank you for sharing your experience. Grief is certainly a personal thing and any way that it is experienced is perfect for that person in that moment in time. It is a step in our coming to terms with our expectations of what we wanted the relationship to be vs. allowing it to be what it was.
Thanks again for sharing! And know that the relationship between you and your soul mate still exists, just differently.
September 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm
It is odd to know both the beginning and the end of our love story. As I move through my grief, I am able to see both the good times and the unhappy times, and understand they were all part of the whole.
September 28, 2010 at 11:51 am
This is so good. What you write about grief is so right on. It is personal. It is unique. I had a girlfriend tell me about a book from which she drew ideas for a letting go ceremony celebrating her son’s life when he died. I then proceeded to make up my own ceremony based upon what she shared with me.
It IS personal. And, unless you are at the extremes you mentioned, no one should be telling you how to grieve, when to grieve or for long.
You go, girl!
September 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm
Abigail, ceremonies, especially personal ones, are important — they help us find a place in our lives for the ones who are gone.
September 28, 2010 at 11:57 am
Thank you for sharing your beautifully written feelings. You’re so right that many of us don’t know how to be with the grieving. I try to take my cue from them, but I often feel at a loss about what to say. The best one can do, I think, is ask, “What can I do to help?”
Sherrie H. is right, we all have this in our future. Perhaps we needed those rituals of old to help us muddle through.
I’m glad you shared those 34 years with your soul-mate. I hope you again find joy.
September 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm
Frankie, everyone is at a loss about what to say. If I might offer a suggestion: instead of asking what you can do to help, mention something specific, perhaps, “I know how busy you are. Would you like me to babysit for you so you can take some time for yourself?” Or gardening, or cleaning the house, or taking them to lunch, or calling and talking about the person who died. Often the bereft can barely focus, so even if they would like help, they can’t think of a thing to say.
September 28, 2010 at 11:58 am
your words are so insightful. time does not heal, it’s what we do with the time that helps us heal. grief is the natural reaction to a traumatic event. it is not a disease. we do not get over it, or forget about it, we walk through it, in our own unique way.
as you so eloquently put, many people are so uncomfortable around grief, however, hiding from it is not the answer.
honoring, experiencing, learning and practicing. i am sorry for your loss, and admire your courage to move forward.
September 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm
Thank you, Sharon. Sometimes it feels as if I am standing still, but I am far from where I started when I embarked on my grief’s journey.
September 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm
I got chills AND tears while reading this.
My father died when I was 6 (he was 26) and my Mom still grieves for him and misses him, 20 years later. Telling people he passed (even after many, many years have gone by) makes them so uncomfortable. People DON’T know how to deal with death & the grieving. Why is that? We all face it at some point in our lives. Some of us just earlier than others.
My thoughts are with you. And if you ever need a stranger to talk to who “gets” it – let me know.
September 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm
We are taught the importance of being positive from a young age, which most people assume means ignoring anything that doesn’t make them feel good. Death doesn’t make them feel good, therefore any mention of it is to be avoided. In some strange way, though, this grieving process has been very positive. I’ve met many people and have been honored to see the love they shared, to hear their love stories.
Thank you, Lindsay, for your words and your understanding. Sending warm thoughts to your mother.
September 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm
I was captivated by your words and how real it felt. Thank you and may your journey be softened.
September 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm
Thank you for your compliment and your encouragement.
September 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm
I am so sorry for your grief. It was a beautifully heartfelt written blog and I loved it. Congrats on being FP’d. Good luck on your path. I understand what you are saying…
September 28, 2010 at 3:18 pm
Evie, Thank you.
September 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm
yes. “Time doesn’t even pass – we pass through time”.
I like what you say about grief being your own experience. It’s something I’ve been trying to remember, instead of judging the time it takes me or the moments when I still breakdown.
September 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm
It’s hard not to try to judge the time it takes, or to wonder if we’re overdoing the grief when we break down, but since the loss remains with us forever (though the pain does diminish), it’s to be expected that grief will wash over us even years after the death.
September 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm
I am sorry for you loss but thank you for the post. I lost my father six years ago and while I stopped crying every day I have not stopped thinking about him. I dream of him every night as if I spoke to him yesterday. My brothers no longer talk about him except at “anniversary” moments, like the date of his death, birthday, Christmas – so I stopped talking because it obviously made everyone uncomfortable. I don’t know what is “acceptable” mourning behavior nor do I care, it is personal and it is what it is. My life continuous but it is not the same. I have joyous moments, I did not stop living myself just because my dad is gone, but he is still part of my life as if he was breathing. Thank you for sharing.
September 28, 2010 at 3:27 pm
The only unacceptable grief is prolonged grief that keeps you from experiencing life. It is a shame that grief has to go underground so that we don’t make others uncomfortable, but it’s good to remember. How nice that you dream about your father. I hope they bring you comfort.
September 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm
I’m so very sorry for your loss. 9 years ago I lost my husband to colon cancer…he was only in his 40’s. Not one day goes by that I don’t think of him. It definitely helps to talk w/others who have been through the same thing and “get” it. Take care of yourself…
September 28, 2010 at 3:30 pm
Denise, I am so sorry you lost your husband. Forty is so young — you can’t help but be haunted by all those years he didn’t get to live.
You take care of yourself, too.
September 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm
[…] her next post starting me thinking about how easy it is to get caught up into trying to figure out the […]
September 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm
I am also grieving—I think a good way for people to walk along side someone grieving is to cry with them and to listen and not offer advice on how to fix it…that is the worst…people coming up with ways to distract me, or offer me advice on my grieving process…they are just trying to help, understandably, but alas to no avail. Just wanted to say, “I hear you.” and that I see you.
September 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm
The most comfort people ever gave were those who held me and cried with me.
Thank you for seeing me and hearing what I had to say, Chrissy. Grief makes a person invisible, so it’s nice to know I’m visible to someone.
September 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm
As usual, this is so well said Pat.
There is no right way to grieve. The very fact that we have to feel pain, that we have to lose someone so dear, is wrong.
Nobody understands that soul wrenching feeling of that moment when a piece of you is ripped away unless they have felt that loss for themselves. And even then they only truly understand how it was for themselves.
It took more than a year for me to come to terms with my baby’s near death. That little piece of me that was ripped away and died the moment I found her lifeless body will never grow back. It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than three years now, and harder even to accept how close she came to being lost forever. I came to terms with it, but I’ll never get over it.
How much worse it must be for you and others who have lost their loved ones. Take as long as you need to find your way through your grief.
September 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm
L.V., thank you for your support through this terrible time. I’m glad that you managed to snatch your baby from death’s grip. So much of life is irrevocable, and even though you didn’t lose your child, you lost your innocence. And that is loss enough for anyone.
September 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm
Pat, thanks for sharing your feelings, I so agree with you. I lost my husband to Cancer a year Sept 11-10. I may come across strong, but am still so lonely being one after 53 years of a Happy Marriage. We were so close as Best friends, not easy, but I go each day as in a dream and live with his Memories for ever in my Heart. No matter what people say as they mean well really don’t understand unless they have been there. As I was 17 and he was 20, a long time of memories. When he was dying, he said Love you forever, as I know he is watching over me as yours is for you. Just takes time for us all differently, but to me lonelyness is always there, as we loved with all are Heart and Soul.
September 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm
Oh, Deanie, I am sorry. It’s never easy, is it? My heart goes out to you.
September 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have laid dormant.
September 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm
That has the same meaning as the quote I used for the title of my novel: “There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” — Washington Irving
September 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm
I am sorry for your grief. I lost my Dad 14 months ago and some days it feels like it just happened. My only advice is to be gentle with yourself. I wrote this about my Dad and grief. Hope it gives you some comfort. http://jennybadman.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/dolphin-shoe-dad/
September 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm
Well said, Jenny. Your love shines through. There are many questions to ask, and no one to respond to them. So you keep walking.
September 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm
You made one statement that really caught me: “Time does not heal.” It is odd that I have never noticed before what a ridiculous statement that is. Time is abstract and cannot feel anything. But “get on with your life” is the most insulting advice people give, although they mean well and want to comfort the bereaved. I hated that insult the most. I wanted to tell them that my life was blasted into outer space and I’d be getting on with it as soon as I could locate the pieces and put them back together!! Duh! But, of course, I said thank you instead.
September 28, 2010 at 3:44 pm
Carol Ann, someone recently sent me the link to a song by Five Star Iris. In one place they sing:
Whoever made the claim that words could ease the pain
Never watched you fall apart, never put you back together
When you were broken down, into a million pieces
Scattered on the ground
How do you ever put the pieces together? No wonder I feel so maimed at times — some of the pieces don’t fit together anymore and never will.
Sending you comforting thoughts.
September 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm
My grief is in the past, the strong grief; but you are correct. We are never the same. Blessings to you, Pat. Six months is not long enough to stop the bleed. I think you are doing well to be able to write your post at this point.
September 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm
Thank you for this honest post. I love that you are letting yourself experience grief in your own way, without outside instruction.
September 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm
You’re welcome, Zahara. And thank you for your lovely comment.
September 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm
It has been five years since my husband died accidentally, and I am still not “over it” as people keep telling me. You will never get over a loss, but you will eventually learn to deal with it at your own time and pace. One of the things I have learned now is to appreciate the brevity of life, and to treasure the things I have.
Grief is like a wave, it comes and goes without warning, and will hit you when you least expected. You are right, time does not heal. Like Carol Ann Hoel said, you have to pick up the pieces and find your own way to live with that gaping hole in your life.
I am praying that you will find comfort and support in times of need. Just remember there are many of us travelling on the same road, you are never alone.
September 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm
Thank you. The thing that gives me courage is knowing that I’m not travelling this road totally alone. I have the example of those like you who are making your own journey and finding your own way.
September 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm
I lost my son at the age of 21 over six years ago. I often liken the loss to an amputated limb, so I found it quite meaningful that you used the same imagery.
I hope that my perspective, coming from a few years down the road, might be relevant.
I can never forget that limb is missing, but the first agonizing pain of the amputation dulled eventually, bit by bit. There are flare-ups when I feel renewed pain, like phantom pain, in the place where my loved one used to be, but most of the time I feel a deep ache that never totally subsides. It is bearable now though.
Although life will never be the same, ever, I have learned to compensate in small ways for my son’s death, much in the way an amputee has to develop new coping skills in order to manage.
I write about him, and about my grief.
I look at photographs when things are tough, or I am seized with the fear that I am unable to remember him quite as accurately as I once did.
I try to live the way he would have wanted me to live, by embracing life and and being there for others. His example set a high standard, and somehow I want to be worthy of being his mom. I fall short, but because of him, I keep reaching for more.
Somehow, sometimes, I find the grace to be grateful for what was, instead of only missing what isn’t and what will never be. I remind myself of the women who have never had children, but wish for them desperately. There are millions who wish for a soul mate, but never find one. You and I are among the lucky few who have found that happiness, even if it was fleeting.
September 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm
I got through the worst by taking things a day, an hour, even a minute at a time. I don’t have to do that all the time anymore.
I guess what I am trying to say is that while the sorrow never goes away, it does become more managable, and in that sense, time does help — but it takes a lot of time. While your grief is fresh, it is agony, so I feel for you.
September 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm
That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? Not getting over the loss, but compensating for it. Finding ways to put ourselves back together so we can function and eventually embrace life again.
I don’t know what my mate would think about the woman I am becoming (frankly, I think he’d be appalled at how much of myself and my grief I share) but like you, I’m trying to attain a high standard. That, I know, he would approve of.
September 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm
I am glad that you are able to have this insight after 6 month’s time. I am amazed, just comparing to my own walk, but then as you say – each instance of grief is as different as each person. My husband is gone now since 1/25/08. I try not to feel ashamed or apologize to anyone for this because it has been this long and I do have him on my mind every day and most days tears flow. I try so hard to stay out of the past and live in the present moment. Pursue my spiritual path and define my authentic Self. I just have to accept that this is what grief looks like for me. And it is damn hard
September 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm
How sad that we’re made to feel ashamed or apologetic for grieving months, years, decades after the death of a loved one. The way we deal with our loss might change as we move further away from it, but the fact remains that our loved one is dead. Nothing can ever change that. It is our right to honor the love we shared with tears.
And yes. It is damn hard.
September 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm
You are so right about “lonely”. Lonely is where I will probably live out my life. Even though I have family members around me, I am in that lonely place right now. I can relate to all that you wrote about…you see, I lost my oldest daughter 11 months ago at the age of 44. She was my rock…the one that stayed in touch, called almost everyday to check on me, made sure I had all that I needed including her time. I do have a younger daughter but she is not the calling kind but is there if I need her. My need died 11 months ago. Lonely is the word for the grieving…I am sure that everybody that has lost a close family member knows that word. I know you do and I really appreciate your words of wisdom. I could not find the words for how I was feeling until I read your blog. Now I know that word is “Lonely”. Thank you.
September 28, 2010 at 4:56 pm
Sue, I am sorry about your daughter’s death. 44 is so young. It’s terribly unfair, isn’t it? My heart goes out to you.
September 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm
Hi Pat, As usual when I start hearing of someone else loss I think of my own and remember it all again. My father passed away when I was 16. That was nine years ago, but you are right, it never just “goes away.” I did move past the grief to this life that now feels normal, but I still often feel like I’m “that girl,” who lost her dad. I still don’t think its fair and I still get upset and cry and scream and well, grieve. But you will heal. And I hope there is someone you can talk to and tell them your pain and if it happens to be God, I will be praying with you.
September 28, 2010 at 4:58 pm
Michelle Elizabeth, You’re “that girl” who lost her dad, and I’m “that woman” who lost her mate. It does seem as if it’s a stigma that will never leave us. Thank you for your prayers.
September 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm
I remember when my dad died very suddenly and relatively young. I felt like I was on a huge ship and he fell overboard, and I was jumping up and down and waving my arms trying to get the ship to stop, and it just kept going. One day per day, as the passage of time dragged me with it and made me leave him behind. I’m not sure time heals either. I still sometimes feel like I got road rash from the way the days and then years scraped past as they left him behind while I was still stuck on the ship.
September 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm
Janis, For me, it’s as if the earth, the galaxy, the universe is rushing onward, leaving him behind. It’s a hard thing to have to come to terms with, that inability to reverse time. I am sorry about your dad.
September 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm
Very touching post. And I agree, I hate it when people say time will heal. I lost my two aunts back to back a few months ago. I share your pain. Hang in there.
September 28, 2010 at 5:23 pm
Hasayang, thank you. Sending comforting thoughts your way.
September 28, 2010 at 4:50 pm
Pat thank you very much for your true and revealing post. Those who are not grieving have no clue what we are going thru. I lost my husband in May of this year. We were only married three years, but the pain is very consuming.
“When you lose someone, you also lose who you would have been had that person lived. I think that is why grief is so personal.” >> As a recent widow, I believe you hit the name on the head with this right here. This is one of the more personal things that I’m struggling with. This, coupled with a ‘quarter-life’ crisis leaves me in a very peculiar space.
September 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm
Najeema, I often wondered if it was easier to lose one’s mate at a young age before your lives got too entwined or easier when you’d been together a while, but the truth is, it’s never easy. Losing one’s love is always hard. My heart goes out to you.
September 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm
His face greets me in the morning. I am thankful. I don’t know what I would do if all that was left beside me was an empty spot. God brought him into my life. He makes me a better woman.
I won’t offer you the usual. Grief is healthy. I’m experiencing a different kind of grief, a loss not of death, but by estrangement. My husband comforts me. God comforts me. People don’t understand the grief and at times I stay quiet because I feel as if I might drag them through this muddy bog of mine. But the grief does help work through it until you step out and breathe in the fresh air of healing.
The wound scabs over. You see more clearly. You see the end of it. And you begin to live again losing the fear, the pain, as you forgive. And for years you are fine. Then, you witness a happy family and something stabs you a little like a pin prick. You are sad. But you are happy because that little child will grow up whole.
You’ll get through it. I hope you find healing and I hope you find comfort. I am sorry you have lost your life mate.
September 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm
Nikole, all loss is difficult. Thank you for your words of healing and comfort.
September 28, 2010 at 5:12 pm
[…] little down in the dumps: whatever whoever said about time healing all wounds was a big lie. As Pat Bertram wrote (freshly pressed!) – ‘Time does not heal. We heal.’ This entry was posted […]
September 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm
I saw you on fresh-pressed, read this heartfelt post, and find myself one of those outsiders who has not yet suffered a major loss, and doesn’t know what *is* the “right” thing to say.
A casual friend from grad school passed away from cancer 2 years ago, less than a year after she was married. I went to her wedding, but I didn’t really stay in touch after grad school. She sent me an email once with a link to her blog, but I didn’t follow it. Then I heard from a good mutual friend that she had passed. I tracked down her blog, and saw that she, and then her husband, had documented her decline there. I read every post. And I have continued to follow her husband’s blog for the past 2 years, even though I never comment, and he probably barely remembers me, much less knows I read it. I feel as though this is my penance for not being a better friend when she was still here.
September 28, 2010 at 5:52 pm
archiegrrl, we’re all doing penance for something — words not spoken or spoken too harshly, time begruded or withheld, misunderstanding or understanding too late. All we can do is go from here.
And there is no right thing to say. Showing that you care is all that matters, and you do care.
September 28, 2010 at 5:53 pm
You are admirably strong. I don’t know If I can handle emotions like this like you did.
September 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm
Thank you, Monica. I’ve had a lot of support during this crisis, both online and offline, and that helps.
September 28, 2010 at 6:20 pm
You might be able to find resonance for some of your feelings in this beautiful song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu9-5SS8V8M&feature=channel
September 28, 2010 at 11:48 pm
September 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm
Hi Pat, I just found your blog.
I lost my first husband to cancer 11 years ago. At six months I most people are still going through the motions. So be encouraged – one day you really will heal.
Healing doesn’t mean you forget, it just means that life becomes good again, as different as it is.
I remember the first time I felt joy after he died – it was over 2 years after he died. There are no timelines, but it does come.
September 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm
Susan, it seems as if grief follows it’s own path, and apparently, for many people, two years is when one begins to remember the loved one with happiness, and to feel joy again. I have a long way to go, though I am not nearly as lost in sadness as I was just a couple of months ago.
September 28, 2010 at 6:42 pm
This is so powerfully written. So many people try to drown out their grief, not feel the loss. It takes bravery and true love to feel all the loneliness. In a way by feeling it all you are remembering him in the most powerful ways possible. By experiencing the bad we remember the good. In feeling the sadness we fully appreciate those we have lost. You are truly inspiring.
September 28, 2010 at 11:53 pm
Thank you. By feeling the sadness, by embracing the grief, we keep ourselves open to future joys. And, as you say, feeling grief is a way of appreciating those we lost.
September 28, 2010 at 7:10 pm
I am so glad I found your blog. I feel the same way, in fact, my husband passed away 7 months ago today, also from kidney cancer. Thank you for sharing, you have some amazing insights and I’ll be back to read more.
September 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm
Oh, Patty, I am so very sorry. I hope you don’t mind that I shed some tears for you.
September 28, 2010 at 8:09 pm
I always wondered what “Good Grief” is… Thank you for sharing your experience… You are Strong
September 28, 2010 at 11:56 pm
In a bizarre way, grief is good. It just doesn’t feel good.
September 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm
My Mom died one month ago, just over three years since my Dad’s passing. My heart is broken. Thanks for the helpful post. It brings fresh tears, but also gives me permission to grieve in my own way.
September 29, 2010 at 12:03 am
I am so sorry that you’ve lost both your parents. What a devastating loss! My heart goes out to you.
September 28, 2010 at 8:40 pm
Pat – I too am a grief survivor… of 8 years. I’ve learned that time passes as you heal and that your memories of your mate, spouse, partner are what really gets you through. I still think of my husband everyday and I believe that has helped me deal with his loss. You must grieve the way that is best for you. Never let what others think or say keep you from remembering and grieving in the manner that is best for you.
September 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm
C F — isn’t it ironic that the person who can most help us through this grief is the very person we lost? At the beginning, I was too overwhelmed by his horrifc death to remember much else, but as the weeks pass, more and more memories surface. I hope you are right and that they will help me in the coming years.
September 28, 2010 at 8:52 pm
Pat, if you didn’t intend for all of these eyes on your grief, I hope the shared comments have been a positive experience for you after being ‘pressed’ today.
This weekend I celebrate the life of a wonderful woman who played several roles in my own life: friend, music partner, second mom…tonight you have me thinking of her as wife to her loving husband who now faces this grief journey you so eloquently write about.
In reading your words I cannot help but imagine that the day may come for my own grief journey or that of my spouse should I be taken from him. We have shared 11 years of life so far, 5 in marriage. I cannot recall me before us. I cannot fathom me apart from us. Though I have faced terrible grief (father, brother, sister, day-old niece, friend to suicide) I know from watching my mother’s pain that this is like no other. My faith journey tells me that we are no longer two, but one flesh. This makes me realize there can never be wholeness again after such a loss, only some kind of scarred healing.
My thoughts go out to you and I thank you. You have helped me to shift focus to my grieving friend. He has such a road ahead and all we will be able to do is support and love as best we can. Thanks for letting us share.
September 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm
After the initial shock at getting so many comments today, it was a positive experience sharing everyone’s love and grief. I used to worry that hearing of other people’s pain would be unbearable, but underneath the pain I see the love, and I am honored to be a part of that.
Thank you for sharing your story. Hold tight to your love.
September 28, 2010 at 8:56 pm
This is beautiful. Sincerity that you don’t often see, particularly concerning such a terrible topic. I don’t think you know how many people you have touched with such a quick, deeply personal entry.
September 28, 2010 at 11:29 pm
Thank you. And you have touched me in return.
September 28, 2010 at 9:03 pm
Your post made me cry my eyes out, Pat. After reading it and ALL the comments, I see why I feel so uncomfortable about attending funerals, or visiting the bereaved. I find myself reacting very strongly to the loss of others, because I internalise their pain, and feel it so deeply sometimes I wonder what’ll happen if/when I actually (heaven forbid) lose someone very close to me myself.
I have had the misfortune of seeing very young women become widows through very tragic circumstances….a car accident, a plane crash, a fire….lives which have been snatched away in very abrupt and very tragic ways, and as I sobbed (uncontrollably and embarrassedly) at their funeral, i always wonder at the strength and courage the wife will need to come to terms with her insurmountable loss.
i always find people to be so infuriating as they offer half-baked platitudes and cliches, they really make you wonder about the solace you’re supposed to derive from them. but of course, everyone means well.
you have expressed your grief the best way possible, and have found resonance in so many people because of it. my heart goes out to you. big hug.
September 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm
Thank you for the hug. And the tears. Both are honest and heartfelt. I am sure the bereft find comfort in your tears when you attend funerals. I know I felt most comforted when people cried with me.
September 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm
Though I cannot say that I have lived through the heartbreak of losing my soul mate, I can attest to losing a close friend. Over a year and a half ago my friend Esme Kenney was murdered in a senseless hate crime. The grief that followed seemed to choke out the sun for months. Finally I have learned to live again. The only thing you can do is try to get yourself to a place where you can think of your lost one fondly. When you can say their name and smile again. Death is a tricky thing filled with doubts and fears and losing someone to deaths clutches is horrifying. People who don’t understand say insensitive things trying to comfort you. You have made it through the worst of it though. No, you will never forget, no you will never truly be whole again, but you can go on living in a way that your loved one would want you to, and truly thats all you can do. I wish you well in all that you do.
September 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm
Thank you for your well wishes, Amy. Esme was lucky to have you for a friend. I am sorry she died, and in such a terrible way.
September 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm
thank you for posting this. Whatever you say is true for me when I suddenly lost my father. It’s been 8 years and we were never fully heal but just adapt to the new circumstances. I will always miss him. In the first year it was unbearable for me. I actually thought I was seeing him everywhere on the street, but it turned out to be a stranger. I guess I was hoping so hard.
The worst thing anyone said to me at the funeral was “You have to be strong”. They made me feel guilty about crying so I held everything in and it was detrimental. I still feel 8 years on that I am in the grieving process…over the years the intensity of the grief gets more bearable…i guess our minds work to block out certain things….i think that’s what happened with me.
I am so sorry…..sending you my heartfelt wishes.
September 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm
I do not understand why people make us feel guilty about crying. Crying is an important part of grieving. And crying doesn’t make you weak, but holding in your grief can make you weak because it can shut you off from life. You sound as if you are adapting well. I hope I can follow your example.
September 28, 2010 at 9:20 pm
I don’t know you, but I respect every word you wrote. Not to be cheesy, but best wishes to you.
September 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm
Elyn, respect and good wishes are never cheesy. Thank you.
September 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm
I’m sorry for your tragic loss. I lost my soul mate of 30 years 6 years ago. I wish I could say it will get better, or some kind loving words to ease your pain. But there isn’t anything I could say or do to fill the void left. Just know others care. No I don’t know you but have often wondered how a higher being could allow those of us left behind to endure such gut wrenching pain. There is a grief recovery institute in California I went to, it opened my eyes. But it certainly didn’t bring back My Moe, or my kids father, or my grand kids Poppa. My heart goes out to stranger…
September 28, 2010 at 11:44 pm
Marlene, that’s the tragedy of it, isn’t it? We can learn to deal with our grief, we can learn to live again, but in the end, our loved ones are still gone. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story.
September 28, 2010 at 9:37 pm
You have written what is probably the best description of grief ever. The silly piddly things people say sound so terrible and emtpy and a lot of them cruel and mean. I am truly sorry for your loss.
September 28, 2010 at 11:44 pm
Thank you, both for the compliment and the condolences.
September 28, 2010 at 9:42 pm
my dad died suddenly last october. i found great comfort in my friends who had also lost a parent too soon, when both they and the parent were too young.
the best thing anyone said to me was ‘it just sucks’. because it does.
and learning about the ‘new normal’ – which nothing is now, so i guess that’s what is new and ‘normal’ about it.
it is the worst possible thing i can imagine experiencing but it has helped me put life and its brevity into perspective and to be more adventurous and a little less fearful. my counselor pointed out it’s because this was The Thing i feared more than any other thing.
i’m sorry for your loss, pat. i am with you on not wanting to ‘read up’ on how to grieve – how can anyone possibly know how to go through it until you are going through it? which is -again- why, for me, i guess it was so comforting to be touched by my friends who had been through it. other folks were certainly well-meaning so i didn’t scream at them like i felt like doing. you’re right – people don’t know how to treat the bereft, or what to say. and it’s okay. i didn’t know, either, before it happened to me.
and isn’t weird the moments it hits? i can be fine one moment talking about it -like now- and then have a meltdown in the grocery store from out of nowhere.
it is very much like learning how to live without a limb, i’ve said that since the beginning – it feels like my right arm was cut off.
i’m sorry again for your loss, pat. i know losing a parent isn’t the same as losing a soulmate. for me, though, my dad was the closest thing to it and my life will never be the same.
p.s. you may appreciate knowing that my dad would have been 60 last may. so, instead of being sad because i was already sad, i gathered my sister and some of my dad’s closest friends and we had a celebration with a mariachi parade and barbecue and made a little shrine for him and dressed up wacky in order to honor his life. at the end of the evening, we released balloons with messages we had each written to him. it was very special and made me very aware that that it was just as it should be – a moment where life touches death and both are celebrated.
September 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm
Mary Kathryn, your words touched me, especially your description of your ceremony of life. What a wonderful father he must have been to have raised such a special daughter.
September 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm
Pat, Your descriptions of grief are amazing. I lost my sister to lung cancer six years ago. Starting a memorial garden helped me feel connected to her. This garden has blossomed and is now the magical and peaceful place I go to. Please visit and share your thoughts with others that have left messages. http://www.mysisterdalesgarden.com
September 28, 2010 at 11:48 pm
Your garden sounds wonderful. One of the things that makes me sad is knowing that he will never again plant a tree and watch it grow. Someday I will do it for him.
September 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm
Life is not fair but we endure for some purpose…I intend to make mine a positive one so that it has meaning if not to me then someone else. I hope that your life will not be over taken and lost in grief …you seem like a person capable of giving the world an insightful perspective on grief and probably other topics as well…I would honestly care to bet that that very same strength that flows from your words could provide comfort to many who can’t seem to find words their own. Keep living and sharing… Peace be with you.
September 28, 2010 at 11:53 pm
Thank you. As I move through my grief, I’d like to make my life a positive one, too. Or at least try to.
September 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm
You are so right when you say that time does not exist for people who are grieving. I didn’t lose my soul mate, but I lost someone I loved so much to a condition with a name a mile long. He died in his sleep very suddenly. But yeah, time didn’t exist for me either then. I just was kind of a walking head. Just trying to wake up each day and go through the motions. I’m sorry that you lost your life mate and your soul mate.
September 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm
I am sorry you lost someone you loved. Someone told me that people die but love doesn’t. I hope that holds true for you.
September 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm
Oh, I still love him. Most definitely. I think about him every day. That’s a wonderful sentiment your friend told you. Hope you don’t mind if I hold that one close to my heart.
September 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm
I’m not sure there is a correct format to grieving. What works for one is only more painful to another. For that matter, what works for an individual one time may not work the next. It’s step by step, whatever those steps may be. The fact that you ARE grieving is your love still alive for the one you lost. Grief doesn’t go away, it just changes shape. I pray you find comfort in the years of love that you shared together. Deepest sympathies.
September 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm
Mandy, very true — grief does change shape, sometimes quite rapidly. What brings comfort one minute brings pain the next. Thank you for your sympathies.
September 29, 2010 at 12:00 am
Wow Pat. Reading this is like listening to my Mum. She tells the same tale, and I realize reading that it’s the tale we all might face one day. Thank you for putting it into such well-phrased words.
September 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm
Sheila, I often think about what you told me at the beginning, that the person’s absence comes to mean what their presence did. I’m getting to where I understand that.
September 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm
I’ve never lost anyone that I’ve been close to. But I’ve been preparing myself for awhile to deal with my parents’ deaths. They aren’t suffering or anything. And I’m sure this isn’t going to help when the time comes around. But I can’t help mourning the idea. And if the idea hurts that much, I can’t imagine the real experience.
September 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm
I hope the idea of your parents’ deaths helps you enjoy the time you have left with them. That is what will help you when they are gone.
September 29, 2010 at 12:20 am
So beautifully written, you managed to put in words what’s felt in these cases. Yes, time doesn’t heal, you just manage to live with it, and yes, people don’t get it, and even if you talk about it, they still don’t understand, and sometimes they even become fed and don’t understand, and you stop talking about it, you put on a face and make as if everything’s all right, but yes, you don’t forget.
September 29, 2010 at 12:21 am
I hope you find solace..in whatever way..
September 29, 2010 at 7:35 pm
I am finding solace in the beautiful stories people are sharing with me. Thank you for sharing the story of your grief with me.
September 29, 2010 at 12:45 am
I’m sorry for your loss. It’s hard but you’ll get there. My mother’s passing away 14 years ago affected me for a long time. She was the driving force in the family so when she went away, us three who are left dealed with grief in the way we know. I’ll not go to the details as it might bore you or make me cry for the nth time >.<.
I wish you well. Nicely written by the way. God speed…
September 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm
Thank you, Clarisse. I’m sorry for your loss, too.
September 29, 2010 at 12:57 am
I am a 9 month survivor and i thought i knew but i didnt but now i do. I only know what day it is because i have a constant calender. if someone was to ask me what month it was i would swear it was January. If people have to ask, they dont understand and i cant explain. I feel cheated. I pray for hope but now even my friends walk away but i like you can never walk away. Each day we die a little more bringing us closer to that moment when we will meet again. I know if i could go and see her face, touch her hand and smell her hair it would be enough to sustain me but for now i do not know and i dont want to know. Its a path we walk alone, grief is ours alone.
Danielle Leah Heggarty 26 Dec 1987 – 08 Dec 2009 (my neice but almost my daughter)
September 29, 2010 at 7:31 pm
Danielle died so young! I am sorry. I can see why you feel cheated. She should have had a lifetime ahead of her. You never do know about grief until you experience it, do you? I’ll keep you in my prayers.
September 29, 2010 at 1:40 am
I find this a most enlightened and comforting way of dealing with grief and loss. I have ovarian cancer and my deepest concern is how my children are going to grieve should I not make it through this ordeal. They are in their thirties now. Instead of say’s I am fine, I’m going to make it – perhaps we should look at all the dynamics of this dreaded illness and face the realities. If we can prepare together we can deal with this honestly. At the moment we are hiding our emotions to protect each other. You have shown me another way. Thank you Pat for sharing your journey of bereavement.
September 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm
I will be praying that you make it through your ordeal. As for your concern about your children, I’m not sure how one ever prepares for the death of someone they loved. I had time to prepare, yet grief still clobbered me. The best thing I ever did was go to a bereavement support group so I could be around those who understood. If I’ve learned anything is that by sharing emotions and stories, one gathers the strength to go on.
September 29, 2010 at 3:44 am
Pat, I can’t even imagine…. but you’re right.. this is your life… It’s comforting to know that our journeys continue and we can scarcely dream of what happens tomorrow.. nor how bright the sun will shine. Grief is something we’ll all carry with us..learning to deal with it…where to store it.. when to allow it to surface. I think part of it is making sure we remember the little things..the special moments…then we can rename grief to a word of our choosing… God bless you on your journey.
September 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm
Rod, that’s where I am now — trying to find out where to store my grief, where to store my memories, where to store my life with him. I need to find a way to think of it all with love. Thank you for your comment.
September 29, 2010 at 3:54 am
This is the first time I’ve ever read your blog, and I so like it. What you have shared is truly heartbreaking. I’ve just lost my grandmother and aunt recently. It really hurts and I still can’t believe they are totally gone. I agree, time does not heal the wound but with people around who try to listen and understand where we come from, we at least find comfort. I wish you the best and I’ll follow your blogs..
September 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm
It sounds like you have people to support you in your grief. That is good.
September 29, 2010 at 4:38 am
Pat, I am so glad to have come across your blog. In my fifties I finally met my soulmate, we lived in different countries and continued our long distance relationship for 3 years. Then I gave up my home and moved with all my worldly goods to spend the rest of my life with my soulmate. Not quite one year later he dropped dead in the middle of a sentence, right beside me. Your words give me so much solace, even more than 3 years after his death.
I too miss the person I would or could have been, had he lived and I was on the road to becoming a miserable old woman. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for rescuing me.
September 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm
Beate, one of the wonders of this blog post today is that I’ve been honored to see the love everyone feels for their lost loved ones, and yours comes through strong. It’s such a struggle to go one without them, yet perhaps because of their love, no matter how short a time we had it, we will be able to survive.
September 29, 2010 at 5:01 am
You are doing amazingly. Don’t dance to the beat of anyone elses drum. Grief is a personal and very unique thing to different people. Yeah there are commonalities in the process but you deal with it in the way you do best.
My sister died when she was seven and I completely identify what you mean by grief being the healer – so many people repress grief and try to escape it.
Keep treading – one step at a time.
September 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm
Thank you, Anna. There are days I want to escape grief, but I know if I run from it, I will spend the rest of my life running.
September 29, 2010 at 5:23 am
Lovely post, Pat. I found your blog via the WordPress home page. I’m so sorry about your life mate’s death.
FWIW, I’m about seven years ahead of you on that particular unwanted journey. And to answer a question on one of your prior posts, twenty five weeks is nothing (though it feels like forever, I know). I look forward to reading more of your blog but can see you already know not to let anyone tell you what or how to grieve. It’s so different for each individual.
Something I found somewhere along the way was ‘Distressed Haiku’ by poet Donald Hall, which contains these lines which resonated with me:
‘You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.
Then they stay dead.’
If you haven’t already found it, a site called Widownet is one I found very helpful.
Take care and all the best from Sydney.
Carolyn at My Sydney Paris Life
September 29, 2010 at 7:03 pm
Thank you, Carolyn. How true Donald Hall’s words. I’m still struggling to understand how my mate can be gone. I’m ready to go home to him, and he’s not there any more. It’s like losing him over and over again.
I’ll check out widownet.
September 29, 2010 at 5:48 am
I lost my daughter 2 1/2 years ago, and my husband to suicide 1 1/2 years ago. My entire lovely family wiped out. As you will understand it’s been quite a journey from there to here.
No, of course you’ll never get ‘over’ it. Anybody who suggests that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But then, unless you’re there yourself, what do you know?
The simple fact is, of course, that if you are strong enough you will learn to live with it, and if you are not, you will die – whether that be a living death or a real one. To survive there comes a point where you have to consider allowing yourself to say ‘This thought breaks my heart and is insupportable, I will think of something happy instead’. When that point comes, is different for everyone.
No, you will probably not be the person you would have been had your partner lived, but in my experience grief makes you drill into your emotions 100 times deeper than anything else could have ever made you do. And that means it gives you the opportunity to be even more than you would have been, had he stayed alive. It isn’t a coincidence that so many grief-survivors end up feeling a powerful need to help others. In short, a lot of good can come out of so much pain.
He will never leave you, Pat. He lives on in and around you. Make his life count.
September 29, 2010 at 7:09 pm
Oh, no. How horrible and so horribly unfair to lose them both!
I hear what you’re saying about learning to live with it or dying. It’s why I am embracing my grief. I don’t want to die inside. I want to still be open to life, whatever that life might be. It’s the only way I know to make his life count.
Thank you for the suggestion. I’ll let myself grieve without bounds for a while longer, then, one day, I will start acknowledging the heartbreaking thoughts, then turn my mind to something happy instead.
September 29, 2010 at 6:00 am
Thanks for your post. My husband lost his daughter a year ago… and your words helped me to look at his grief (and my helplessness) in another way. Warm greetings.
September 29, 2010 at 7:22 pm
Just be there for him. Let him talk about his daughter. Make sure he says her name when he does — that’s important.
September 29, 2010 at 6:56 am
Beautifully written, Pat. I’ve been through so many losts in my life, I almost feel numb. But I know I will not be able to deal with the lost of my children. Stay strong!
September 29, 2010 at 7:21 pm
I am trying to be strong. Thank you.
September 29, 2010 at 7:05 am
Sorry for your loss.
I whole heartedly agree with you: there is no correct way for a person to grieve. you need to do it on your own. it’s the only way to complete the catharsis. I do, however believe that there has always been a proper way to be there for someone who is grieving: by just being yourself. Why don’t they fashion their ‘grief’ literature towards that instead?
I wish you luck.
September 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm
Matt, perhaps because being yourself is the hardest thing of all? But yes, that is the proper way to be there for someone who is grieving. Honest awkwardness is so much more comforting than canned words.
September 29, 2010 at 7:41 am
thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
September 29, 2010 at 7:18 pm
You’re welcome, Jon.
September 29, 2010 at 8:06 am
Excellent post. You are on a long journey and describe so well what you are going through.
September 29, 2010 at 7:16 pm
Christine, if I had a choice, I’d have picked a different journey, but this is the one that was picked for me.
September 29, 2010 at 8:23 am
“Getting over it seems like a betrayal, a negation of the life you shared. The best you can do is eventually accept the person’s absence as a part of your life.”
I loved this part. And I agree with you.
I really really liked this post.
Different from what I genereally read about grief and loss.
September 29, 2010 at 7:16 pm
Bakbakee, thank you.
September 29, 2010 at 8:51 am
My Mama died six years ago this coming Christmas Eve after a short, horrible illness. I thought I was used to grief–having lost my father when I was six, 20 years prior. Her loss, though, knocked the wind out of me. For me, it was the actual illness–taking care of her–that caused the most grief. Because I was grieving the fact that I was finally owning my life…having some sort of version of normal…when she got sick. And I lost that life the minute it started.
Every day that I’m still here is a victory. It is what it is. It doesn’t get better. It gets different. Sometimes, I can put it in my back pocket. Other days, the missing is an ache I can’t shake. Some other times, I get pinned to the wall. I’ve learned to live with it–to tell my stories whether people want to hear them or not because I need to tell them. When the day is really hard, I don’t hold back the tears. I instead give myself five minutes to completely lose it. Then, I suck it up and move forward.
The biggest difference between now and then, though, is as inconceivable as it sounds, I am now profoundly grateful for absolutely everything–good or bad–and realize that I’m a much more resilient person than I ever thought I could be.
September 29, 2010 at 7:15 pm
Alma, I am sorry for what you had to endure. I hope I can deal with sorrow as well as you have. Thank you for your wise words. I will remember this: It doesn’t get better. It gets different.
September 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm
Thank you for sharing. Although mine isn’t grief it was a break-up, many of those things you’ve stated I apply to my situation and hate it when people say things like that.
September 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm
All loss is hard. And we need to grieve all losses.
September 30, 2010 at 12:28 am
You made me cry…although i shouldnt be doing that coz im in my office:)
o.k – you just made me realize that I havent grieved over my failed marriage. I have separated from my husband and soon will be filing for divorce. Initially I was so busy trying to save my marriage and once I realized that its futile, I became busy taking care of my son. He is just 18 months old that I did not take the time out to grieve over the loss of what my life could have been, had I been with him, what I had envisioned for ourself. I just got on to survival mode – How can I best handle this situation? How to get out this marriage? How to plan my finances ahead etc etc. I wanted to put up a brave face so that my parents/sister/freinds dont feel sad for me. I thought if they will see me happy they will worry less…perhaps.
I thought I should not dwell on the past, move on but I never realized (until I read ur post) that its important for me mourn the loss of a husband. I had loved him to death…once upon a time. I think this is why I have become so crabby. I have these moments of intense rage at times and I lash out at people at time when it is uncalled for. I try and control myself a lot but this frustration is there. I was attributing it to my failed marriage, the problems I have faced and will be facing in the furture. But no, its not about that. I feel the need to cry/mourn/share/grieve the loss of – a husband,dream,hope.
All that I can say to you is THANK YOU for making me realize that.
September 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm
All losses must be acknowledged and grieved or else we stagnate. The anger you feel could be part of your grief, but it’s not a good place to get stuck. I hope you can mourn your loss and move on to happier times. You and your son deserve that. Sending good thoughts your way.
September 30, 2010 at 10:19 am
And it’s not over in 6 months either.
October 1, 2010 at 2:19 am
You explained time very well…
You got a journey but sadly a sad one..but your friends are there to help you going… 😦
October 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm
My thoughts are with you during this time. You seem to be so strong and I know you will be OK. Keep him in your mind forever, don’t forget his love.
October 3, 2010 at 6:06 pm
Thank you, Catherine.
October 9, 2010 at 6:08 pm
Well done. That is exactly how this seven month grief survivor feels. I too lost my loving husband to an unfair fight with kidney cancer. Your picture looks like it was taken near the home we shared in AZ. I lost that too .
October 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm
Mariyah, it’s the pits, isn’t it? They keep telling me it will get better, but it only seems to hurt in different ways. I had to leave the home he and I shared, but he was my home more than any place.
December 27, 2010 at 10:36 am
Thank you, Pat. Peace comes in pieces.
July 1, 2011 at 10:38 am
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments Pat. I’m at about the same place you were when you wrote about it. I lost my wife and soul mate of 54 years just 7 months ago and I’m trying everything. I read books, meditate, try to get out around people and do everything suggested. I’ve gone to one-on-one counseling as well as group therapy and yet I still fall apart several times a day when I’m alone in this empty house. I seem to have regressed to a deeper level of grief, but I’m hoping it is just temporary. There certainly is a lot of us in the same boat, so let’s hope and pray we can all get through it and have a better future with happier days.
July 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm
I am so sorry, Bob. It’s a terrible journey we are on, this journey through grief. One thing I have learned about grief is that it ebbs and flows. It’s been fifteen months for me now, and I thought I was doing well, but this last month I’ve reached a deeper level of sadness, and I cry several times a day. I think it gets worse as the truth seeps into the depths of our being. I used to try to put a number on it: after three months I’ll be okay, after six months, a year. Now I know grief has no schedule. Someone told me it took him four years, but generally it takes two years (or so I’ve been told). So I’m being patient with myself.
Fifty-four years is a long time to live with someone. 7 months is just a fraction of that. Don’t beat yourself up over still grieving. You will have a better future. You will see happier days.
I’m glad you stopped by. You are welcome any time. Grief is so isolating, it’s good to know others are in the same boat.
July 1, 2011 at 1:01 pm
Thanks for taking the time to reply Pat. I felt that I needed to reach out a little today because July is going to be a very difficult month for me. My wife’s birthday is Sunday, July 3rd, and that is going to be a problem for me to deal with, but even worse is the fact that our anniversary is the 21st of the month and would have been our 55th. How I’m going to get through that I don’t know but it’s nice to have a place I can unload my feelings to people who know exactly what we are experiencing. Have a good 4th of July weekend and many thanks again for caring.
July 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm
Bob, I always have time for another griever. Now I understand why you’re having such an upsurge in grief. First times are always terrible, and to have two in one month is so dreadfully unfair. Your first anniversary after her death, her first birthday are two of the biggest. I don’t know how you will get through it, either, but you will. Time doesn’t heal, but it does pass, one inevitable second after the other. I will be thinking of you. Please, do stop by if you need to vent. If I’m not online, I won’t be able to respond until the next day.
Once at a support group meeting, I told the moderator that I couldn’t find a single good thing about his dying, except that he wasn’t suffering any more, but he shouldn’t have had to suffer in the first place. She said, there was something good, that I had him for all those years. There’s not much consolation in that, is there? Wishing you moments of peace in the coming weeks.
September 1, 2012 at 6:22 pm
I lost my husband of 43 years, 3 months and 8 days very suddenly. I woke up in the morning to find him peacefully sitting in his chair. It has been almost 6 months. I feel as though I lost the past, the present and the future. This specific moment I am a very balanced and grounded roller coaster that can’t breath because my very heavy heart is laying on my lungs. Deep sighs help.
The next moment will no doubt be different, I may be laughing.
Thank you for you blog. Reading the conversations is very comforting.
September 1, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Oh, Jocelyn, I am so very sorry. It’s a hard thing we are left to deal with. The only way I could survive at times was to scream — it seemed to help relieve the pressure.
Mood swings are part of the grief process, one that few people talk about. I’m glad so many people left comments on this article — it helps to know you’re not alone in the way you feel. Or anyway, it helped me.
Wishing you peace.
July 24, 2013 at 11:59 am
How are you these days after your loss? I really would like to find some hope for the pain I am in. I did not lose a spouse, but I may as well have. I lost my soul mate, my mother this Valentine’s day, and instead of starting to get better, my grief has taken a turn for the worst. I have my first counseling appointment tomorrow and I pray they can help. I am being hit with horrible feelings of guilt and responsibility for mama’s death. See, she had been fighting stage IV breast cancer for nearly five years before she couldn’t fight anymore. My mom and I were so close, maybe abnormally so, as I am now 38, never married, no kids…just me and my mom. We would talk everyday, even when I lived out of state. My life seemed to revolve around her. My story goes a lot deeper, but towards the end of mom’s life, we, mom, myself, and half-brother, naively left her home in Florida to seek “better” treatment in Colorado, also to let her be in the Medical Marijuana Program. My ‘brother’ made the literal hell of the situation much worse for me, he has psychological and diagnosed personality issues; you cannot say anything critical to him without becoming enemy number one. The conflicts in our small apartment became unbearable with me developing severe anxiety attacks, not to mention the stress on my sick mother. Brother was forced to rent his own apartment as a result but promised to be there for mom when she needed. He instead ended up getting money out of me and mom and decided to go to Ohio where dad lives for “a while”. He knew that I had a bad back, suffered with anxieties and OCD, and was not in a position to fully take care of mom if things got worse (she had bone mets, spine, etc., developed uncontrolled nausea in Colorado, weak, etc.). Well, mom did not seem to really be getting better and it seemed so quick , as cancer does, that she deteriorated, went to hospital, etc. I feel as if I failed her somehow, that I should have ‘saved’ her. I keep second guessing what I could have done wrong, but I know logically that she had advanced cancer for 5 years which ran its course. Still, the pain and guilt on top of it all is killing me. I particularly keep trying to reassure myself that her Tamoxifen stopped working due to the reason that things just stop working with cancer eventually, and not due to some bad judgment on my part. See, for a few weeks my mom wanted to try taking the pill by herself, keeping the bottle next to her. I thought she was mentally ok to try, and she assured me she would take it and reassured me that she was “taking it every night” when I asked, or reminded her. This reassured me as I trusted mom’s word and she had no reason to lie about that. But what if she wasn’t taking it every night? What if she ‘thought’ she was but got confused, forgetful? I took back control of all pills after we moved into her new home as I wanted to be absolutely sure, but she still was not improving and then went downhill fast; probably lost 10+ lbs. within 2 weeks. The cancer was getting worse, but we still had hope somehow she’d make it. How stupid, and it doesn’t help that her oncologist gave false hope with his ‘everything is great, take the pill, chemo” mentality. He gave her a new chemo, but again, did not talk about cost/benefit, side effects, mom’s prognosis; I wish he’d be straight with me, as the other presiding doctor was with me, it maybe would have helped me with what I am going through these days. I don’t know how I will ever be able to carry on. I just remember mom’s horrible quality of life, especially since coming to Colorado, declining, and basically resignating to a life in bed and sitting up for a bit, not going anywhere…so sad and painful, and then passing away. I just keep wanting to be with my mother. Thanks for listening and sorry this was so long.
July 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm
First, let me say, there is hope. It’s now been more than three years, and while my life still feels empty at times and I still miss him, that awful pain of new grief has mostly disappeared. The trouble with losing a soul mate or anyone else whose life is so entwined with yours is that you don’t have a single loss. You have multiple losses. You’ve lost a friend, a companion, a support system, a mother. And each of those losses needs to be acknowledged and mourned. And unfortunately, grief often does get worse before it finally gets better, which it does, though you will probably always feel the loss.
I’m glad you’re going to go to counseling. Grief is hard to deal with on your own because it makes you feel as if you’re crazy, and you’re not. You’re grieving. And you have so many other troubles on top of her dying and death, it makes the whole thing insurmountable. Your brother sounds like mine, and I’ve never been able to figure out how to deal with him. As for your guilt over your mother’s death, yes, of course you feel guilty, but like all of us in similar situations, you did the very best you could under trying circumstances. Logic has nothing to do with guilt. You know you only had her best interests at heart. You also had to listen to the doctors, and so often in these circumstances, they don’t tell the truth, but offer unrealistic hope, which causes a huge trauma for those left behind.
When you start feeling guilty, ask yourself what would have happened if you had done everything you now think you should have done. Would it have given her a better quality of life? Would it have prolonged her life? Or would it have only prolonged her death? Maybe by letting her be in charge of taking her medicines, you gave her back to herself. People who are dying so often feel helpless, as if their lives are no longer their own. A couple of months before my mother died, my father and I were fighting about her medicines, and my mother started crying, “Where am I in all this?” She felt as if she were no longer part of her own life. However you’ll feeling now, remember that you made her part of her own life.
You did not give her the cancer. You could not have saved her. You were a wonderful daughter, and I’m sure she knew that. I hope someday you will be able to believe it.
And I hope someday you will find peace.
July 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm
Much love to you Pat, and thank you for responding. Yes, I hope one day I can find the peace I need, but I suppose I have no choice but to work through this conundrum called grief. We all have to. Take care and I really appreciate your blog as it is helping many people.
December 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm
Hello Pat your beautifully written passage describing how you felt six months into your journey of grief says everything I feel but didn’t know how to express. I lost my mum six months ago today and although the time she’s gone from my life seems like a snap of my fingers with the pain still fresh and the absence of her in my life as strong as ever, it does feel that others around me have moved on and expect me to move on also. But I’m not ready. My mum was my best friend and confidante and it was a privilege to have her as my mother. She went in three short weeks from advanced cancer and we were sure that the doctors had made a mistake and some miracle would happen and she would be ‘cured’ but it was quicker than we ever imagined and as many people who have written here know, the loss felt was more profound than I ever thought possible. I am now left with my dad whose despair at the loss of his soulmate seems to grow greater as every month passes and I can do nothing to ease his pain. I know he will never ‘get over it’ and feel he will continue for a while like an empty shell and then follow her as he feels the purpose and joy in life has left with my mum. I know that death is the certainty of life but knowing this doesn’t help you to accept it as you lose those you love. Peace to you Pat.
December 5, 2013 at 6:15 pm
I am so sorry about your mother. Despite your own loss, you seem aware of your father’s pain, which is good. Too often children urge their parents to move on because they feel as if they have lost both parents.
Your father’s despair might grow for a few more months, maybe even a year before it will finally (and very slowly)begin to ebb. Take care of yourself. Grief is hard work.