I Am a Seven-Month Grief Survivor

Grief is so encompassing that for months my thoughts focused entirely on my dead mate — my soul mate — reinforcing my idea that falling in love and experiencing grief are the bookends of a shared life. When we were together, he was so often by my side as we ran errands, fixed meals, watched movies, talked for hours on end, that I didn’t need to focus on him — he was there. And then he wasn’t.

In the movie The Butcher’s Wife, Demi Moore talks about searching for her split apart. Very romantic this idea of finding your split apart, but what happens when your split apart is split apart from you once more? I can tell you — it releases such a storm of emotion that you feel as if you will never find yourself again, that you will be forever swept away in the tsunami/hurricane/soulquake that is new grief.

I’ve weathered seven months of grief, from the first global storm to the more isolated mists that beset me now. I’m settling back into myself, letting go of the incredible tension that grief brings. We bereft are so focused on our lost one, so tensed against hurtful memories and mementoes, that it can bring on a host of physical problems, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

I am lucky. I’ve been able to release this tension through walks, through tears, and — at the beginning — through screaming. I have not passed all the landmarks of grief — some people experience their worst pain at eight months, others need two years just to regain their equilibrium, and of course, there are all those firsts that are yet to come: the first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first anniversary of his death — but perhaps the worst of the storms have passed. Or I could be fooling myself. This sad but not terribly painful stage I am going through could be just a hiatus, the eye of a storm, and the forces of grief are gathering themselves for a new onslaught. These months of grief survival, however, have taught me that I will be able to endure whatever comes.

I thought I’d be different after going through such storms of grief, (shouldn’t I be?) but I feel as if I am still myself, or rather, I feel as if I am myself again. I am sadder, of course, and that sadness will probably always shadow any future happiness, which is as it should be. One can never unknow such trauma. It will always be part of me.

He will always be part of me.

In many ways, he gave me life. He made me feel that life was worth living because he was in it. I have to learn to feel that life is worth living because I am in it, and that will be a long time coming. I am still at the stage where I don’t care if I live. NO, I am not suicidal. I am not stockpiling pills or thinking suicidal thoughts. This not caring is perhaps one of the longest-lived stages of grief, one that we bereft only talk about to each other — or our counselors — because it is so often misunderstood by those who have not been in a similar situation. One thing that keeps me going is curiosity about where life will take me now that he is not here for me to love.

Where does that love go when it is no longer needed? I don’t know. I do know that you love someone, their well-being is as important to you as your own, and then suddenly that someone is gone, leaving behind those unfulfilled feelings of wanting to help. Of caring. Of empathy. I still think of him almost all the time, still wish I could put my arms around him and make him well. When I hear a noise, sometimes I think it is he, and my first inclination is to go to him. When I hear or see something that would amuse or outrage him, sometimes I get up to go tell him. But these thoughts and actions are not as painful as they once were.

I have survived seven months of grief. I will continue to survive.

18 Responses to “I Am a Seven-Month Grief Survivor”

  1. Dana Says:

    Oh, Pat… My heart hurts for you and what you’re going through, even as I celebrate your strength…

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Dana. I suppose it’s true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but I would rather have been tested in some less permanent and traumatic way.

  2. Jill Lynn Says:


    I can’t believe it’s been seven months already. I’m sure, for you, it seems it was just yesterday. And at other times you probably feel you’ve been grieving for longer.

    Still here for you, Pat,as are many others.



    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Jill. I would never have survived this long without the support of my online friends. And you’re right, it seems as if I’ve been grieving forever, yet part of me feels as if he’s as close as yesterday.

  3. joylene Says:

    There are so many facets to grief, it’s hard to say what to expect next. I even wonder if there is ever an end to it.

    Thanks for sharing this landmark moments, Pat.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m thinking there is probably no end to it. Just different facets, as you say. Actually, the only thing that can end the grief would be to have our loved ones back, and even then, the grief would continue. Perhaps part of grief is mourning our carefreeness, the last of our belief in happily-ever-after.

  4. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    I’m trying to think back to similarities in my own experiences to understand where you are. We are all different in the time it takes moving from one stage of grief to another. I lost my mother and grandmother nine days apart. At that time in my life, they were close to me, part of my everyday world. As you mentioned how you sometimes get up to go tell your husband something, I would go to the phone to call my mother or grandmother before going to bed, and on the way to the phone, I would realize they were both gone. It would hit me like a ton of bricks as though I’d heard it for the first time. This kind of reflexive response will finally stop, but it takes time. Seven months is a short time when you think of how long your husband was a constant part of you and your life. My heart goes out to you, Pat. I think God will give you a life worth living and full of hope. Right now you feel like you don’t have one. He may wait until this hard grieving lessens so that there will be a whole Pat to invest into your new life. I think you are doing well. You won’t always feel that your life is over. Better days are coming, Pat.

  5. C.L. harmer Says:

    I haven’t seen you since HS so what can I possibly know of what you are going through. Only words of comfort I can offer when I was widowed at 38 after an all too brief marriage: “Grief eventually turns into graditude.” It was true for me. I suspect it will be true for you but it doesn’t necessarily blunt the deep pain of grief.
    best to you,
    Cindy “C.L.” Harmer

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you for the comment you left on my blog, Cindy. I never know whether it’s worse to lose someone at the beginning of a relationship like you did, at the end, or in the middle like I did. It’s all hard.

  6. victoria thonvold Says:

    My husband of 25 years died two months ago on Feb 19,2011 and as I read I feel I am following in your foot steps. Strange to say but I enjoyed reading your blog —– My pain is so great and I am amazed that it goes on and on—– I love how you talk about learning to live—- ” life is worth living because I am in it” Right now I am still life was worth living because he was in it—-

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Victoria, it breaks my heart every time I hear from someone who is traveling this terrible and lonely road. That initial pain is so immense and so intense and so prolonged I am still amazed a person can survive. The only thing that got me to this point is by following others who have gone before me, so it’s good to know I can pay that back. I still have times of heartsearing pain, still have moments of panic when I realize — again — that he is gone, still am learning to live, but I also have moments of peace. Someday you will, too.

      Sending you hugs and tears.

  7. victoria thonvold Says:

    Thank you for replying—-I am so broken and your words comfort me— and knowing someone reached out at this moment who understands was like a gift—-

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Victoria — Broken? Yes, of course you are. The loss of a mate shatters you and no matter how successful you are at putting yourself back together, part of you will always feel broken. People tell me one can find happiness, and I suppose it’s true since so many who lost their mates do find happiness, but the best I’ve been able to manage so far is peace. I still feel broken, shattered, amputated. Still have times of tears. Still miss him. Still yearn for one more word, one more smile.

      If you’d like to read more of my grief articles, you can find them here: https://ptbertram.wordpress.com/category/grief/. They are backward, with the most current ones first, (or you can go the index of all my articles at the top of the page and search for the grief ones).

      Grief is so very isolating that it is good to know that someone is going through it too, good to know that whatever you do to find a bit of comfort — hugging his clothes, screaming, papering your walls with his photos — is fine. You are fine, even though you don’t feel fine.

      If you ever need to talk, I’m right here. Just leave a comment and I will respond. I promise.

      Wishing you peace. Sending you hugs.

      • victoria thonvold Says:

        I will take those hugs—–Tomorrow morning is going to be my second month –Feb 19th-April 19th—-
        I gave him his morphine and lorezapam at 2AM and when the alarm went off at 5AM—- I had to feed him through a stomach tube beginning at that hour to get all the feedings in—- I knew right away something was different when I reached over to touch him. I was not ready for him to go ——He was my everything—-We like you —talked and discussed and did so many things—We were like an island –we needed no one and lived such a warm and happy life for 25 years. He did so many things for me— and with him behind me I was safe and strong–
        The more I read of your journey — I feel comforted
        Thank you—

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Victoria, My mate died on Friday night at 1:40 am, and every week at that time, I have an upsurge of grief. Even now, after a year, that time is still almost impossible for me to deal with. Oddly enough, even if I don’t remember, my body does, and the tears come. The day of the month is also hard. I don’t ever plan anything for the 27th, knowing what a terrible day it will be.

          You are stronger than you know. Just reaching out the way you have is a sign of strength, of trying to figure out how to cope. I wish I had answers, but the only thing I’ve learned is just to feel the grief. And to take care of yourself. Losing a life mate is the most stressful thing a person ever has to deal with. Even if they have been sick for a long time, it’s hard to let them go.

          As you read my grief posts, be sure to read the comments, especially the ones on the three month and six month grief survivor articles. So many people commented, telling their stories, that it comforted me. I hope it will do the same for you.

          I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow.

  8. lindacordingley Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss but thank you for describing so perfectly how loss feels. I did the first of everything I did with my sister as soon as I could to get it out of the way. Luckily my daughter, son and friend were a great help in doing this and didn’t mind the tears. My sister Gail died six months ago and at six o’clock I often forget and look at the time and think I must ring her as this was something we did every night. It is very hard to let go even when they are very ill.
    Good luck for the future

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am sorry you lost your sister, Linda. It’s so hard to lose someone you are deeply connected to. You’re right — it’s hard even when they are ill. It takes a long time to break the habit of wanting to call or collecting interesting tidbits to tell them. Good luck to you, too. Wishing you all the best.

  9. Katherine Lawrence Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. Keep surviving!

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