I Am a Nine-Month Grief Survivor

Thirty-four years ago, I walked into a health food store, and my world was never the same. It wasn’t love at first sight, this first time I saw the man with whom I would share more than three decades of my life. It was a primal recognition. Something deep inside me, something beneath consciousness, wailed, “But I don’t even like men with blond hair and brown eyes.”

I had no expectation of ever spending my life with this radiantly wise and intelligent man. It was enough to know he was alive. The world, which had seemed so inhospitable, became a place of hope and possibilities simply because he lived. Over the months our connection grew, and gradually our lives became entwined.

It confused us at times, our connection. Neither of us were particularly romantic, and we didn’t bring each other fairy-tale happiness. But we were together, and in the end, as at the beginning, being together was all that mattered.

But we aren’t together any more. Nine months ago, he died. And my world will never be the same.

I am doing okay — can even go for a week or two at a time without a major grief attack — but I still feel as if parts of me are missing. Grief shattered me, and I’ve put the pieces back together as best as I can despite those missing pieces. I now get glimpses of hope, of possibilities, of building a new life for myself. I know  there will be times of overwhelming grief and times of peace, times of sorrow and times of gladness. But he isn’t here to share those times. That I cannot comprehend.

Until I became one of the bereft, I thought grief was self-centered and self-pitying, and there is some truth to that. I do feel sorry for myself at times, but mostly I struggle to comprehend the meaning of our connected lives, his dying, and my continued life. I struggle to accept that while (perhaps) there is a second chance of happiness for me in this life, there is none for him. I struggle to understand his goneness. Sometimes the need to go home to him overwhelms me, and I have to learn — again — that his being gone from this life means I can never go home. He was my home. Someday I might learn to find “home” within myself, but until then, I am adrift in a world that once again feels inhospitable.

During those first days and weeks of struggling to survive grief, I kept screaming to myself, “I can’t do this.” I still feel like screaming those words occasionally, but I have learned that yes, I can survive this, because I have. And I will continue to survive.

8 Responses to “I Am a Nine-Month Grief Survivor”

  1. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    You describe accurately and compassionately the process of grief, the feeling of lacking wholeness, the still, small voice that keeps whispering that it didn’t really happen, and you’ll wake up, coupled with the gentle prodding of your heart that reminds you life has changed forever, that indeed it did happen. You factor in the diminishing effect of time on the soreness of the wound, the healing that will leave a scar, but a scar that will lighten. You are a nine month survivor indeed. Like any survivor, you have endured the bruises of battle, but you are winning, and will overcome. Blessings to you, Pat…

  2. joylene Says:

    Someone told me once that to survive is instinctual. Then why do so many “not” survive? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s work and struggle and moments of failure. It’s about yearning for answers and being patient enough and faithful enough to believe that one day you’ll understand. God Bless you, Pat. Survival is about carrying your love for this man in your heart where it will live forever.

  3. leesis Says:

    I think, in response to Joylene, many don’t survive because they run, they distract, they drink…anything to avoid the seemingly endless storm of grief. In reading your journey Pat I yet again cringe for your pain whilst applauding your honesty, your courage and the sharing of your journey.

  4. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    Pat, my experience has been that the memory and questions remain, but the pain dwindles away, not in a steady decline but in a zigzagging sort of way. And like many of life’s big questions, I’ve accepted that there isn’t going to be an answer this side of heaven. Like my children and grandchildren who constantly barraged me with “Why?” if I keep asking I am told, “Just because that’s the way it is. And that’s the best answer I can give you for now, so stop asking.” But, of course, we don’t stop wondering anyway, do we? May you continue to be sustained and blessed during this difficult time.

  5. Beth Says:

    Pat, because I’ve never loved this way, I’ve never grieved as you have. While I certainly don’t envy your grief and would never wish for it, I do wish to know the kind of love the two of you shared. I can only imagine the pain of separation. But, I can also only imagine the joy of soul-deep love. I’d like to do more than imagine such passion; I want to feel it. Feel it down in the deepest parts. I’m guessing if I know that kind of love, I’d also know your pain. Because how can something be yanked from the deep places without leaving painful wounds?

  6. Sheila Deeth Says:

    You remind me to remember how my mother feels without my dad. Thank you.

  7. MiMi Says:

    The part about his being your “home” was devastating to me. I wept. I lost my Mom nearly 4 months ago, and I go home every day to the house we shared with the feeling that I will never be “home” again.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      At four months, you’re still so new to grief. still so very painful. one reason it’s so hard is that you lost not just a mother and friend but everything she meant to you. like home. like comfort. like unconditional acceptance. i wish had words of comfort to offer you, but when your world is shattered, there aren’t any words. i am so sorry.


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