Grief Takes as Long as It Takes

I’ve been thinking about writing a book about grief, combining my grief blogs, the letters I’ve written to my dead mate, the journal I kept those first few months after he died, and the various bits of information about dealing with grief I’ve collected during the past nine months. Now I’m wondering if anyone will want to read such a depressing book.

This morning, for the first time, I read some of those letters I wrote, and I couldn’t believe the raw pain. The writing chronicles my journey, and perhaps people will see beyond the pain to the insights and the struggle to find meaning after such a soulquake, yet jeez! It’s so damn sad. On the other hand, people might find comfort knowing they are not the only ones going through such trauma. On the other other hand, I might want to bury my head in the sand before I get halfway through putting the book together. On the other other other hand, it could be cathartic.

I did notice something interesting, though. The letters I first read this morning were the ones I wrote four or five months ago. Since those were so agonizing to read, I was afraid of looking at the first ones, but I held my breath and jumped in. Oddly, those first letters are more chatty than angst-ridden, like I was writing to someone who was only going to be gone for a short time. I remember the pain hitting me right after his death, which it did, but apparently it kept on growing until by the end of the first month (when I naively thought I’d be over it) I was so desperate, I went to a grief support group hoping someone could tell me how to survive. They couldn’t tell me, of course. They could only show me by their progress that it is possible to survive.

Good thing I don’t have to make a decision about the book for another three months. Or even longer. I don’t want to write it before the first year of grief is up because I don’t want to skew my healing, and besides, I’m hoping that after a year I’ll be more hopeful, wiser, stronger. Seems to me I’ve been saying that very thing for months. First, it was the end of the first month that was supposed to bring me hope, wisdom, strength. Then I thought I’d have achieved those things by the third month, then the sixth, the seventh, the ninth. Maybe twenty-four or thirty-six months is more realistic. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) grief takes as long as it takes.

11 Responses to “Grief Takes as Long as It Takes”

  1. itsahappyblog Says:

    ‘Grief takes as long as it takes.’ Yeah, sounds about right. I have been putting off a ‘part 2’ on a grief blog post. My most recent deep sadness was in September – sadness, not soulquake grief – but each time I face a loss I seem to revisit every past loss. Especially pausing are the ones that seem to delineate previous me from me after loss. I do not relate to your loss of partner, but I glean from your raw exposure to all of us looking in from e-space. Thank you for your openness. Even since joining your readers after you were pressed I sense the movement of your journey forward.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s good to know you can sense the movement of my journey forward. Without that forward movement, these grief blogs (and ultimately the book) would be simply an indulgence. Not that there is anything wrong with indulgence, but if I’m going to indulge, it should be in something fun, not pain.

      Thank you for the contributions you have made to these discussions.

  2. Holly Bonville Says:

    In my opinion, you should write the book, when you are ready of course. You and I may be nine and ten months into our grief, but every day there are people facing the first days. I would have been grateful to find a personalized, emotional book to read instead of the clinical books that are out there.
    I have not read my first letters yet, am not ready to go back there yet.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Holly, those clinical books were hard to take, weren’t they? I only read a couple of my first letters. I couldn’t handle the pain quite yet.

      An old friend who lost her mate 22 years ago told me loss brings strange blessings. Well you, and all those who are accompanying me on this journey, have been a blessing to me.

  3. Jan Says:

    Write. Who is to say your book won’t become the handbook to which a desperately grieving person clings to keep from drowning? You helped me immensely and more than I can ever thank you for – I truly believe you can help others through your writing.

    Does it have to wait until you’re stronger and wiser? There’s no timetable for grief recovery – you taught me that. The most important aspect of journeying along the path of grief is that you survive. Strength and wisdom are the pearls we pick up as we travel the road, but they’re not the culmination of the journey.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Jan, good point about the pearls. I’m always looking for truth and strength and wisdom, as if they are the culmination of the journey. Perhaps only the journey counts, and I can certainly write about that journey.

      The irony of our situation does not escape me. You were there for me at the beginning, telling me about the experience with having lost your husband at a young age, then after you lost your soulmate, I was there for you. (As you were for me.) Life is so bizarre at times. As the woman said: strange blessings.

  4. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    There will aways be people losing their mates. While there may not be a specific pathway to surviving grief, there will always be the need to know the pain will lessen and a butterfly may emerge from the cocoon of grief. I think the mourning mates at first feel intensely that the future is forever marred and hopeless. If you had come across a book about surviving grief while you were hurting so terribly in the beginning, would you not have turned a few pages to decide if you wished to read it? I believe you have the insight and skill to write such a book. Blessings to you, Pat…

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Carol, that’s true about there always being people who need to know the pain will lessen. After all, that’s why I started going to the grief group, and why I stayed after I no longer needed it for myself — I knew those coming in after me needed to hear that one can survive.

  5. leesis Says:

    Hey Pat. A couple of things. The point you make about the first month is so important. Though we know a loved one is dead and we suffer, it isn’t truly until that first month or so passes that our mind/lives can truly comprehend the absence. When that comprehension really occurs the pain reaches a depth unfathomable to those who’ve yet to experience this. Unfortunately this is also when those around us often stop being there, stop ringing etc… It’s also when we are expected to get back to work etc and start receiving what I call the ‘aren’t you over it yet looks’.

    Pat no one ‘wants’ to read a book about death. But should it strike us lordy do we ‘need’ to read stories like yours. Indeed I think we need to read it before we experience such if at all possible. So many times reading your posts I have been struck by your ability to articulate the true messiness of it all…both the internal messiness and the external messiness of a society seriously disabled when it comes to relating to the griever. Folk need to know there’s no time limit. They need to know the grief process isn’t a straight line. They need to know that others have felt survival is impossible, that the anger comes back, that…well pretty much everything you have written. There is so much pressure to ‘get over it’, ‘get on with stuff’ etc etc.

    I guess this is a really long way of saying I really really really hope you end up writing it :).

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