Surprised by Grief

I continue to be surprised by the intensity and depth and variability of grief. It’s been more than ten months since my life mate — my soul mate – died. Most days now I feel normal, but “normal” for me is his being safe at home, perhaps in the other room, perhaps outside shoveling snow or watering our trees. The renewed realization that he is gone from this life still brings me raw pain. I’m getting used to being alone — in some ways, that aloneness feels normal, too. Until I met him, I’d always expected to be alone, and so part of me is looping back to that earlier life when I had only my concerns to worry about.

Still, despite that normalcy, there are days when it feels as if he just left, as if he walked out on me (or I walked out on him) and it’s a matter of time until we reconcile our differences. I don’t know where such thoughts come from — we had no major differences. Well, except for the soul-shaking differences that came when our journeys diverged — his into death, mine into continued life.

I mentioned before that love and grief were the bookends of a relationship. Because of its intensity, the ability to change a person’s life and outlook, and the all-consuming focus on another person, grief seems to mimic falling in love, though in a bleaker, blacker, lonelier way. And like love, grief stirs up your depths, making you realize you are more than you ever thought you could be. As I’m slowly beginning to define my life solely by me, not by “us”, I’m seeing another similarity. When a couple embarks on a life together, they learn to depend on each other, to find ways to complement each other, to meld their likes and dislikes, their hopes and frustrations into a workable emotional environment for both parties. When half of a couple dies, the person left behind has to find a way to unmeld. To go from thinking about both of you, to thinking solely of yourself, to depending solely on yourself. It’s hard and painful and feels futile at times. (Because, you think, if life is worth living, he would still be here.)

It’s like a teeter-totter. When one person leaves abruptly, you crash to the ground. You do learn to play by yourself, but you are always aware that the other side is empty. Gradually, you get used to it, though — or at least resigned. And that’s where I am, most of the time. Resigned.

I’m even getting resigned to that great yearning I once talked about, especially since it’s nothing new. Looping back to the time before I met him, when I was young, I remember being consumed by yearning, though I never knew for what. I didn’t feel it when we were together, but I feel it now. Could that yearning have been for him? Or could our being together have masked the earlier yearning? Just one of the many questions stirred up from the depths by grief.

8 Responses to “Surprised by Grief”

  1. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    I think we have a yearning for companionship, oneness with a mate. Perhaps the yearning before you met your husband was that yearning for companionship. The yearning was sated all those years by your relationship with him. Now the yearning is there again. Is it for him? Yes. Could someone else satisfy that yearning again? Perhaps. My own yearning after losing my husband in death was satisfied by next husband. I have a deep regard for and fond memories of my lost husband, but I am living life again fulfilled. Blessings to you, Pat…

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Carol, I’m so glad to hear you found new love after losing your first husband. I am learning from you and others who I’ve talked to that a person can love deeply more than once, and that the new love doesn’t negate the previous one.

  2. Holly Bonville Says:

    I understand the yearning. I didn’t meet Jake until I was 38, so I had many years on my own. I find that once again, I have that same yearning. I never had that the 13 years Jake and I had together. Being alone is no big deal, I have been on my own for many, many years. My preference is to be with Jake. I don’t want to be alone again.
    I consider myself lucky to have had the time to learn how to take care of myself before. I have a friend that didn’t even know how to pump her own gas let alone building a deck on her own (as I did on my own home), so when her husband died, she had no idea how to take care of herself.

    I can’t put my thoughts and feelings into words like you can, so I hope my thoughts are coming across the way I meant them. I understand.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Holly, you do very well writing your thoughts. I know what you mean. We can be alone and do it quite well. It’s not that I want not to be alone. I want him with me, and if not with me, at least in the world.

  3. Marian Veverka Says:

    It’s been almost 4 years & such a big chunk of my life was with him. i still expect to hear his truck pull into the driveway, the door open and close. If he were to stand in the doorway this minute I’d look up from the keyboard & say something dumb like “Snowing again?”
    At night, when I get out of bed to go to the bathroom, I’m careful not to disturb him. I don’t turn on the light. I ease myself gently back into the bed. On my side. Hush. He’s snoring again. I pull the blanket overmy head & return to sleep.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am learning the truth of it — after living with someone for most of one’s life, they are imprinted on your soul, and you never forget and you never stop missing him.

  4. joylene Says:

    It’s interesting that you see it this way. When my dear friend lost her husband she wrote a poem about the similarities between divorce and death. She made me laugh but then that is her way… she often laughs in the face of dire torment. When we lost our son Jody, she showed up at our door with a huge, soft, teddy bear in her arms. She told me to hug him every time the grief became unbearable. I think my survival is based in part on the fact I have such wonderful friends. While I wanted to become a recluse and hide out, I knew in my heart I needed friends and I needed to be a friend.

    I can’t show up at your door with a teddy bear, Pat. But now that I am only a breath away from hearing you.

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