Grief and Remembrance

The problem with grief is that while the subject of the grief stays gone, grief comes again and again, sometimes when one is least expecting it. I’d been doing well handling my grief after the death of the man with whom I spent thirty-four years of my life, yet these past couple of days grief has come to revisit me, and my sorrow is as great as it was a year ago.

I mentioned before about the terrible anniversaries of my grief. I lived through the first anniversary of the day pain struck him with such force that he took to bed for the rest of his life. I lived through the first anniversary of the day we got the diagnosis: inoperable kidney cancer. I lived through the first anniversary of the day we signed up for hospice, of the day we signed the DNR (the do not resuscitate order).

I had a hiatus of a couple of weeks where I was mostly at peace, then yesterday I was so overcome with grief that I wanted to scream out in anguish. I couldn’t figure out what hit me or why, but as it happens, the body remembers even when the mind doesn’t, and my body remembered that yesterday was the first anniversary of the last time we hugged, the last time we kissed.

And today . . . today is the first anniversary of the last time we talked. The last time he spoke to me. The last time he knew who I was. Today is also the anniversary of the day we took him to the hospice care center to live out the remaining few days of his life.

I’d been looking forward to the anniversary of his death, supposing that after a year of grieving I would be mostly finished with the pain, that he would have receded from my thoughts. It was a realistic expectation — my focus on him has been diminishing, so much so that sometimes it feels as if our life together was a story I told myself long ago — but as always, grief has its own agenda.

The past year seems to have disappeared. I know I lived it, know what I accomplished (and what I didn’t) yet the cliché is true — it passed in the blink of an eye. If I turn my head quickly, perhaps I will see him. He feels that close. If the world could turn back for just a second, I could catch him. Hang on to him. Never let him go.

But he is gone. And all the tears I shed this year will never bring him back.

Today was my grief support group day. I’d stopped going for a while. At the time, I wasn’t in the same place as the other bereft, and I was afraid I was doing them a disservice by my dissociation. After a few weeks, I did go back to be there for a friend, and today she and the group were there for me. Since I hadn’t had a memorial service for my mate, the facilitator asked me to say a eulogy, to make sense of his life, but I couldn’t make sense of it — I don’t understand the point of his having had to suffer so much. I could make sense of his life as pertains to me, though. I talked about how he accompanied and mentored me on my journey — my quest for truth and meaning — how he went with me as far as he could. Oddly, we’d used up our relationship, not in a bad way, but in a good way. We’d talked for hours on end, day after day, year after year. We read books and discussed them, studied films, researched various topics and shared information, tried to see the big picture and connect all the disparate parts of life.

I want so much to talk with him once more, to have one of those electric conversations where ideas were zinging back and forth, but the truth is, we said everything that was important. I have not come up with a single question for him this past year that he had not already answered. (Except for what he wants done with his ashes, but even that is an answer. If he cared, he would have told me.)

The last thing he ever said to me was, “Remember everything I told you.”

And I do remember.

8 Responses to “Grief and Remembrance”

  1. cancerwidow Says:

    So much of your post feels so terribly familiar. I’m missing my best friend – our conversations, our laughter and our sharing of books, films, music, the big questions about life, the universe and everything – and it’s only been a few weeks. I can’t imagine how I’ll ever feel any less sad than I do now, or how I’m meant to keep going. I hope this renewed intensity of grieving helps you find a new place of love and remembrance. Best wishes.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am so sorry you lost your husband. It’s a terrible journey, this trying to find a way to live with such a hole in your life. Oddly, these renewed waves of grief bring peace in their wake. Others have survived. Know that you will, too. Many of my friends are people who have lost their spouses or significant others. We are all trying to figure out a way to make sense of it, to make a new life for ourselves. I am always here if you need someone to talk to.

  2. Sheila Deeth Says:

    What a beautiful post. You remember, and you write. You keep other people’s memories alive in that too. Thank you

  3. Rachael Says:

    Oh Pat, I’m sending tons of hugs your way.

  4. joylene Says:

    Beautifully written as ever, Pat. Thinking of you.

  5. Sumner Says:

    Dear Pat:

    I’m sure no one can understand the grief you feel, even though all who say they do, do so with all good intent. This kind of grief is too personal. How can you expect to get over in one year the memories of an entire lifetime with someone? It will take a long, long time, and I’m sure you’ll never get over his death completely, but perhaps someday it might ease for you. At least enough to allow you to get through your day without breaking down. Some times exercise helps, walking daily. Even for short distances, might give you a break, allow you to forget for a short time.

    You need to jump into your writing with even more dedication than you have before. You have more books to write.

    Whatever you manage to do, I hope it offers you some much needed relief from your terrible grief.

    Give walking a shot. Might help, can’t hurt.

    Sumner Wilson

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sumner, walking has been my savior. I’d never have gotten through all these months without it. Now writing? That I’ve let go, but yes, you’re right — I need to jump into it again. I hope you’re right that I have more books to write. Life will bleak without it, and it’s bleak enough right now. The thing that keeps me going is the support of my online friends. Thank you.

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