I Am a Twelve-Month Grief Survivor

Twelve months.

One full year.

It seems impossible that my life mate — my soul mate — has been gone for so long. It seems even more impossible that I’ve survived.

His death came as no surprise. I’d seen all the end signs: his unending restlessness, his inability to swallow, his disorientation, his wasting away to nothing, the change in his breathing. Nor did my reaction come as a surprise. I was relieved he’d finally been able to let go and that his suffering (and the indignities of dying) had stopped. I was relieved his worst fear (lingering or a long time as a helpless invalid) had not had a chance to materialize. What did come as a surprise was my grief. I’d had years to come to terms with his dying. I’d gone through all the stages of grief, so I thought the only thing left was to get on with my life. And yet . . . there it was. His death seemed to have created a rupture in the very fabric of my being — a soulquake. The world felt skewed with him gone, and I had a hard time gaining my balance. Even now, I sometimes experience a moment of panic, as if I am setting a foot onto empty space when I expected solid ground.

I have no idea how I survived the first month, the second, the twelfth. All I know is that I did survive. I’m even healing. I used to think “healing” was an odd word to use in conjunction with grief since grief is not an illness, but I have learned that what needs to heal is that rupture — one cannot continue to live for very long with a bloody psyche. The rupture caused by his dying doesn’t yawn as wide as it once did, and the raw edges are finally scarring over. I don’t steel myself against the pain of living as I had been. I’m even looking forward, curious to what the future holds in store for me.

Strangely, I am not ashamed of all the tears I’ve shed this past year, nor am I ashamed of making it known how much I’ve mourned. The tears themselves are simply a way of easing the terrible stress of grief, a way of releasing chemicals that built because of the stress. And by making my grief public, I’ve met so many wonderful people who are also undertaking this journey.

I’ve been saying all along that I’d be okay eventually, but the truth is, despite the lingering sorrow, my yearning for him, and the upsurges in grief, I am doing okay now.

I expected this to be a day of sadness, but it is one of gladness. I am glad he shared his life (and his death) with me. Glad we had so many years together. Glad we managed to say everything that was necessary while we still had time. Tomorrow will be soon enough to try to figure out what I am going to do now that my first year of mourning is behind me. Today I am going to watch one of his favorite movies, eat a bowl of his chili (his because he created the recipe, his because he was the one who always fixed it), and celebrate his life.

12 Responses to “I Am a Twelve-Month Grief Survivor”

  1. Joy Collins Says:

    Sending prayers, Pat. I am just a few weeks behind you [it was 10 months for me this past week]. I don’t think I am as far along in my grieving because John’s passing was so sudden and unexpected. But reading about your journey has helped me somewhat and I thank you for that. Don’t ever be ashamed of the tears. As my therapist has told me – the depth of our sadness is a testament to the depth of our love and the strength of our relationship. If that is the case, I will be a long time grieving.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joy, There are so many of us on this journey that at times it seems as if the whole world is grieving. Such a terrible thing to have to endure! I am so sorry for all you are going through.

      I too will be grieving for a long time, but I’m lucky in that now I do have peaceful days where the grief subsides to a general sadness rather than all encompassing pain. I hope someday you will find a bit of peace, too.

  2. LeRoy Dean Says:

    You are in my prayers.

  3. Other Lisa Says:

    A lovely post. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

  4. leesis Says:

    sending lots of love to you Pat.

  5. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    Blessings to you as you find the rest of your life. May I assert that the best is yet? Very likely, it is.

  6. Nancy Says:

    I am 18 months into my grief. ‘Soulquake’ is the perfect term. I am not gasping for breath anymore. I no longer find ‘our’ songs a reason to cry. I think of him everyday, with every achievement or disappointment of our children I feel the now familiar pang of having no one to share my pride with, no one to be retrospective about their dealings with. Perhaps the last tears will be shed for these realizations. This may be last of my grief.
    Most of my wound is healed although the scarring remains. I am forever changed because of his sudden death but not in all horrific ways. I take time to smell the roses, cherish our kids a little more and realize that life is a wonderful, fragile gift not to be taken for granted.
    Thank you for you beautiful writing, Pat.

  7. Norge Says:

    My 366th day was much more sad than glad but it was beautiful and meaningful. I hiked alone to the top of Nevada Falls in Yosemite in winter. At most, there were four people I saw at any one time and then I was with absolutely no company. But then there were two of us. A young chaplain and I started talking. He often consoled families in hospitals who had lost or were losing loved ones. That made it easier for me to open up to this perfect stranger and it gave me the best time alone and with company on that cold, quiet, magnificent landscape.

    It’s now been more than 24 months. Parts of life seem quite “normal” but there are times that are just as painful. Best wishes to you, Pat.

  8. gmomj Says:

    Haven’t visited you ina while. But now I have subscribed. You have such a powerful voice. I am happy to see the flowers are starting to bloom.

  9. Kat Sheridan Says:

    Thinking of you, Pat. Holding you in my thoughts.

  10. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    It’s been a long and difficult year, and I’m sure there will be more times when grief will overtake you, but it’s wonderful to see that you are able to look beyond the past and present and recognize the potential of your future. You’ve come a long way this year, Pat. Nevertheless, I will continue to pray for you.


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