I Am a Fourteen-Month Grief Survivor

Fourteen months sounds like a long time, doesn’t it? Plenty of time to get over the death of one’s lifemate/soulmate/best friend. And yet, those who have been where I am today know you don’t ever truly get over it. You deal with it, you get on with your life, but there is always that niggling feeling of something being not quite right.

I still feel bad for him that he’s gone, that he suffered so much, that he died too young, that he is no longer here to enjoy something as simple as eating a bowl of his chili. (Though the batch I made today in his honor wasn’t worth coming back from the dead for. The kidney beans were overcooked, the onions undercooked.)

I still feel sad for me, that I’ll never get to see him again in this lifetime, that we’ll never get to do all the things we planned, that his smile exists only in my memory, that I’m alone. I’m glad we had all those years together, but that doesn’t ease the loneliness he left behind. It is odd, but for some reason I never expected to be lonely. I’m used to spending time alone, I know how to entertain myself, and I’m quite capable of taking care of myself (though the thought of growing old alone makes me panic at times). I also have more friends now than I’ve had in many years. But still, I’m lonely — lonely for him specifically, and lonely in general. Perhaps my loneliness is another stage of grief rather than a character flaw. Perhaps someday it, too, will pass, as have other manifestations of my grief.

One stage of grief I am clinging to is anger. Not rage, just a quiet pilot light of anger. I accept that he is dead in the sense that I know he will never be coming back (though I still long desperately to go home to him, still yearn to see him one more time). But I cannot accept the rightness of his death. It seems so terribly wrong that death was the only resolution of his illness, the only solution to his pain. And that does anger me. Anger is generally considered to be a negative emotion, but during the past few months I’ve found that in small doses, anger is a positive thing. Anger can give us the strength to survive. Anger can give us the energy to do things we couldn’t do under normal circumstances. Anger can give us a feeling of control in uncertain times. Anger can keep us going when we want to give up. Anger can give us the courage to live with the injustice of death. Anger can motivate us to find solutions to problems, can motivate us to undertake dreaded tasks, can motivate us to change our lives. So, yes, I’m clinging to whatever vestige of anger I can. It’s the only way I can get through these lonely days.

I am now more aware of the years looming in front of me than the years behind me, those years we shared. I’ve been saying that I don’t know who I am now that he’s gone, but I do — I’m still me. Still the person I’ve always been, just older and sadder. I’ve mostly untwinned our lives, no longer see me as half of a couple. And yet, something is missing. I don’t cry much any more, but sometimes I find myself crying for . . . I don’t know what.

It’s a relief to be telling the truth. I’ve been keeping upbeat the past few weeks — preparing for my presentation at the writers’ conference, traveling, being around people who only know me as an author, posting photos of my adventures. It was wonderful, but it’s only half my story. The adventure ended, and now here I here I am. Fourteen months of missing him, and still counting.

15 Responses to “I Am a Fourteen-Month Grief Survivor”

  1. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    I suppose as long as the pain is pressing, anger may continue to brew inside your heart. It’s good that you recognize it. Blessings to you, Pat…

  2. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    On a balance scale it takes an equal amount of two things to create balance, so your life as an author may be what helps offset the other part of you that is widow. At the fulcrum is the real you… an individual, learning the way through a new landscape in your life.

    I realize what you’re saying when you identify your anger as a positive force, but truthfully I can’t see it as that. Anger of any kind seething under the surface may prompt forward movement, but it can also have a negative effect on a person’s physical health. Anger is a stage in the grieving process but I hope you’re soon able to find your way past it.

  3. Pat Bertram Says:

    All emotions have both postive and negative sides. Anger is the same. It is not seething in me, and is not in any way destructive. It is simply there, a quiet little pilot light of awareness that all is not right.

    • leesis Says:

      many folk are scared of anger but the only time it does damage is when it is repressed and denied. Then it can become a twisted emotion giving rise to bitterness that can implode or explode causing damage. Death, illness, injustice all create the energy called anger that then can motivate us toward action, toward understanding…sometimes indeed simply giving us the energy to get up in the morning. As usual Pat I honour your sharing of this experience with such honestly and without judgement.

  4. LV Gaudet Says:

    Loneliness is never a character flaw, but a symptom of the things going on in our lives.

    I think you have been amazingly strong in dealing with losing someone as important a part of your life as your life mate.

    Does anyone make the choice to grow old alone? Perhaps some do. But I think mostly we just have to make the best of what life gives us. And sometimes we get another chance at that special closeness later in life.

    You have been incredibly strong and brave, and I think many would take comfort from the words you’ve shared in learning how to deal with your grief.

  5. Lesa Campbell Says:

    Ah, Pat, you explain it so well. My mother died in September, and I never expected my reaction. She was, after all, 87, and I was sure I was “prepared.” But I cried every day. Cried for the loss of my mother, the sadness of my father, for the cat that died four years ago, for the nephew we lost to suicide, for the kitten killed when I was 10.

    The tears no longer come every day, but when they do, I am amazed at the depth of emotion they touch.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Lesa, Every death diminishes us a bit more. Whether a death is expected or comes instantly, it is always a shock and always a surprise, as is our reaction. I never expected to grieve — in fact, he’d suffered so much I was glad when he died. But every day, it seems, I find something new to grieve. As hard as my brother’s and mother’s death were, it didn’t compare to the loss of my mate. Give your husband an extra hug today.

  6. Librariandoa Says:

    I’m sorry that this sadness lingers for you. Some people who go out of our lives leave a great gap that can never be filled. Have you read The Year of Magical Thinking? Joan Didion did so much research into grief to try to make sense of it all. It helped me alot.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, I did read it. I was particularly taken with her title — it’s amazing how our brains take so long to process the information that our loved ones will no longer need shoes, or glasses, or car keys. I talked to someone recently who lost his wife several years ago. He said it took him four years to completely move on. Someone else said she wasn’t able to fill the gap until she married again. So much sorrow! And so much of it is hidden from view, which is why I elected to blog about my grief despite being such a private person.

  7. Yosis Says:

    “just a quiet pilot light of anger” caught my attention…not only because the consonance is exquisite, but also because it wraps your self-awareness in such gentle elegance. Nice.

  8. Gloria Teague Says:

    Beautifully and honestly written. I doubt all of our words combined do a whole lot of good, Pat, yet it’s all we have to offer you. My husband is 12 years older than me and, though I could conceivably go before him, I’m terrified of the thought that he’ll go first. Selfish, isn’t it, wanting him to be the one left behind to deal with a loss such as this? I can only imagine how it feels, have no idea how hard it will be to go on, but I will now remember that, somewhere, there are others hurting like I will be. For some reason that helps. Thank you for your sharing.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Gloria, Perhaps you will both lead very long and happy lives. It is never easy to lose a mate, but it’s harder when he dies too young. And yes, it does help to know others are on this same journey. Grief is such an isolating experience, that it is important to know you are not alone. I’ve been going to a grief support group, which has helped immensely.

  9. Lisa Hallowes Says:

    I know you are a long away from being here, but I am here. Please know when I seek solace and peace I come here to read your words. You are a beautiful writer and so was my sweet boy. I miss words that actually MEAN something. And yours mean SO much!
    Thanks very much. I can only hope to help others 1/2 as much as you have helped me.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Lisa, thank you for stopping by and telling me your story. Sometimes I feel as if I am flinging my grief into the uncaring winds, so it’s nice to know that they mean something to you. I am very sorry about your sweet boy, sorry for all of us and our losses.

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