Driving My Grief

It might seem as if I am making zero progress or even backsliding with this upsurge in grief blogs, but writing my book on grief is bringing it back.

Do you want to know the sum total of all I have learned in the fourteen months and fourteen days since my life mate died? Here it is: you can get through grief. You can learn to live without him. You can find happiness again by living one day at a time. But the dead are still dead, and nothing you do can ever change that.

That is what drives my grief. Not the self-pity that sometimes breaks through my wall of courage, not the sustained note of sadness that keens beneath my consciousness, but the awareness that he is gone. He no longer cares that he suffered for years with an ailment the doctors couldn’t diagnose until it was too late. He no longer cares that he will never again watch any of his favorite movies or read a book. He no longer cares that he will never go on another road trip. He no longer cares that he will never again walk or talk or eat or smile. But I care.

Perhaps it is foolish of me still to care for and about someone who is beyond caring, but I cared immensely for him while he was alive, so why would I stop now that he is dead? He may no longer have feelings, but I do. Once he was alive and now he is not. Why shouldn’t I care about that?

There are many books on the market about how to get through grief quickly, how to get your life back on track, how to put the dead out of your head and take what you can from life. I know there is an element of self-pity when it comes to grief, and those books address that issue. But self-pity is not all there is to grief. Grief is a vast network of emotional, spiritual, and physical reactions, and part of that is sorrow on behalf of the one who died.

If grief is just about me (and perhaps someday I’ll get to the point where it is only about me), then it’s not my place to care about my life mate being gone from this earth. But if life is worth living, how can I not care that it is being denied him?

The corollary is, if he is the one who got the better end of the deal, if he truly is in a better place, then why am I still here? But I’d just as soon not dwell on that.

16 Responses to “Driving My Grief”

  1. Joy Collins Says:

    Pat, you are two month’s ahead of me in this awful journey but I am right with you in this part. Except I truly believe that my Love is in a better place and is happier than I am. Yet, I am still miserable and don’t see any way out of it. Part of me knows if he could, he would be with me and still experiencing those things you mourn for your Love but it wasn’t supposed to be that way. I believe that on some level, John and I agreed to do it this way and he understands this better than I do right now. Also, he has the distinct ability to still be with me in a way that I can’t be with him. So, on that level, it’s easier for him than it is for me. And I envy that.
    And, believe me, I wish with all my heart, that I would not be here now. The only thing that sustains me right now is reading every book I can on the afterlife. Books on grieving don’t help me. I tried them. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to go through. This grief is only about us. It is all-consuming. But I believe we are grieving a loss that they aren’t. They are not grieving. They still experience us, just not in the same way. This grief is supposed to have a purpose otherwise we would not still be here. But damned if I can figure that out. All I know is I want it to be over. All I want is to be reunited. Sorry if that’s TMI.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joy, never too much information! I envy your belief that you will se him again. I like your feeling that you decided this between the two of you, which is entirely possible. There is much communication on a level we can’t quite comprehend, but it is still real.

      I don’t believe in an afterlife, at least not one where we continue on as ourselves, but during the moments that I do believe, oddly, I still don’t think I’ll see him again. When we first met, I had the strange feeling that he came to be my guru, that he was some sort of superior being who was here to help me with my quest for truth, and that when he returned to his exalted state, he’d be far ahead of me on his journey. Since something deep inside of me recognized him during that first meeting, perhaps there is some truth to that feeling. Or else what I recognized was just one lonely person recognizing another.

  2. joylene Says:

    I couldn’t have said it better.

  3. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    I am comforted believing that my mother is with the Lord, comforted for her sake. For my sake I am comforted because I believe I will see her and dwell with her again eventually. The same goes for my deceased husband.

    This doesn’t change the here-and-now fact that I am deprived of their company for the rest of my life here on earth. My heart goes out to you. Your marriage consumed much of your life, and living without your husband is still a fresh wound considering the time your life was entwined with his. You were one with him, and the ripping away of him from you made a ragged wound that resists healing. I cannot imagine any shortcut to healing a severe wound like losing a lifelong mate. You are strong, Pat. You are the right person to write the book. Blessings to you…

  4. Kathy Holmes Says:

    I’ve learned that I take several steps backward while taking steps forward. You can cycle through the steps over and over again – especially if you’re reliving it by writing about it. I’ve experienced a different type of grief than you have but the process is similar. Anyway, just had to stop by to see how you’re doing – haven’t been here for awhile and was wondering about you.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Kathy. It always helps to know that one isn’t as isolated as one feels. People always talk about the stages of grief, as if you just check them off as you go through them, but as you have discovered, it’s more of a spiral, revisiting the same feelings, but (hopefully) with a diminishing impact.

      I hope you’re finding peace.

  5. Kathy Holmes Says:

    Thanks, Pat. I must say that I’ve learned that any loss needs to be grieved. For example, when I met my father for the first time when I was in my 40s, I had to grieve the lost relationship of a lifetime. And I really relived it when I wrote “Myths of the Fatherless” – the hardest book I’d ever written. And when I published it, the emotions came cycling back – it took all I had to put it out there. Even now, several years later, the emotion can hit me and I can spiral downward. But I recover sooner now.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Kathy, maybe that’s how we know we’re doing better. Not by the depth of the emotional storms, but by recovery time.

      I can’t even imagine how you were able to write your book. I’m compiling excerpts from my grief journal and blog posts into a book about my first year of grief, and it’s about killing me.

  6. Kathy Holmes Says:

    PS – I don’t know why wordpress is logging me in as my old wordpress account – I’m at http://www.kathyholmes.net, if anybody is interested.

  7. Claire Chamberlain Says:

    Hello there, grief is so lonely and cruel. I lost Michael on August 3rd 2012 aged only 48. He was the love of my life and i cannot come to terms with never seeing him, smelling him, touching him and feeling his warm embrace. He was from the Ukraine and he passed away there, it was such a shock and i was filled with disbelief. I flew to the Ukraine for his funeral, which was an orthodox burial lasting two and a half hours. Michael was a warm, strong person who had such a wonderful energy. To see him in his coffin dressed in a black suit broke my heart. I held him, kissed his face and stroked his hair for the last time, he felt so cold. His family were very kind to me and changed the day of the funeral so i could travel and be there. Now i am back in the UK, i feel terrible and a part of me has died with Michael. I have lovely friends and family who are there for me and tell me that Michael wouldn’t want me to be this upset but that does not help me. I have thought about taking my own life but i have a teenage daughter and that would destroy her. So how can you carry on? I am reading books on the afterlife, have been to see a medium and prayed for Michael’s soul in church but he is not coming back and they are the hard and cold facts.
    Hope you don’t mind me spilling my emotions onto your blog i feel so desperate

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t mind at all that you spilled your emotions on my blog. That’s what it’s here for.

      At only a month, it’s way too soon to get over your grief or to have people try to talk you out of being so upset. They don’t know the pain you’re in — no one can know unless they’ve been there. Nor do they know that you don’t have control of it. When the love of your life is torn from your soul, it takes a long time to heal. You don’t ever get over him — you’ll probably always miss him and yearn for one more embrace — but the pain that makes it so difficult to breathe does diminish eventually. You will never like the situation, maybe you’ll never come to terms with it (I still HATE that my mate is dead), but you will be able to deal with it.

      Is there a grief support group in your area? It helps to have people to talk to who are in a similar situation. It would make you feel less alone, if only for a few minutes.

      If not, feel free to stop by and spill out your feelings here, if you need to. I will listen, and I do understand.

      • Claire Chamberlain Says:

        Thank you Pat for your kindness, you really understand how i am feeling. Grief is like being shot in the heart, but your still alive dealing with the pain and raw emotion. I had a very vivid dream about Michael last night, then you wake up to the grim reality, he is not here. I go to bed holding his jumper next to me that has his smell on it and imagine his warm embrace. I will try and seek out a support group, but i know i will never get over his loss but have to try and find away of living with until we are reunited again. Thank you for your support, you are very kind love Claire xxx

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Claire, Those dreams can be a real killer. At about five months, I dreamt that he died, but then I awoke in the dream to find him alive and getting well. Even though I was still sleeping, I could feel all my grief draining away. Then I woke for real. For just a second, I thought he was still alive, and then the truth slammed into me with such force, I couldn’t stop crying for days. It was as if he had just died again. Grief is very cruel.

          Do whatever you can to find comfort, no matter how crazy it seems to people who have not lost a mate. We have all been there. Hugging clothes, pillows, photos, whatever it took to get through the horrendous pain of new grief. For all of us, the hardest thing is to find a reason to continue living. It takes years, sometimes.

          Try to take care of yourself.

          • Claire Chamberlain Says:

            Hello again Pat, Yes i agree the dreams are a killer! your dream was so cruel, its terrible! I’m waking at 4 am then sleep till 11am, its hard to motivate yourself and i just want him back and that is it! A dear friend of mine lent me a book that i am trying to read called Walking in the Garden of Souls, by George Anderson. It brings a little comfort and proves that we don’t die and that its the end. I have so many regrets and what ifs. Michael was removed from the UK without notice because he wasn’t ‘legal’, despite being the most honest person ever! When he arrived in Kiev he was mugged. He managed to return to his Village of Soroky in the Ternopil district. We spoke most weeks, depending on the phone signal. I pointed out the positives to him and said it was good for him to see his mother and family again. I had spoke to him only a few days before he died, he sounded depressed and said he was only sleeping 4 hours and would dream of me. I told him i loved him and he said he was applying to return to the UK. The following Saturday i had the brutal phone call at 5.30 am to say he had died. Now i am left without the one i love, its shocking! As you said its hard to find a reason to carry on and i know it will take years for the pain to fade. Thank you for allowing me to pour my heart out, you know how the pain feels, Take care much love Claire x

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            We’ve all struggled with regrets and what ifs. Grief is fueled by those regrets and what ifs, so son’t run from them. Try to work each one through. It seems the pain dissipates a bit with each small acceptance of the way things were. Chances are, you did the best you could under circumstances that were beyond your control. It takes a very long time to understand that — it took me more than a year to see that we did the best we could under horrendously stressful conditions. You’ll always regret his death and the time that was stolen from you, of course, but eventually, it won’t cost you so much agony.

            I wish had words that could soothe your pain, but there aren’t any. All I can do is offer a listening ear whenever you need to talk.

            Take care of yourself. Don’t expect too much of yourself too soon. Grief doesn’t follow a timetable; it takes its own time.

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