Letter to a Grieving Friend

Hello, my friend.

I understand what you said about the continuity of attachment even after death. At the beginning of my grief, I held to the thought that I was sparing my life mate — my soul mate — from ever having to grieve for me since he died first, then it occured to me that if, in fact, we continue to live somewhere beyond this earth, maybe he is feeling as lost as I am, as disconnected, and as lonely. That took away the last bit of comfort I had. My other thought was that even if something of us survives, I will never see him again. When he and I met all those years ago, I had the strange notion that he was some sort of exalted being come to help me find truth and reality (when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, they say). I’m not sure why I thought I was so special, but the time when we met was steeped in mysticism for me. I sometime wonder if perhaps my grief is so difficult because our separation is truly forever, that by the time I die, he will have taken his rightful place somewhere high up in the pantheon of radiance, and I’ll still be muddling along without him. Such strange thoughts that beset us bereft!

I’m beginning to realize that in some way my grief might always be a part of my life. It’s too immense, this thing called death. Too hard to deal with the reality of it. Oftentimes when people mention how the loss of their mate helped them become the person they were meant to be, it makes me cringe, as if the loved one was an adjunct to their life, not a life in itself. But we all deal with life and death the best we can. My grief has two parts: my missing him and his being missing from this world. Both feelings will be with me forever. And through it all, grief really is molding me into what I will become. I thought I’d have arrived at that place of becoming by now, but it’s still a long way away.

Supposedly, people who deal best with the hole in their lives are those who continue to have a connection to the person, such as still talking to them or writing to them. What is the difference between that and a fantasy? Either way, the person has no physical being (except, in the case of the dead, as dust in the ground or pulverized bone — cremains as the funeral business so cutely calls them). But perhaps that attachment even after death is what makes the difference.

I’ve decided that a life of fun and/or adventure is the only thing that will make the coming years tolerable, yet I have no idea how to have fun. Don’t even know what fun is, except perhaps doing new things or learning new things.

I feel as if I am disappearing, though. So many friends, even friends I made after his death, have disappeared from my life, and I worry that I will disappear, too. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been looking at photos of me as a child, and I am no longer that person, can’t even remember what I was thinking or feeling when the photos were taken (can’t even remember having my picture taken) so that youthful “me” has disappeared. Maybe when today’s me disappears, I’ll be not simply old and decrepit, but different somehow, and able to handle the challenges that the future will bring.

I hold to the idea that maybe someday you and I will have a grand adventure together.

Your sister in sorrow,

7 Responses to “Letter to a Grieving Friend”

  1. Joylene Butler (@cluculzwriter) Says:

    New people will come along, Pat. You will die one day, but the memory of you won’t. I say that with no proof whatsoever. I know nothing. In fact, I feel as if you’ve written this to me.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joylene, we’ve talked so much via blog this past year and a half, that this letter could very well have been written to you. Because of you, I know to be patient with myself and not to be too frustrated if this takes longer than I expect. And I know that this is a hard journey for everyone. I’m glad you’ve been with me as I take these tottering steps into the future, and that you’ve shared your story with me. And who knows — maybe someday you and I will have a grand adventure together!

  2. Jan Says:

    Grief is the longest, most difficult path to walk. It is also a uniting factor in our earthly existence. No person, no matter what culture or belief system or political affiliation, is immune. At some point, everyone experiences loss. How we cope with such sorrow is what changes and defines us. Grief never leaves; it becomes a part of you and life as you knew it is no longer the same. In my upside-down world, what used to be important no longer matters. What I value now is intangible.

    Your posts on grief help so many who are experiencing loss and have no idea what to expect. Thank you for your candidness and willingness to share.

  3. Joy Collins Says:

    Dear Grieving Sister,
    This note seems to be written to me – or are all grieving women just in a sad sisterhood whereby we all recognize the same feelings in ourselves and others? I wish I could leave this sisterhood. This is one time when knowing that someone is going through the same thing does not make it easier.
    To answer your thoughts – no, I don’t think our loved ones grieve as we do. After all, they have an advantage. They can still check in with us. They know how we are. They have an access to us that we don’t have to them. I think they miss their life with us but I don’t believe it’s the same. And I don’t think our separation is forever. Your love came into your life when he was supposed to and you will be with him again. Knowing I will be with John again is all that keeps me going some days. On some level, we agreed to this. He had to leave ahead of me. He completed his work this time around. I haven’t. Now my job is to figure that out, get it done, and go home, too.
    But this grief will always be a part of me and shapes who I am now. It’s supposed to. That is its purpose. Fun? I don’t know what that is. Passion? I miss it. And I feel I have already disappeared. I look in the mirror and don’t recognize who I see. I need to learn who I am again and for now I don’t know how I will do that or what I will turn into. I liked who I was when I was with John. I don’t like who I am now. Maybe that is the key. Learning to like me. Period. No matter what.
    Your sister in this sorrow journey,

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joy, i’m wondering if that is my mission, too — learning to like myself. I haven’t liked myself for a very long time, and I especially don’t like this grieving self. I seem petty and pathetic, not at all the strong, vibrant woman I want to be.

      I used to call grief a gift, believing that if we followed it, it will take us where we need to go. Maybe that is still true. As you say, grief is shaping us. it’s just taking way longer than I expected. But then, eighteen months is really not that long in terms of a lifetime.

      I hope someday you’ll fulfill your destiny and be reunited with your John.

  4. Dennis Says:

    I am so here with you at this point after my loss. I don’t know who I am right now and I don’t know who I am supposed to become. I have to become someone. One, gotta get used to it. Used to be three–her, me, and us. Not having a mate to help sculpture the trio leaves me rudderless. Sorry for the mixed metaphor.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That’s something people who haven’t lost a life mate don’t understand – that there are so many other losses that come along for the ride. The loss of ‘us’ is devastating. It rearranges your whole concept of your life and yourself, your past and your future. I am sorry you have to deal with this. Sorry that any of us do.

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