I Am Not Grieving Inappropriately

I recently received a message from a woman who is concerned that I’m still counting sad Saturdays — she’s worried that my grief for my dead mate is going on too long and keeping me from living. I appreciate her concern and her continued prayers (just as I appreciate the concern and prayers from all of you), but the truth is, except for readers of this blog, no one knows I still have my sad times. I don’t hide myself away from life, I’m not missing from life, and I’m not missing life. I miss him, of course, and I hate that he is missing from this life, but that particular sorrow is something I accept as part of my life.

There is nothing wrong with sad times, and there is no reason to fear sadness. Depression is dangerous, but not all sadness is depression, nor does all sadness lead to depression. Sometimes sadness is melancholic or nostalgic — a seasoning of life rather than a banishment of life, a reminder not to take life for granted. For several months now I’ve been hesitant to continue posting about grief since such posts show me (perhaps) in a pathetic or needy light, but there are too many misconceptions about grief that we accept as truth, and I want people who have lost the most significant person in their life to know that they do not need to put aside their sorrow simply to placate others. It is their grief and they need to feel the sorrow, not ignore it. Experiencing grief and processing it are how we learn to be whole again (or as whole as is possible).

The first year after such a traumatic loss, one struggles to survive the psychic shock. The second year one deals with the effects of the ongoing loss and begins to look ahead more often than one looks behind. Since I am still in my second year, I don’t know what the third and fourth year bring — perhaps occasional upsurges of grief or a continual (though diminishing) struggle to comprehend life and death and loss. People who have been on this journey and come out of it mostly intact, tell me that it takes four years before one completely gets back the joy of living. So I am still within the normal bounds of grief.

For some people, grief is a time of shutting themselves away, of forgetting that they have other people in their life who need them, and if this goes on too long, they might need to seek professional help, especially if there are children involved. For me, though, and for others who are grieving appropriately, this is a time of opening up, of showing our vulnerability, of admitting that life is not always happy or fun. And in doing so, we make connections to help us rebuild our lives.

If I had hidden my sadness, if I had followed my natural inclination to bear my pain in silence, my life would have been much diminished. You and all the people I met since I began this journey nineteen months ago have added so much to my life that it tells me what I already know: I am not grieving inappropriately.

13 Responses to “I Am Not Grieving Inappropriately”

  1. Ann Wilmer-Lasky Says:

    Pat, I find your expression of your grief totally appropriate and way beyond what I myself was able to do. I don’t remember a lot about that time, except that for an entire year I did not dream. My nights were filled with only sleep and only on my side of the bed. I wore my wedding ring for all of five years, until I met another man who loved me as much as my first husband did – which I never expected, nor did I seek out. I kept to myself, perhaps too much. I did not have someone like you to open up to or take counsel from. Thank you for maintaining this blog.

  2. Smoky Zeidel Says:

    Grief is an emotion. It lasts as long as it lasts. Don’t let anyone tell you when grief should end. Hugs, Pat.

  3. sandy Says:

    this post is insightful, beautiful and an expression of someone who lives life fully including the sad parts. I’d call that beyond appropriate.

  4. Rain Says:

    Every one must find their own path. There is no right and wrong direction or pace. And sadness comes in many flavors and at different times…
    1. Sadness with no space for anything else.
    2. Sadness that lets the world back in, in small doses
    3. Sadness with room for laughter, tears, and moving forward.
    4. Sadness becomes acceptance that you will never be the same. Not worse, just different. And gratitude for life’s gifts and time well spent.

  5. Deborah Owen Says:

    I admit to being “the woman.” When I read that you had “83 Sadderdays,” [Saturdays], my heart went out to you. I’m thankful for the chats we’ve had on the side and it’s a pleasure to get to know you. I’ve seen widows and widowers give up on life completely, jump into a lake of depression for ten years at a time, or “move on” in life much quicker than I think I could. I’m supposing it would be a lot like going to sleep on one planet and awaking on another. Everything you know would pretty much disappear and you’d have to go back to bare bones structure and internal fortitude, of which you have no shortage. My pastor’s wife awakened (last year) to find herself next to a dead husband. I can’t even comprehend what it would be like to lose a husband, let alone lose him without notice. You have my deepest admiration, Pat, as well as my prayers. People need to hear your message. Best, Deb

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Hi, Deb. It’s exactly like going to sleep on one planet and waking up on another. Didn’t someone say “grief is another country”? I hope you don’t mind I mentioned our conversation. You got me to thinking, and whenever I think, I end up with a new blog post. Thank you for your concern.

      • Deborah Owen Says:

        No, I don’t mind at all. I totally understand. I just want your readers to understand that I didn’t say your grieving is inappropriate. There’s a third reason why people worry over those who grieve – empathy. You and I have had some heartfelt conversations and I look forward to more.

  6. LV Gaudet Says:

    I don’t think you are grieving appropriately or inappropriately.

    The rules about how, when, and where one is allowed to grieve have gone out of vogue long ago. So has the hoop skirt, those wretched lace up and pull them tight until you can’t breath girdle things, and rules against wearing white after labor day.

    Grief is probably the most personal, intimate, and lonely thing a person can go through, and it’s the one thing in life that is truly all about you no matter what anyone else tries to make it about.

    Sometimes grief is borderline, almost a feeling off longing, wistful rememberance, or regret.

    And if you still have those moments from time to time ten years from now, well that’s ok. You are allowed to remember loved ones with fond memories, miss them a little, and wish they were still here.

    Because, in a nutshell, that’s what grief really is, just in varying levels of intensity and loss.

    When people worry over those still sharing their grief, it’s usually because they either worry that grief should be quickly tucked away and ignored, or that a person has forgotten how to live without it. And, for a while, grief does make you forget how to live without it. But, it’s the people that can’t relearn how to live with it that concerns most well-meaning people.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I think talking about grief scares people. It reminds them how fragile life really is. That’s also the thing that makes grief so difficult to deal with — that reminder of how fragile life is. A lot of the shock of grief comes from the body’s realization that it is ephemeral.

      We have this idea in our head of grief being a single/simple emotion when in fact it is a process that covers a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences. And because of it, grief is unique to each individual.

  7. Holly Bonville Says:

    Well said.

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