Grief: Defragmenting and Making Room for Something Wonderful

A had an interesting exchange with a facebook friend yesterday. She responded to my Gathering Patience for the Lonely Years Ahead bloggerie that I posted a couple days ago, and then she responded to my response. When I worry that I’m showing weakness by all my talk of grief,  I think of the people I’ve met who would have remained unencountered if I hadn’t let my vulnerabililty show, and I know I’m doing the right thing. Here’s the exchange:

PB (quoted from blog): A major loss in one’s life, such as the death of a long-time mate, often changes a person. For almost twenty months now, I’ve been saying I’m no different than I was, but lately I can feel a small change. It started with his long illness, developed during his final agonizing weeks, and came to fruition in the months since his death. This change? Patience. An ability to wait.

FBF: That patience will serve you well, Pat!  When you are coming out on the other side of the grief process, you will know that you can get through anything — including a long, painful wait.  I lost my partner in 2007, and it took four years to come to terms with it all, but I am now not in a hurry for ANYTHING! Before losing him, I could barely wait for my luggage at the airport without getting impatient. And the long years ahead don’t have to be lonely; you can never fill the void he left, but you can shift things inside, “de-fragment” and make room for more love than you could ever anticipate!! I’ll say a prayer for you tonight and wish for you love overflowing!

PB. I keep coming across that four year mark. It seems to be how long most people take to come to terms with it all. Which means I have a very long way to go. I’m looking forward to being where you are now. I can tell that your outlook was hard-won.

FBF: Yes, it was a long and arduous process, but there is no way it can be avoided.  Those who bury the emotions that come with profound loss (or simply ignore them) never come out on the other side. Rolling around in that mud smells rancid, looks terrible, feels slimy and dries crusty — but when you eventually stand up, take a shower and throw away those clothes (or bleach them and fold them away in a drawer) . . . it is no longer possible to be bothered by a little scuff, splotch, scrape, rip or splatter — never, ever again.  🙂

PB: The main shock for me was how long it takes. I thought two or three months would be enough. How naive of me! But in my defense, he’d been sick so long that I thought I’d already gone through all the stages of grief. I hadn’t a clue what an amputation it would be. Thank you for your comments tonight. I hadn’t realized how much I needed a bit of encouragement today.

FBF: Happy to give encouragement; I know what an emotional quagmire this can be. As time goes on, most of our friends and family who have not been through this amputation don’t understand why we are still wallowing.  They think we need to “snap out of it.”  Right now, I imagine the majority of the patience you have acquired is spent dealing with well-intentioned loved ones trying to rush you along in your grief process. Bless their hearts. 😉

Actually, the only person trying to rush my grief process is me. I get tired of relentlessly looking forward and trying not to dwell on the past. I get tired of the ups and downs, the sideways shimmies, the grief bursts, the rolling around in the emotional muck. I’ve always tried to keep myself on an even emotional keel, but unless I want that keel to be one of sadness, I have to keep going through the process. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about hurrying through grief to see what was on the other side and my disappointment at discovering that nothing wonderful waited for me. The truth is, I am not through with grief. I am not yet on the other side. During my good days, I think that I am, but then comes a hard day. Yesterday was such a day.

Not only was it Saturday, my sadderday, but I posted an excerpt from A Spark of Heavenly Fire here on my blog in preparation for #samplesunday on Twitter. Posting an excerpt should have been an innocuous, pain-free task, but this particular excerpt is one my life mate/soul mate and I worked on together. I’d write the scene, read it to him, and he’d tell me if it worked or not, then I’d rewrite it and read it to him again. I must have rewritten it at least ten times. It was my first real bit of violence, and I wanted it to zing. I felt very close to him when I posted the excerpt, remembering its creation. I felt as if we’d been together just a few days ago, and the thought that he is dead got to me.

Although today marks the twentieth month since he died, I’m back to my new normal, even felt a touch of “possibilty.” But days such as yesterday show me that I need patience for the long haul, patience while my psyche defragments to make room for something wonderful.

10 Responses to “Grief: Defragmenting and Making Room for Something Wonderful”

  1. Deborah Owen Says:

    It will come, honey. One step at a time. One day at a time. (Just hope I can remember this when my turn comes.)

  2. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    Excellent entry….It was also 20 months for me yesterday (11-27) since my husband, Bill, died (March 27, 2010). I do find myself pressuring myself sometimes to move on. Some of that, if not most, seems to flow from my awareness that those around me do not understand my commitment to walking through this with awareness as opposed to stuffing it, dealing with it and giving myself time to do whatever it is I need to do, etc. Anyway, I support what you are doing. And yes, patience is now something I find to be easily practiced. I look forward to reading more on your site.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Mary, how odd (and awed) to think we started this journey on the same day and with the same attitude. It is a commitment, isn’t it? For some reason, I’ve known from the beginning that I needed to follow my grief wherever it led, to be aware of what I was feeling, and take what comes. I hope you are finding peace.

      • Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

        Yes, it is comforting to come across someone who thinks like I do, who lost their partner/spouse/soulmate on the same day. I am a psychotherapist and I have seen too many people stuff pain down and lose themselves. Bill and I lived at a deep level and I knew when Bill was dying (he had Alzheimer’s and I took care of him for 4+ years) that I would do my grief work “right”. I thought I was prepared for his death but he died in my arms but when he took that last breath…it was shocking. I believe I could be diagnosed PTSD as his deterioration and death were traumatizing and the exhaustion of care giving is still with me. I take a day at a time, started watercolor lessons, just starting to see a couple clients again at my home office, keep my mornings free to noon (took me a while to see that need) cry often, holidays are rough, etc. You know it all too well. Bill was a PhD Psychologist and we were REALLY tight….loved our solitude and I always will. We socialized as much as we wished but spent a lot of time together, worked in our private practice together and cherished what we had….life and each other. As I attempt to do transition work, grieving, finding a new normal….I find an increasing need for solitude but try to balance it. I also am very lonely because, of course, Bill is not here with me. Being alone and being lonely are very different. I can be alone…but this loneliness is gigantic. I see on Facebook that you are a friend to Kathy Steffen. Her name came up when I looked you up because she and I are good friends. She lives here in town. We lived in Ouray, CO for a while. A day at a time….sometimes an hour….being gentle with ourselves. Another friend has written Sacred Grief…You might find some peace in its pages. Keep in touch as you wish.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Reading this was like reading my own journal. I knew he was dying, was prepared for it, wanted it — he’d suffered for so long — but the shock of his being dead stunned me. We also loved our solitude, I always loved that I had a friend in my retreat, and now, I don’t. Odd, but we lived in Wisconsin for a couple of years. Rhinelander.

          I’ve been writing about grief from the beginning — have made a lot of online friends through my blog. Next year, my book about my first year of grief will be published.

          LIke you, I’m trying to do new things, trying to things I would never have done if he were alive. It’s the only way I can make sense of it all.

          Keep in touch if you wish. I am always here.

  3. joylene Says:

    I remember thinking that being published would be the most wonderful, exciting thing to ever happen to me. Now I think life is wonderful if I see the swans out front. Or if my children are happy. Or if nothing bad happens. The hardest part is to stop expecting something bad to happen. There is that fear that stays with me. I wish someone could tell me it goes away. Even now as I think this, the tears come. Which reinforces my belief that maybe it’s better not to think about the grief at all, just how wonderful they were.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      My first reaction to any news is that it’s going to be bad. I got an email from a friend yesterday about one of my blog posts, and I got nervous wondering what was wrong with the post or with me, but of course, there was nothing wrong. What seemed to me a ho-hum piece struck her as being enlightened.

      Maybe that will be our next hurdle — to stop expecting bad to happen. But the truth is, bad things do happen, and will continue to happen even if we stop expecting them. The answer, of course, is to live one day at a time. You taught me that.

  4. fishershannon Says:

    I just realized you are at about 3 1/2 years. Four has been the “magic number” for many of us. I think you are about to start seeing some rainbows. 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      How sweet of you to think of me! I’ve often thought of this conversation and the magic four years, and it has helped me through some rough times.

      And yes, in another three weeks it will be three and a half years.

      And yes! Rainbows. Most unexpected rainbows. I’ve never had any interested in dance, but a couple of months ago, I stumbled on a small dance studio nearby with classes for older folk. (At a fabulously great price.) Just for fun, a few weeks ago, I started taking jazz classes, then I added tap and hula, and yesterday I started belly dance classes. Today she asked if anyone would be interested in taking ballet, and several of us were, so she’s going to add a ballet class for late beginners. I’ve also been walking three nights with the Sierra Club. The endorphins or something are kicking in, and I’m feeling better emotionally than I have for years. And I think my thought processes are sharper.

      I’m also not as much of a klutz as I thought I was. I’m not very graceful, but perhaps that will come. The fun thing is that we’re not just learning steps, but are learning a dance routines. And I’m meeting new people. Seem to get along very well with a few of them.

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