Grief’s Growing Pains

I often walk in the desert, finding solace (and exercise) among the rocky knolls and creosote bushes. Sometimes I even find a bit of enlightenment. And so it was today.

From the beginning (odd how I always refer to my onset of grief as the “beginning,” when that time seemed to be all about “endings”), I tried to break grief down into its various components to demystify it and make it more manageable . When grief is new, one is bombarded with so many emotions, physical responses, and mental gymnastics that it is almost impossible to see/know/feel what is happening. As time passes and the bombardment slows, it’s easier to separate the feelings into categories and deal with them. As time continues to pass, some of the components of grief dissipate (such as the panic, the need to scream, the confusion) and some disappear (such as the nausea, dizziness, difficulty breathing, inability to eat or inability to stop eating). But always is the knowledge that the world is forever altered because your loved one is dead.

Now twenty months have passed since my life mate/soul mate died, and that awareness of his being dead is the part of grief I have the hardest time with. I miss him and yearn desperately for one more word from him, one more smile, but I can deal with that now — I’ve mostly grown used to it. I can also remember him and our shared life without breaking down. I can deal with what life throws at me even though he is no longer by my side. And I’m learning to deal with the loneliness and the aloneness. But what I can’t deal with is his being dead. That is where my mind hits a wall and causes so much pain I start crying.

I few days ago I wrote in my Grief Doesn’t Take a Holiday blog: He is gone, and there is nothing I can do about it. I keep
re-realizing those two simple facts. I do not think our brains are wired to understand the sheer goneness of death. Someone emailed me not long ago, expressing her admiration that I can talk about grief without feeling sorry for myself, but honestly, except for isolated moments, which I refuse to feed, I don’t feel sorry for myself. A lot of grief has to do with the mind disconnect that happens when you realize your loved one is no longer here on earth. It’s as if for a second you open up to a cosmic reality or an eternal truth. The façade of life shatters, and through the cracks you can almost see, almost sense, almost know . . .

And this is where today’s enlightment comes in. Out in the desert, which historically is a place for mystical thoughts, I realized that my tears are caused by growing pains. My mind/spirit/psyche is trying to stretch so it can understand why he is not here, why I can’t see him or hear him, why he is so very gone. Maybe my grief will burn itself out before my mind stretches enough to encompass such an enormous thought, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to where I need to be.

11 Responses to “Grief’s Growing Pains”

  1. Deborah Owen Says:

    Tell me something, Pat. From your end of life, what do you want to hear someone say? Those of us who want to comfort sometimes flail in the wind, fishing for the right words. I deal with cancer patients and after awhile, I feel like “I care” and “I’ll be praying for you” just isn’t enough. No matter what I do, it isn’t enough. My heart bleeds for people who hurt so much. Sometimes I give small gifts – but that isn’t enough either. What more can we do?

  2. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    (It’s as if for a second you open up to a cosmic reality or an eternal truth. The façade of life shatters, and through the cracks you can almost see, almost sense, almost know . . .)

    I so understand this…I have used the term cosmic reality…cosmic awareness. How can we feel sorry for ourselves when we had the gift of a great and deep love and when so many are in pain. I can grieve but I can’t feel sorry for myself. It just makes no sense.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s odd, but until he died, I had no use for grief. I thought it was all about self-pity. Which is one of the reasons my grief stunned me, and why it’s fascinated me. Nothing I’d ever read about grief had prepared me for the reality.

      • Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

        Yes, the silence is shocking. There are no words for it and until you have gone through it…one can’t understand it. I have lost both parents, 5 “best” friends and a 14 year old dog child….none of those hit like losing my soulmate….it still takes my breath away once in a while…still shocks me that he is gone.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I lost my mother and a brother, and so I thought I knew what grief was, so I was stunned at how I felt after his death. Like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I call it a soulquake. I had a very hard time breathing during those first months. When I realized no one could hear me scream, I did. It was the only way I could relieve some of that aweful and awful pain.

          • Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

            Yes, Pat. I knew for 4 years that Bill was slowly leaving me because of Alzheimer’s. I have lost a lot of close people and yet his last breath took my breath away. I wailed and on occasion I still have a good wail….breathing was close to impossible for months and on occasion I find it becomes difficult again. I am still shocked when I think the thought that he has died. It seems impossible and the entire 36 years sometimes feels like a dream.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Mary, that is the conundrum, isn’t it? Since the past feels like a dream, how can the thought they are dead still be so breath-taking?

            During the first months after he died, I found comfort in the thought that at least he isn’t suffering any more, and that at least by his going first, he was spared the additional agony of grieving for me. But now I wonder — If there is anything that remains of us after we die, could they be feeling the pain of separation as much as we do?

          • Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

            I agree. I am glad Bill is not suffering any longer. He was miserable watching his own losses each day. This was a brilliant and kind and sensitive Clinical Psychologist (I am a LCSW and we did therapy together for years). I also know he would have really had a tough time without me if I went first. I DO believe in the afterlife…the evidence is just huge. I have probably read about 40 or more books in these 20 months on grieving and on life after life. Bruce Lipton, a scientist who worked at UW on cell research for 20 years, has a great podcast on I am not a far out woo woo for sure but I am open minded and the science is merging with spirituality. I am 71 by the way. Bill was 79 when he died. I buried him the day before my 70th birthday which was also Easter Sunday.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            He was only 63. He had inoperable kidney cancer that spread to his brain, and he couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t think. About broke my heart. It still does. No one should have to go through that.

          • Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

            I am so sorry. Death, I know, is a part of life BUT always feels unfair. We had so many dreams and plans yet as we married late…I know we both feel robbed and you know….we WERE robbed. Bill died of alzheimer’s so the last 6 years were pretty rough…a nightmare…. he was a vibrant, young energetic man and I watched him go downhill bit by bit. I know we are both relieved they are not suffering but we are also torn apart by the loss of part of ourselves.

Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: