Grief is a Gift

I did not choose grief. Grief was thrust on me. To be honest, I never expected to grieve. My life mate/soul mate had been sick for so long I thought I was used to the idea of continuing life alone. I thought we’d untwinned our lives and had set out on separate journeys, him to death, me to continued life. His death, however, opened a hole in the universe and the cold breath of eternity has seeped into my soul. I don’t know if the hole can ever be patched. I don’t know if I want it to be. I for sure don’t want to push thoughts of him out of my mind. Such thoughts, though they still bring sadness, help bridge the gap between his presence and his absence. (Absence is such a mild term to describe the unfathomable “goneness” of someone who is dead.)

I’ve come to view grief as a gift. Not many people agree with that, but for me, it is very much of a bequest, the last present he ever gave me. I’ve always been a truth-seeker, always wanted to see what was beyond the veil of everyday reality. (If you’ve read any of my books, you can see the pattern. Each of my novels seeks to reveal the lies that hold our culture together, from so-called conspiracy theories to biological warfare, from human experimentation to old time gangsters. Despite the disparate stories and themes, they are all united by my need for the truth.)

This hole that grief has opened, both into the universe and into the human psyche, might bring me to the truth I seek. And even if it doesn’t take me where I want/need to go, it’s still a gift. Not many people are privileged to find their cosmic twin, to be connected to another human, soul to soul, as we were, and grief is the price I have to pay. Sometimes the price seems too high and I’d like to fling the gift back where it came from, but other times, it almost makes sense, as if the universe is unfolding the way it should be.

From the beginning, even when the pain of his absence made it almost impossible to breathe, I’ve trusted my grief to guide me through the days, weeks, months. Despite the insanity of the feelings grief creates, I knew I was sane and well adjusted, and so I felt free to follow the wild and agonizing ride. I’ve learned much these past twenty months on how to survive, how to find sense in the senselessness, how to find peace within the sadness. I’ve found courage, patience, compassion, and a strength I didn’t know I had. I still don’t know where I am going — I can’t see the end of the road. For all I know, there might not be an end. The journey could be all there is.

My talk of grief gives people the wrong impression. I’m not sure that what I am feeling right now is strictly grief, at least not the way most people think of grief. But it’s not “not grief” either since I do still have upsurges of tears and sadness and loneliness. Most of the time I’m just . . . me. In fact, since I stopped watching the movies and television shows he taped for us, which caused horrendous upsurges in grief since we’d always watched the tapes together, I’ve been in sort of a limbo. Until we find another word than grief for the long-term effects of having lost someone important in our lives, I will continue to use the word “grief,” because whatever I do, whatever I feel is part of my grief journey.

And it’s all a gift.

I just hope I remember that during my next upsurge of grief.

11 Responses to “Grief is a Gift”

  1. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    Once again, I feel like I could have written this…most thoughts are identical…..You are right on. Thanks for putting it all in words so eloquently. Mary

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Since so many disagree with me about the gift part, I was curious what you would think. I should have known, shouldn’t I?

      A friend in our situation wrote me that “Grief is such a paradox. It is a gift and a curse.” That’s one reason why we fluctuate so.

  2. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    I think we live in a black and white society….instead we can grieve and feel the gigantic hole and pain and loss and loneliness and sadness while we also acknowledge that literally everything that comes into our lives is a gift…i.e. it comes bearing opportunities to grow and learn-our reason to be here in the first place. The holidays are tough….not as tough as last year…but really tough. But I have used the past almost 21 months well…I have sobbed until I was dehydrated and will do more and do each day. I have also grown, changed, and been true to me. As soon as I become aware that I have wandered from being me…I pull back and try again. Dag Hammarskjold said: “For all that has been, thanks. To all that shall be, yes!” I try to live that way…fail often..and try again.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      After he died, I was shocked to discover how complicated human emotions can be. You can feel sad and unsad at the same time. You can be determined to live, yet not care if you live or die. You can know in your depths he’s gone, but still listen for him, still long for him, still worry about him. Seeing grief as both a horror and a gift just adds to the complexity.

  3. Joy Collins Says:

    I also agree although I never would have thoughts so this time last year.
    I read in one of James van Praagh’s book this very sentiment – that grief is a gift left behind by our loved ones to us allowing us to become what we might not have had their loss never occurred.
    I know I have become more spiritual, more tolerant, more patient. And I am trying to improve on that every day. I am trying not to sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff.
    I’m not saying it’s easy. And I still would give anything to have been able to learn those lessons with John still here.
    But I am determined not to waste this chance. John taught me so much with his life. He continues to teach me with his death.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Calling grief a gift in no way diminishes the depth of pain. But I’m like you — whatever lessons I can learn from this, I’d just as soon have learned while he was still here. I’m also determined not to waste this chance. Maybe some day I’ll find out what it’s all about, maybe I won’t. But for now, this is all I have — the quest.

  4. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    Yes, I agree, Joy! my entire outlook on life has expanded….making the small stuff microscopic in size. I am more patient, less judgmental, more aware of other’s pain, more compassionate. At the same time, I too, would trade it all and more to have Bill and our life back. Bill was my greatest teacher. His kindness and depth of love was so big and if I do not use this loss to grow, I am dishonoring all he taught me. I found a note the other day that he wrote in the late stages of his Alzheimer’s…barely able to print or spell but telling me how I heal others and that he knows that because I healed him. I wept, of course, but also knew that he gave me a gift, and endless number of gifts, and I MUST pass those on…and I will, as I also sit here and weep…and I will do that too.

  5. joylene Says:

    Some days I can contain the pain and grief and hide it away. I never thought I’d be able to do that. Yet, I have a fleeting thought, and immediately I hide it in a dark corner of my brain, then carry on, no one the wiser. I’ve become what so many people refer to as a cold fish in those moments. You know the kind? That person you thought you knew who suddenly comes across as indifferent and uncaring? And you couldn’t help wondering how they did that, turned their emotions off. I get it now.

    I used to think it was wrong to do that. It was better to carry your heart on your sleeve. If you did, then you were one to be trusted. I mean, how can you trust someone who can turn their emotions on and off like a tap? My husband can. I can. I hope I’m not teaching my children to, yet I suspect….

    Thank you for giving me a safe place to write these thoughts, Pat. Doing so is such a release. I know because I never fail to cry afterwards.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      One good thing about trusting your grief to guide you, there is no right and no wrong, there just is. Perhaps containing the pain and hiding it away is grief’s way of protecting you. Maybe it’s not always a good thing to leave your heart exposed for anyone can see. Not everyone is kind and thoughtful. And even if they are, you don’t owe everyone your innermost thoughts. I’m honored you entrust them to me.

      • joylene Says:

        I think part of the issue is the time of year. I love Christmas, but it does open you up to old wounds. It never gets easier. I’m finding my skin is getting tougher.

        Blessings to you, Pat, for all you do. And for allowing those of us a place to go and think aloud.


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