Grief Update: Twenty-one Months

Twenty-one months ago, my life mate/soul mate died. How much is a month in grief time? A year? If that’s the case, then today I have reached my 21st birthday in the world of grief. Sometimes it feels as if twenty-one years have passed since his death, our shared life so distant that it could be a dream conceived in present-day loneliness. Other times, it seems as if a mere twenty-one days have passed, as if he recently left — or I did — and soon I will be going home to resume my life with him. Sometimes the pain of separation feels old, as if it is a long-faded scar, other times it feels fresh and raw. Sometimes I see him as clearly as if we’d just parted, other times I have to struggle to remember what he looked like.

During the first year after he died, I was focused on getting through the pain so I could start a new and wonderful life. Somewhere deep inside, beneath thought, resided the feeling that only a great good could offset such a trauma, and I wanted to be ready to embrace my new life. Perhaps something wonderful will happen, but so far, I’m still struggling with the same old life, still struggling with a vast and unending loneliness.

I’ve been making friends, trying to assuage my loneliness, but always I feel his absence. He was the only person who ever truly listened to me, listened beyond my words to the truth of what I was saying, and no matter what I said, he never filtered it through his own  prejudices, opinions, and emotions, but could talk dispassionately and intelligently about even the most passionate subjects. Electric energy crackled between us when we went on one of our ping-ponging conversational excursions from history to music to movies to philosophy to books to science and back again to history.  I know I should be grateful for having him as long as I did, and I am grateful. I should be glad we were able to converse the way we did since that is something so few people have. And I am glad. But still, life is bleak without his being here to pong my pings, conversationally speaking.

I’m trying not to think about where to go from here, trying to trust in the rightness of my path wherever it will take me, but to do so somehow makes me complicitous in his death, as if I’m agreeing it was right that he died. Oddly, back then, I was glad he died. He’d suffered enough, and death was the only way to end his agony. The further away I get from his death, the worse it gets because I only remember that he died. How can he be dead? I don’t even know what “dead” means, just that he is gone from this earth, and has been gone for twenty-one months.

16 Responses to “Grief Update: Twenty-one Months”

  1. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    Well, of course, this column left me in tears. Not only is it 21 months today for me…but as usual what you say is what I could have written…it seems like 21 years if not more. It seems like yesterday and I will awaken from this God awful nightmare that has turned our life up side down and destroyed it. I am so so spoiled with the way Bill and I communicated and it is so difficult to get used to the fact that not every one, hardly anyone, communicates with me as he did…and sadly I know no one will….so unique, deep, sensitive….real. Bill also listened to me and did not sift it through his needs….a rare gift….a challenge for me even in my therapy office with a client. You and I will trudge on, the road ahead (today) does indeed feel and look bleak. I am thinking of you today…as I did earlier before I read your piece. Peace, Pat

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Mary, I was thinking of you, too. A difficult day, today. Sometimes I do okay going about my every day life, but today the yearning to see him once more is clawing at me.

  2. Ann Wilmer-Lasky Says:

    My dear husband is my typist and first reader. We are in sync with our lives, our dreams (whatever is left of them after twenty-five years of struggling to survive in this life). But he is alive and we are together. Think I’ll go kiss him and give him a hug. Thank you, Pat – for pointing out how much we should appreciate what and who we still have.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Ann, the one thing I have learned during these past months is that being together is all that counts. Good, bad, happy, sad — you grieve it all. Yes, give your husband a hug.

  3. cwc6161 Says:

    Dear Pat…. Why, after all this time participating in your FB group, I never sent you a “Friend request” I don’t know. Something drew me, somehow, to click on your name this morning, and in doing so I was led to read about your tremendous loss. I’ve never suffered such a loss, but I’ve witnessed my Mom’s ongoing stages of loss of my Dad, seven years ago. They were married just shy of sixty-four years. Your relationship sounds like it was nothing short of wonderful, as was theirs. Please accept my less than adequate “I am truly sorry for your loss.” Please know, too, that you are, perhaps without realizing it, accomplishing a “greater good” each and every day as Administrator of our group.

    Warm hugs, Candice Coghill

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Candice, thank you for stopping by to leave a comment. It’s always hard to deal with such a loss, but even harder when the person dies young (at least young for this era). Your parents were together longer than he was alive.

      Thank you for your kind words about the Suspense/Thriller Writers group.

  4. joylene Says:

    Would it surprise you to know that what you shared with your life mate was unique and is the basis for what poets write about? Sadly, so few people ever truly experience what you two had together. That hurts my heart to say that. I’m one of those wandering ostriches who likes to run from hole to hole, never focusing too much on anything, thereby not learning life’s real lessons. Except I stop here and read, and by doing so experience and learn. And it just occurred to me that what you’re experiencing is very closely linked to a mother’s grief at losing a child. Yes, one learns to carry on. But the pain and hole do too.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joylene, yes, I did know what we had was unique. We managed to keep that strong connection through all the unhappy years. We had such failure in our lives, and since we were always plagued by the constraints of his illness, we couldn’t do the things most couples do.

      I hadn’t considered it, but you are right about my pain being close to a mother’s grief. During our years together, our relationship was always in a flux as we played various roles in each other’s lives, and my final role in his life was that of a mother. That was all we had left, my care and caring for him — the metastases in his brain and the drugs addled him so. And now, I worry that he has no one to take care of him. It’s strange that I would still feel that way because he was always fiercely independent, and except when it was impossible, he took care of himself.

      But this role is just one more thing to grieve, to try to move beyond, or at least to live with. It’s hard though, knowing that whatever I did, no matter how well I took care of him, he still died.

      • Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

        From the reading I have done (since I have not been a mother) losing a child and losing a spouse that one was close to as Pat was and as I was are the toughest losses. That does not diminish anyone’s loss…it is a general statement that I feel has validity. In both cases the loss is someone who is an essential part of one’s daily life and being. Everything is turned upside down, there is nothing that escapes the pain of the loss. Pat, you and I and others who have experienced this tremendous loss will walk this path, many times trudging along alone, and somehow we will survive it. Many days I know not how or why.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Yes, both are losses that affect our very identity. We have to redefine ourselves, though so often we don’t know why we would even want to try. But we do. And we keep on trying. For some reason, the “why” has resurfaced in me lately. I have no idea why I am still here, if I’m supposed to accomplish something, or if my being here is merely about survival. Living one more day.

  5. joylene Says:

    I remember when I lost my dad, he was only 56, and I thought losing him was the worst possible thing that could ever happen. But in truth it was the beginning of many losses, and somehow felt like a preparation. Because I survived his death. And I watched my mother survive. Strange how we still can’t get our heads around the one thing we’re all destined to do, die.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m coming to the conclusion that a lot of grief is for ourselves. Some part deep inside, maybe the lizard brain part, realizes that all creatures must die, even us. I don’t think we can ever fathom death or that one day we will die, but grief is, in part, about trying to get our heads around it.

  6. thegriefexperience Says:

    Thank you for writing your story. It goes on and on. I have been widowed three times, and I find the holidays and anniversaries somehow erase the time that has passed and the wounds are fresh again. I am writing my death experiences down for the first time. It helps to say it out loud.l

  7. Lesley Says:

    My beloved died on 5th Dec 2011 after 2 years of cancer. He was 54 years old and we had been together since we were children aged 14. I feel so much of what you feel – the further away his death the worse it feels. I was horrified when it became 2012 since that meant he had died “last year”. I have left him in another time and he will never share any of 2012 with me. I too cannot understand how he can be dead and what dead even means. My husband suffered too and I wanted an end to the cancer and the pain but it came at such a price: the cost of losing him forever. I cannot comprehend that I am no longer his wife…a wife…a partner…a soul mate. I am just me and not us.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, Lesley, I am so sorry. It’s such a terrible thing to lose a soul mate — you feel as if something has been amputated, and forever after you feel that absence.

      You’re dealing with the same conundrum me and my readers are — it’s good our mates are no longer suffering, but as you said, it comes at such a price. I don’t know how any of us get through this, but we muddle on somehow. Stop by to talk whenever you need to. It’s a bewildering time, those first months, and we’ve all been there.

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