One of the truly bizarre aspects of having lost a life mate/soul mate is that his death rips you in two. It’s as if the person you were with him still exists, always bereft, always lost and lonely and amputated from him. At the same time, a new person comes to life: the person you are to become without him.
In the beginning, the person-becoming is so new you’re barely aware of her birth. You’re only aware of being the person-bereft, someone so awash in grief she sees no reason to live. Gradually, the person-becoming gains strength as you learn to live without your mate. You do new things, eat new foods, have new experiences. And all of these take you further away from the person you once were.
For a while — perhaps for several years after the first horrors of new grief have passed — you toggle between the person-bereft and the person-becoming. Eventually, you remain mostly the person-becoming, though the person-bereft is always there, shadowing you. Certain events, such as anniversaries, or new milestones, such as the birth of a grandchild, catapult you right back into person-bereft, and your loss feels fresh and raw and real.
If you’ve lost your mate, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t lost such a significant person, this splitting apart sounds bizarre, and it is. How can you be two people, both a person who looks forward to continued life and a person who wants only to be with their mate?
I had a terrible realization while walking in the desert the other day: he died so I can live. Perhaps his death wasn’t as purposeful as that sounds, but our shared life had become a hell. As the cancer spread, the metastases in his brain grew larger and the drugs dosages became stronger. He kept getting weaker and more disoriented, and he turned into a stranger. There were moments that last year when I feared he would last for a very long time, slowly draining my life away. (Not an admirable admission, perhaps, but an understandable one considering the circumstances.)
Twenty-two months and two days ago, he died. And now I have the gift of life. His death gave me that. As much as the person-bereft wishes the whole thing were over with, the person-becoming sees glimmers of . . . not hope exactly, but possibility. I don’t know what I will do with this gift, but someday, somehow, I need to find a way to live so that I don’t waste his death.
January 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Amen, Pat. I do not know this new me yet and she is just emerging sticking an arm or a finger out here and a toe out there to test the air. We are strangers. Yet, there is the me I have always been who is a bit more clearly defined than a year ago. There is yet another division for me. This person bereft can only allow herself to be truly visible in the presence of a very few (in some cases -none) people. So that person bereft is hidden from the world most of the time. She is told she looks good and the rest of the unspoken sentence is…so “you must BE better, over it, healed, recovered, not grieving.” Wrong!! Tomorrow is Bill’s birthday…does that mean anything to him wherever he is? It means something to me…wherever I am.
January 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm
A friend who read my grief book was appalled that I was going through all that without her being aware of it. She said she didn’t know how to talk to me any more since I’d been shutting her out. The truth is, she didn’t want to know. She never once asked how I was doing, never once mentioned my dead mate, never once read any of my grief blogs. In my dealings with her, I wasn’t person-bereft but still was always me, this person-becoming. My attempts to explain that I wasn’t being purposefully secretive instigated this blog post.
July 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm
Mary… You spoke so eloquently… in the way that you described ME. I did not lose my beloved husband, but I lost my beloved son… who was my best friend… the other half of me. I too, only allow myself to be truly visible in the presence of a very few and like you, in some cases -none. It is STILL like I am just looking through a window at the world, but the world is on the inside and I am on the outside… and I wonder how I can force myself to open that door and walk through it. My son’s only child (daughter…age 4) has been the only reason for me to force myself to try to cope and answer her very difficult questions, like, “Where is my daddy?” This is definitely a club no one wants to belong to.
My prayers are with you.
January 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm
I have been shocked at some of the friends who have jumped ship, never ever ask, never reply when I am honest and open…..it hurts. I move on however and leave them behind….maybe someday they will get it. I sort of doubt it. Was holding together ok today but Bill’s birthday tomorrow got to me. I have searched for the perfect gifts for him for 37 years….planned a perfect day….and now nothing.
January 30, 2012 at 5:29 am
Pat, your honesty is moving and while I have not lost a mate, I have lost many loved ones and can only imagine what you have gone through. While I know you miss your spouse, the hope that is there in finding life after the “amputation” is moving. I have no doubt that you will regain your balance in this new version of yourself. He would be proud.
January 30, 2012 at 8:21 am
Thank you, Kiran. This grief for him was so much harder than I ever expected, but one day I’ll find a new focus for my life.
July 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm
Pat… The “ripping in two” says it all. I’m so sorry for what you had to go through.
July 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm
Lori, the only thing that comes close to or is worse than losing a mate is losing a child. I am so sorry about your son and your having to answer such terrible (and unanswerable) questions.