Passing the Test of Grief

I am still freaked out by the imminent publication of my book, Grief: The Great Yearning. Still crying intermittently. I knew I was due for a grief upsurge since I’ve been careful to turn my mind to other things the past month or so, and grief can only be denied for so long, but this upsurge is different. It feels like the end of something — perhaps the end of a subliminal belief that his dying was a test. It could still be a test, but the reward for accomplishing this particular task of dealing with the fallout from the death of my life mate/soul mate is not our getting back together, at least not in this lifetime. And maybe not in the next. Maybe the only reward is in what I become because of his death and my grief.

When we met, I still believed in a cosmic plan, and I had the feeling that he was a higher being come to help me on my quest to the truth. But now? I no longer believe there is a universal truth, and I don’t think he’s waiting for me, though I try to pretend that he is. It’s better than believing that he is gone forever.

And perhaps he does still exist in some form. What do I know? One thing I have learned from my grief is that a human life is a spectrum. You don’t notice it so much when you are both alive, because you are both in the moment, both always the people you have become. But when one of you dies, his becoming ceases, and you see his life as a whole. The person he was when you met is every bit as alive in memory as the person he was the minute before he died. The youthful man, the middle-aged one, the healthy one, the sick one are all merely spaces on the spectrum of his life. It’s possible the spectrum of a human life is the same sort of spectrum as light — beginning long before the visible part appears and ending long after the visible part disappears. Of course, the non-visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum aren’t light but sound and radiation and other invisible waves, so whatever exists outside of the visible human spectrum might be something completely different from we can ever imagine.

It’s this sort of speculation that gives rise to the feeling that my grief has been test — a game, perhaps — something that is not quite real. If I keep philosophizing about death and what comes after, then I don’t have to deal with the reality that for the rest of my life, I will have to survive without the one person who knew me, who listened, who helped, who cared about every aspect of my being.

It seems as every step of this journey is worse than the last, and this next part, where I truly understand that he is gone and that I truly am alone is going to be the hardest. It takes my breath away to think of it, and leaves me teary.

Maybe grief was just the pop quiz. Maybe the real test is what I do with the rest of my life.

9 Responses to “Passing the Test of Grief”

  1. Polly Iyer Says:

    Writing is a great catharsis.

  2. Casey B Says:

    Wow- this is a remarkable post. (I found it via Marty Tousley.) I can really relate to what you say about grief perhaps being the pop quiz, and the real test being what you do with the rest of your life. I’m trying to reshape still, even five years after the death of a friend that I only knew online, but became very, very close to. I’m trying to do my bit to ensure that those who have experienced this kind of loss do not feel quite so isolated. Thank you for this insightful piece of writing. I shall return to see more of your posts.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Casey. There always seems to be a new test when it comes to grief, but it does seem as if the life we lead after the worst of the grief ends is the real test.

  3. Rose L. Says:

    I am one year into my journey of grief. I lost my daughter last February. She was 34 years young. Unexpected and unfair-she was here one moment and gone. No lingering illness, no heart attack. Just a doctor who made a horrible mistake and a God I thought wasn’t listening. But now I can tell you this-life is fragile, it is a gift to be handled with care. We as humans don’t always treat it as such. That isn’t God’s way, that’s our way. Please visit my blog and share your journey, your comments, and your pain. I want to help if I can. If not, I will listen. I understand your pain. Blessings-
    Rose L.

  4. Joylene Butler (@cluculzwriter) Says:

    Words are so easy to throw around at times like this. Sometimes the rightly placed word make a moment bearable. Sometimes they’re just empty gestures. When I read these posts, I feel this soreness in my chest. In fact, most of what I feel is physical. If I were closer, I probably wouldn’t be any closer to the words I wish I could share to ease your pain. I doubt I’ll ever know what to say. So why am I commenting? Just a reminder that I’m listening. You’re not talking speaking to a blank screen.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joylene, you always know what to say, even if you think you don’t. You’ve given me much comfort and much to think about over the years. Thank you.

  5. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    Joylene says it well. Nobody’s words can change how you feel, but hopefully you know that there are people out here in cyberspace who care and empathize with you in this journey of grief.

    I’m looking forward to this book and what you share in it. Everyone has their own beliefs, but my Christian faith gives me an assurance that there is a life after death, a time when we will once again be reunited with those who have gone before us, although our relationships with them will not be the same. I honestly don’t believe either death or the grief afterward are a test, as you’ve mentioned — at least, if they are, I think it would be because we’re testing ourselves, not because God has any lesson he wants us to learn. I think of my entire life as a single journey from birth to death. Like in a saga, each incident along the way, whether pleasant or heartbreaking, is an episode on my timeline. Everything is a part of the whole, to be remembered… experiences that will flavour, enrich and strengthen. Well, that’s my take on it, anyway.

    You’ve come a long way in dealing with the changes in your life. I hope you’re going to find the next chapter more than just a period of endurance because I’m pretty sure there are other happinesses waiting for you. Not the kind you perhaps long for, but good things nevertheless. Despite the painfulness that comes as a result of our humanity, our creator God loves us.

    Enough said… I’ve spouted more than I intended. Blessings to you, Pat.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t mind your spouting. You’ve earned it. I don’t really think this is a test, it’s just an illogical feeling like all the other Illogical feelings that come with grief. I envy you your faith.

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