Counting Down to the Second Anniversary of Grief

I’ve been on a grief hiatus for a few months — no major upsurges of grief — but yesterday, for no apparent reason, I started crying, and I’ve been crying on and off ever since. I’ve been trying not to think of the upcoming two-year anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death, trying to look ahead to the future, trying to find something to be passionate about (or at least something to hang my life on). Despite the exhaustion of attempting to put a good face on the seemingly bleak future, I thought I’d been doing well.

And then came the tears.

It still surprises me that the body remembers even when the conscious mind doesn’t. I’d forgotten that yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the last time we talked, the last time we were together in our home, the last time we touched. But something deep inside, something beneath thought, remembered. And grieved.

Two years ago yesterday, the hospice nurse expressed concern for us. I hadn’t slept in I don’t how many days, and neither had he. Some people, as they near death, suffer from what is called terminal restlessness. In his case, the rapidly growing tumors, his impossibly fast heart rate, the morphine, and various other factors made it impossible for him to be still. He wanted/needed to be on his feet, moving, always moving. And since he was too weak to be left alone, I would pace with him.

That last morning at home, the nurse suggested that he go to the hospice care center for a five-day respite, and he and I agreed. He knew I needed sleep (though ironically, I got very little sleep those days) and I thought they would adjust his dosages to give him the most alertness and the least pain. But they never tried. They dosed him with tranquilizers to keep him in bed, and he never had another moment of consciousness.

Those days were exactly two years ago. And I remember them as clearly as if they were happening now. I watched him die. I was there at the end. As agonizing as that was, I know there are worse things. I might not have been there when he took his last breath. I might not have witnessed the very moment he left my life. I might not have been able to say good-bye. Unlike many bereft, I don’t have to deal with those regrets.

For a long time I regretted taking him to the hospice care center — I felt as if I’d deprived him of one more day at home, one more day of lucidity, but in the end, I suppose there was no other choice. He’d stopped being able to swallow, the morphine made him disoriented, and the tranquilizers they prescribed to stop the terminal restlessness made him delusional. I’m glad he doesn’t have to deal with his body any more, but oh, I so wish I could see him once more, or talk to him on the phone, or go back to his store where we spent so much time when we were young and new.

I hope death feels better from the other side than it does from this side, because the only thing that brings me peace is the belief that he is no longer suffering. It’s strange to think that the very moment his suffering ended, mine began. I never expected to grieve. He’d been sick for so very long that his death came as a relief, but when the truth hit me, it hit with the force of a cyclone. And two years later, I am still whirling from the pain.

14 Responses to “Counting Down to the Second Anniversary of Grief”

  1. friedelfamily Says:

    Well, Pat, I know how difficult these days are for both of us. In some weird way it feels good to know that on Tuesday one other person will wake up knowing the importance of this day, March 27, 2010.

    Bill also paced and walked and could not be still…thrashed. I put him in the hospital to see if meds could be adjusted but the hospital was his demise. I got him home 5 days before he died…I think he knew he was home though mostly semi comatose. It was just awful…trauma. I know you know.

    With you in spirit as we share this 2nd anniversary. May be find peace in joyous memories. Mary

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      There are so many parallels in our stories. On the same day Jeff left home for the last time, Bill came home for the last time. And they both only had five days to live.

      Yes, it does feel good knowing that one other person will feel the importance of the day. If this anniversary is like the first, the day itself will be peaceful, but those leading up to it will be filled with tears. The name of my book is so very apt — this truly is a time of great yearning.

      • friedelfamily Says:

        Yes, great yearning. And the parallels are endless. These memories -painful and joyful are all bittersweet. March 27,2010 the day our lives and our beings were changed forever.

  2. Deborah Owen Says:

    I’ll be glad when the 2nd anniversary has come and gone for both of you ladies. Joining with you in the spirit of prayer. Blessings. Deb

  3. Holly Bonville Says:

    I just went through my second anniversary. I will be thinking of you.

  4. Joy Collins Says:

    Hugs to you, Pat & Mary. Today marks 22 months for me so I am coming up on my second anniversary soon too. There really is nothing else to say except that I wish none of us had to be on this path and we had our loves back with us at our sides. Nothing would make me happier.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t know why the anniversaries loom so large except that they remind us what we already know — that they’re gone from our daily lives. Two years have gone by, and I still don’t want to do this.

  5. leesis Says:

    Pat…thinking of you and hoping that nobody who is experiencing such grief has to deal with it completely alone.

  6. Becky Says:

    It is 21 days until my second anniversary. Yes, I have been crying more than before. He was sick for 40 years, and lots of care. I can’t even remember how long he couldn’t turn in bed, couldn’t initiate a conversation. I decided at some point that I did not want him to die, as I did not want to hope for grief. I wanted to hope that I would be healthy enough to care for him as long as he needed. And I was, and I did. I had 2 days notice that he was dying. Nobody needed to tell me, I saw the change. He was at home. I sang many hymns to him the night before he died. Mostly: Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired I am weak I am worn. Through the storm through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. But several others too.
    It was getting very hard to take care of him, and I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to coordinatemy paid (half time) work and caregiving. I had said so many times while he was alive that I missed him. And now I miss him even more. And I miss the things we wanted to do but couldn’t all those years. People told me I would remember the good times and the difficult times would fad away. But that has not happened. If anything, I realize even more how difficult it was, yet what a spiritual connection we had together.
    I got rid of 90% of his clothes right away. My house was a mess because I couldn’t take care of it and him, so the house suffered – for years. I am trying to make it better, which requires throwing away and sorting. That is hard, and I realize how much time, plus physical, emotional and spiritual energy it took to take care of him. I wrote quite eloquently about caregiving, but I don’t think I have written a coherent sentence about grieving.
    None of this is organized thinking, just rambling thoughts.

    I appreciate the honesty expressed here.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      People assume that when someone is sick for a long time, that the survivor doesn’t grieve as much, yet we have so much to grieve for. Not just that they are gone and the connection severed, not just the loss of the precious few good times, not just the loss of what we did have, but the loss all that we didn’t have and now never will. I never expected to grieve, I thought I would only be relieved when he was finally free, but the acceptance I thought I’d gained through the years of his illness was merely resignation. It took more out of me than I realized at the time. But always, through the good and especially through the bad, we were together. And in the end, that’s what counts.

      I appreciate your rambling thoughts, Becky. I always feel honored when people repay my honesty with honesy of their own. It’s hard to tell the truth when our whole society is geared to ignoring grief, especially long term grief. Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you peace.

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