Still Confounded by Grief

For two years, my reaction to the death of my life mate/soul mate has bewildered me. I knew he was dying and I’d spent over a decade preparing myself for that eventuality. I thought I’d accepted the inevitable, but now I see I was merely resigned (and perhaps exhausted). Still, I am independent-minded, always have been. I know how to do things on my own, know how to entertain myself, know how to take care of myself. I’ve never been afraid of being alone, never been one to hide behind pretty lies or protective fantasies. And yet his death devastated me as much as it confounded me. In fact, after almost two years (two years minus two days, to be exact; 729 days) I still feel lost, still feel broken.

Not all deaths affect people the same. My mother died three years before my mate, and my brother died a year before that. My grief for them was what I used to consider “normal.” I missed them and felt bad that they were gone, but my life went on without any major upheavals. But when my mate died, it was a cataclysm, affecting every part of my life. And the strong connection we always had, a cosmic-twin sort of connection, was broken.

The day before my mother’s funeral, I broke my ankle, so I spent her viewing at the emergency room and I spent her funeral at the bone specialist. It turns out that what I had was a very bad sprain, so bad that when the ligaments tore away, they cracked the bone.

I realize now this same sort of thing happened when my mate died. Whatever connection we had was so strong that when he was torn away from me and our life, it fractured me. This fracture had nothing to do with my being weak or too dependent on him or unwilling to face the truth or any of the other snide rationalities people have made about my sorrow. However deep and prolonged, my grief for him is normal and understandable. It takes a long time for a broken bone to heal and regain its former strength. How much longer must it take when one’s psyche has been broken.

And so, I still deal with the fracture his death caused in me, and I still deal with the bewilderment of his death. Perhaps when he died, he took a chunk of me with him, the same way bone still adheres to torn ligaments, and so part of me would be wherever he is, if he is. His death felt like an amputation, and I can no longer feel that part of me where we were attached. Some people still feel connected to those who are gone, but I never do. I merely feel his goneness, his absence, which seems as strong as his presence once did. And I still feel fractured. Still feel lost. Perhaps to a certain extent I will always feel this way, because the cause of this loss, his being dead, will always be a part of me. And that is one truth I wish I didn’t have to face.

24 Responses to “Still Confounded by Grief”

  1. dellanioakes Says:

    Pat, I can’t even imagine your loss. I hope that you find your focus again and that the pain will lessen a bit. I know it won’t ever go completely away, but may it ease.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oddly, the internet has been a lifesaver. People say technology isolates, but in my experience, it brings people together.

      • dellanioakes Says:

        I agree. When I went through chemo, I didn’t see a lot of people, but I kept in touch with Facebook. It was a mood saver for sure!

  2. Deborah Owen Says:

    I think of you a lot – and also the other lady whose husband died the same day as yours. My husband has been having a lot of chest pain. Tests show nothing but something is wrong. It’s a daily occurrence now and I often wonder if I will wake up as a widow any day now. Will I enter that vast and unknown planet where I have to rebuild my world? Will I do as well as you have done? The uncertainty is unnerving. It gives me a flint-like posture on the inside, as though a person can steel themselves for such a thing. Anyway, I’m counting the days down with you and praying that God will provide strength for you dear ladies. I’m sure the anniversary will be crippling in one way, but perhaps freeing in another. Maybe, when you get past it, you’ll be able to discover something new in your life. God bless. Deb

  3. Jenny Says:

    Pat, I know this isn’t much consolation, but there are many of us out here that feel the same way about soul mates we’ve lost. I know I do. My soul mate died in 1989. There isn’t a day he’s not with me. There’s not a day I don’t hear his voice or think “Oh, I need to tell Paul that.” He was 35 years old when he died. Way too young, and like you, he took a part of my soul with him. Yes, we move on. In my case, I was young and eventually remarried and had children. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss him terribly. The way I see it, though, as long as we miss them and remember them, they’re still ‘here’. When we forget is the day they go away. I don’t want that…ever.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It stuns me how many seemingly happy people have a core of grief. Until I became one of the bereft and started talking about my feelings, I never realized how much it can be a part of our lives. And yes, it is a consolation to hear people’s stories. It’s nice to know others have been there and survived.

  4. Jeffrey Siger Says:

    Pat, I know how you feel. My younger brother died suddenly a dozen years ago. He was my best friend and to my way of thinking the best person in the world. Nothing changes his passing. But it’s different now. it’s like a ring one wears but doesn’t always notice. Then for a moment you do, spin it around on your finger, try to think of good things linked to it, smile, and drift back to living the rest of your life…just as my brother would want me–and your soul mate would want you–to do. God bless them both.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I like your ring analogy, Jeffrey. Someday I might even get to the point where I don’t always notice his absence. I wonder if I’ll ever lose this heightened awareness of death that goes along with missing him.

      • Jeffrey Siger Says:

        What they say about time healing all wounds is true. The question is how you choose to deal with the scars. I treat mine as a positive reminder of all the good things about having had my brother in my life. And by the way, there’s no upside in dwelling on thoughts of death. We all get there in time, so keep making the most of the journey.

  5. Ann Says:

    You may appreciate this blog…. she excerpts a book which is excellent.
    I know whereof you write – it’s been almost ten years for me.
    Take care of yourself – and enjoy the day as best you are able.

  6. Joy Collins Says:

    Losing a soul mate to death is a different loss from a mother or sister, etc. I read somewhere that when two people in love live together for a long period of time their bodies actually become in sync with each other. The heart puts out an electrical field which is measurable and it intertwines with the electrical field of the other loved one and when that is gone, the body knows it and feels the loss. So it is a true amputation. Whether sudden or slow, the loss is real both emotionally and physically.
    And yet none of that gives me any consolation. All it does is tell me what I am feeling is real and not something I am making up or because I am weak in some way.
    I am also counting down to John’s second anniversary although I am a little behind you [our date is May 24th and it is OUR date in every sense – we lost each other physically]. I watch you go through this journey knowing I am right behind you within shouting distance and I wonder what life holds for us. I am trying to fill it with worthwhile endeavors but none of it really ignites my soul. I wonder if anything ever will. Even the mundane was good before because I was sharing it with my best friend and lover. Now everything is just “eh”.
    The other day I woke up from a dream about John and immediately thought “I need to ask him…” and then I realized again that he was gone and the pain was horrible.
    Sorry for rambling but this weekend has not been good – 22 months, 96 weeks and no end in sight. That’s the worst thing – there is no prize for grieving. No reward. We do not get our love back if we do this right.

    • Linda Nance Says:


      You and Pat both touch my soul so much with the honest sharing of such deep and difficult parts of your heart. In sharing you are also reaching out to so many others. All that you say is so true. I can not say that I have experienced what you both are enduring but my heart is with you and I will remember you both in my prayers.

  7. Linda O'Neill Says:

    He came into my life as a result of a dating website, which I usually do not go to, but I saw this beautiful man forced into retirement at a too young age due to a stroke on the job (59). Let him know I lived far away, but I was sending him healing and hoped he could recover from the paralysis. He wanted to call. I hesitated, but I agreed. We talked 12 hours the first time. There was no time in the universe during that call. It was such an intense special call. Though he had a picture of him, there was no picture of me (as I usually do not visit those sites), but was told he knew my heart and soul in that conversation for he was a policeman and he knew people and he knew I was good.

    Long story short, he came to my house several weeks later (1.5 hour drive) so exhausted and as I saw him with his head hung over his cane and so very ill, I knew God wanted him in my life. He touched me in a very deep part of my soul in that moment. Watching his partially paralyzed body trying to show me he could be what he used to be. What I later found out was my soul mate found at this latter time of life. From our conversation that weekend, I now know he knew I was his soulmate and he had been looking for me for over 40 years. About 2 months ago I saw a picture of his ex-wife (they started through a divorce 3 times and finally got one 19 years ago). She looked like a young me.

    We ended up marrying. Happily so. Leastways his looks at me showed it so often. Then all of a sudden, his blood pressure went off the charts and he nearly died a month after we were married….he pulled through. I was so scared I was losing him. I prayed like crazy. He came back with great doctors. I was so happy he was back with me. It was a lot of work because he could not do a lot of things and I worked full-time, but it was amazing the drive he had to prove to me he would and could recover from this stroke. It was in his heart and soul and I knew he loved me so very much. He was just the neatest guy and I was so crazy for him. He brought his wonderful Norwegian Elkhound with him when he moved in, but our beloved dog got sick after we had been married about 18 months and THEN OUT OF THE BLUE, he just wanted a divorce and wanted to take his dog home. It was so hard taking his many pills and putting them in his pill cases and helping him pack up his belongings and helping him move. He still used a cane and still had trouble with stairs. Broke my heart as he picked up Hunter and put him in the back of the car. I loved that damned dog as much as I loved my man. IF HE WAS MEANT TO COME BACK HE WOULD – THAT IS WHAT I JUST KEPT TELLING ME. i CRIED, I WAS ANGRY (BUT NEVER SO ANGRY I WANTED TO REBOUND). i just missed him and tried to let him go and call him ever month or so. He needed his freedom or he would not have asked for a divorce.

    I was so hurt AND BROKEN. i KNEW IN MY HEART AND SOUL HE LOVED ME. He did everything he could to not hurt me anymore (financially, emotionally and spiritually), but he just wanted to take his beloved “Hunter” and go home. I stayed in touch, though I hurt so bad inside. I knew you cannot take away another person’s free will choice and you have to let them go. Oh the hurt was indescribable. In April when I called……he wanted to see me and get back together. I was leery, but you never know unless you risk. I would have risked anything to have my Steve back in my life.

    On April 14, 2011 he came to see me. He looked so wonderful, but he had not been feeling real well. We spent a beautiful weekend together with him telling me he always loved me, he would always protect and take care of me and he let me know he was sorry for having left and could we get back together. We made some plans. I was kind of afraid to trust him, but I knew I was thrilled to have him back in my life. God how I love him. We spent the following weekend together as well, but he was not feeling real well and left early. That was the last time I saw him.

    On May 2, 2011 I called his sister-in-law from work and asked if she knew we were back together again and was told rather nastily “yeah I know” and I said “well I offered to take Steve to his doctor’s appointment tomorrow and I have been unable to reach him, do you know where he is”. I was told “yeah he’s dead”. I felt so brutalized by her and so destroyed because I did not express myself as much as I wanted to because I was so afraid of being hurt again by him. I think the family did not want him back with me because of finances, though they were taken care of. There was no need to brutalize me at the time, but I had already forgiven them, thought it hurt. Beyond that….

    I AM SO VERY BLESSED AND GRATEFUL TO HAVE MET MY SOULMATE, even though it was short in duration. I AM BLESSED HE CAME BACK AND LET ME KNOW I AM PROTECTED AND LOVED AND CARED ABOUT. It was a very special gift he gave to me. He died on 5/1/2011 and it will be 15 months tomorrow. I cry with missing him every day. i have tried to quit crying and have finally given up and given in – it is okay for me to cry – it is no one’s business – it is my healing. I am glad he did not have to suffer with any more chest pains and I am so very happy he found me in this life time. I know when I die and go home he will be there and LOOK OUT HEAVEN FOR WE WILL HAVE ONE HELL OF A REUNION. As for the next 30+ years (I am now 64 and have always known I will live to be quite elderly) or so, I know I am protected by my beloved and am grateful each and every day that he found me in May, 2007.

    Thank you for the opportunity to express this as I can to all of you because most others do not understand because we were divorced. I had been married twice before, but no one EVER felt like this….I knew it was special. Most people look at me like I am nuts when I try to express my sorrow. I have learned to not express to others, but I can barely mention his name without tears coming to my eyes and not because I feel sorry for myself – I am glad he no longer suffers. How wonderful he came back, but I just did not realize it was the last two weeks. I was so fortunate to have him come back, so I guess I do feel sorrow for myself. About a month ago, I finally starting getting out pictures of Steve and have them around me. Makes me happy to see our smiles and happiness to have been together. We got several second chances – how wonderful is that?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you for telling me your story. It’s the connection that counts, not the duration you were together. I hope you take care of yourself. Grief is difficult and exhausting, especially when you have to keep it to yourself. Wishing you peace and healing.

  8. Linda O'Neill Says:

    Pat, I love so much that you listened. I have been needing to get it out of me and somehow typing it eases the loss. Your own loss definitely illustrates that this kind of a loss is different than those other losses and by golly it does confound us. Pat, I thank you for sharing your loss and putting it out there instead of you keeping it inside. It makes me feels like it is a cleansing of a wound.

    I am so grateful you did this Pat and it shows your heart and soul and you write so well and in such a descriptive way. Fracturing aptly explains the soul mate connection. I had been married before, but it never felt like it did when I looked out on the deck and saw Steve so ill and I felt God in me and knew I belonged to this man at such a depth I wondered if I was nuts taking on such an ill man. I was not – he delighted my soul and strengthened my character with his bravery. There was that danged heart and soul fighting the analytical part of my brain. Steve and God won me over!

    I also have had many deaths but they all did feel so different than this does, like you. Pat, I have a funny feeling I found you for the reason that I needed to cleanse my wound and instead of feeling fractured, to feel my healing at a soul level. Perhaps God sent me your way as he sent Steve my way? I am blessed that you are there. Your pain has eased mine (not that I would want to put another person in pain), but I want you to know that maybe that is part of the reason we lost them was to find others we can lovingly help in the Universal design?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Linda, I don’t know if there is plan since I don’t have the faith that you do, but I do know I have been blessed to meet so many people struggling with the same questions I am and who are confounded by grief the same way I have been. I’m glad you stopped by. Talking about our grief, letting it out so it doesn’t fester, helps us heal. Like you, there is a chance I will live many more years, and I do not want to spend all of those years in mourning. I’ll always miss him, will always yearn for one more smile, one more hug, but I’m beginning to understand that happiness and sadness can exist side by side in the same way that laughter through tears can brighten our day.

      Only someone who has experienced this fracturing can understand it, because truly it is un-understandble. My grief came from someplace so deep inside I’d never been there before.

      • Linda O'Neill Says:

        I don’t know think I have faith, leastways I do not see me in this way…..
        I send out all that is good and hope that your happiness increases day by day. Take care of you….Pat

        With warmest of regards to you and your fractured self and with the intentions the pieces come back together again, stronger and better as your sweetheart soulmate would want it to be for you…

        PS: I do not think there is a measurement for yearning, but I know I would like to have just one more moment, piece of Steve, one more hug, kiss, discussion, expressions of our hearts. I miss him with all that is within me, but I just cannot fix it and know he wants me to go on and be the woman of strength he was so proud of. Hopefully you will find your answers. Peace be with you Pat.

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