When Grief Has You

People tell me I shouldn’t dwell on grief, on death, on life without my life mate/soul mate, but I don’t dwell on any of those subjects — they dwell in me. His death broke something inside me, so now there is a crack where the abyss seeps in. Unlike other people who have lost a mate, I never get signs that I might perceive as coming from him, no signs of any kind, just this abyssmal feeling.

A friend who lost her husband a year ago kept a journal all through his dying, and during the past year, she has used her journal to remind her of the various anniversaries of his dying and death, but I don’t need such reminders. My reminders dwell in me, in my body. I’ve been very sad the past couple of days, and I couldn’t figure out why the upsurge in grief, and then it came to me. Yesterday was the anniversary of the day I got the call that he’d been cremated, and today is the anniversary of the day I picked up his ashes. What a terrible, terrible day that was and so fresh in memory, it feels as if it were two weeks ago instead of two years.

I’d stopped by hospice to get a pillowcase of ours they had misplaced (I’d brought a bunch of pillows for him since he liked being propped up). I was frantic to get that pillowcase back, not that it had any sentimental value, but I felt so shattered and scattered, I needed to bring everything together as much as I could. From hospice, I went to pick up his ashes. I had to wait for the funeral director. She’d been attending a children’s party, and was late for our meeting. The urn I’d ordered had been discontinued, which she neglected to tell me, so she handed me his ashes in an ugly brown plastic box (she called it a temporary urn, but it was just a box). It was much heavier than I expected. People talk about ashes (except in the funeral business where they are too cutely called “cremains”), so I expected them to weigh almost nothing, but the “ashes” are actually bits of bone and other inorganic matter, the part of the body that was never alive. And they are heavy.

I drove the sixty-five miles home with tears streaming down my face. I brought him inside, set him on the bed, but I couldn’t bear to see the naked box or to be reminded it contained all that was left of him. I finally wrapped his robe around the box. And I haven’t unwrapped it since.

Time does not heal all wounds, but time does pass, and I’m letting it. I don’t hold tightly to my memories, don’t hold tightly to my grief in an effort to feel close to him, but still, grief does surface, often when I don’t expect it. Like yesterday. Like today.

Some people have expressed admiration for the way I analyze grief, but mostly I’ve just tried to put into words what we are all feeling. When grief has you, you can only go along for the ride. There is no analysis, no thought, just feelings. For months after he died, I kept dropping things. I could not get a grip on anything. Couldn’t get a grip on my thoughts, either. Just had to let grief flow.

One of my blog readers is worried about how she will deal with her grief after her husband dies, but the truth is, you don’t deal with grief. It deals with you.

8 Responses to “When Grief Has You”

  1. bornbyariver Says:

    “you don’t deal with grief; it deals with you.” no one had said it better.

  2. Joy Collins Says:

    Yes, you said it – grief takes you along for the ride. Kind of like running the rapids in an unstable canoe with no life jacket. And no idea what lies ahead. Probably a bed of horrible rocks – or a cliff.
    And I don’t even care.

  3. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    “they (grief, death, life without our mates) dwell in me”….

    Yes, Pat, they are there when I wake up….ready and waiting to walk through another day with me. They are there when someone shares their vacation plans, or anniversary plans or…joy or pain. They are there…they are just there. Distraction helps some but the instant that distraction ends…they are there again. I understand.

    As you drove with those ashes and tears rolling down your face two years ago today, I was standing over an open grave looking down at Bill’s casket…while friends threw flowers and little treasures into that gaping hole in the ground. Alone in a car as tears rolled down your face or surrounded by friends at a grave site…we were both so so alone in deep grief. My heart reaches out to you today, my friend.

    I just bumped into a friend at the pharmacy and she just said as she greeted me that she knows this is a tough time…I burst into tears, thanked her….she hugged me…I came home…and yes, there they are again…grief, death, and being without my Bill.

    Yes, grief is just there…leading me, walking beside me, residing inside of me… teaching me, transforming me…from who I was to whoever it is I will be….someday. It is what it is.

    Peace, Mary

    • Joy Collins Says:

      Mary, you summed it up so well. It does seem to hurt more when I see others going on with their coupled lives. But regardless, grief is always with me. It’s like a shawl draped around my shoulders at all times and there is no way to remove it. My heart aches for all of us.

      • Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

        Joy, the image of the shawl draped over your shoulders says so much. I have the white cloth that was draped over Bill’s casket and sometimes I wrap myself in it…this time of the year is hard as everyone is joyous with the spring weather and talking trips, cook outs etc. and none of it means much though I make myself participate in what feels ok. Yes, my heart aches for you and all of us. Mary

  4. Deanna Dolf Says:

    U are so amazing! The way u can put ur feelings into words and we feel with every word exactly what u are feeling. Inhavent started reading ur grief book cuz I don’t think I’m ready to go back there yet. But someday I do look forward to being able to read ur story. After all I was also part of that journey! We have a bond that may not be the best bond to have but we have it and I’m thankful for u. U were always there for me. I couldn’t be where I am without u! Thank you my friend!!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I was glad to share this journey with you, Deanna. It was a true honor watching you come back to life. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

      You’re right not to read the book — it’s too soon. I just wanted you to have it. Be sure to read the acknowledgements in the back, though.

  5. Namaste Consulting Inc Says:

    Reblogged this on Namaste Consulting Inc. and commented:
    What a blessing to have Pat’s posts to remind us of the ups and downs that are the grief journey. I so respect her honesty!


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