New Steps on the Journey Through Grief

I’ve reached a new level of grief. I’m still sad, but I can barely remember why. I still feel the absence of my life mate/soul mate, who died two years and two months ago, yet I can barely remember the living man. The life I shared with him is receding, as if it happened to someone else. There is still a hole in my life and a decided lack of “life” — no sparks kindling new ideas, no electricity of excitement, no radiance — but I no longer have anything with which to compare that lack of life. It’s as if these sad and lonely days are the way it has always been for me.

During those years when we were together, I had someone to talk to, someone who could help put life into a different perspective, and now there is just me. To tell the truth, I still talk to him, but he never offers a different perspective. I used to feel a tenuous connection to him (or at least to our shared past) when I talked to him, but now I have no idea if I’m even talking to him or simply talking aloud.

With our shared life moving further into the dim past and my memories of him fading, I worry that I will forget him. I know I’ll forget the person I was when I was with him. No matter how I change, I’m always just me, and yet, (for example) I cannot remember this little girl, cannot remember being her. She has receded far into my past. Or perhaps she’s become subsumed into my current persona? Either way, she no longer exists even in memory. And so will the person I was with him disappear as I move further into the future without him.

The irony is that I was in such pain after his death that I made a special point to experience new things so I could create new memories. I thought new memories would help cushion the severity of the break between our shared life and my life alone, yet those very memories are taking me further away from him.

I might not completely forget him. I have moments when I flash onto a vivid image of him, and as heartbreaking as those moments are (because I am reminded once again that he is dead), they are all I have left of him except for some of his things. It seems cruel that their things outlive the dead. Shouldn’t people live longer than things? Or else, shouldn’t the things disappear when our loved ones do? And yet, as my memories fade, the things I kept of his and the things I kept of ours, such as our household goods, will be all I have to remember him by.

Every new step on the journey through grief brings its own grief. It saddens me that he is forever receding from me. Yet I am still here, and I must live. I can’t cocoon myself in memories of him and our life together. I can only go on doing what I have been doing — experiencing new things and making new memories, even if they take me further away from him.

10 Responses to “New Steps on the Journey Through Grief”

  1. Deborah Owen Says:

    It’s a growing step in your journey, but you won’t forget him. He’ll always be part of you. It’s time for you to move on, but you’ll revisit him a thousand times. What you had together is not lost. It’s just evolving. Very best, Deb

  2. andyisaj Says:

    My heart is with you, but do not forget…those who pass do so despite the rest of us left behind. Funerals, memorials, and other statues to our own existence will mean nothing to us when we move on. Those are things for the living. Rest easy knowing that all of us get the same opportunity to move on. In the meantime, it is for the living to impress upon one another (and the dead) what we can accomplish on or own. There is pride in that. Be well, friend.


  3. Malene Says:

    Oh, Pat, although tomorrow marks merely 10 months for me and much of AC is still so fresh in my mind, I do so know what you mean. In fact, I wrote a very similar thing in my journal last night (that’s how I talk to him): “With every day and night that passes, there is more and more distance and it makes me feel sad. I hate this new reality.” To everything else you said in today’s entry, I say ditto. It’s ironic, isn’t it that the cost of such great love is such great grief? Today is AC’s birthday.

    I am still cocooning; but perhaps one day I will come to the understanding, as you have, that we cannot do that. Pat, I am so sorry that you have to live through this, that I have to live through it and that anyone who has ever been and will be where we are has to experience this.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Malene, the only way I’ve been able to make sense of all this is to do things that I wouldn’t have done if he had lived. Since he had been sick so long, we hadn’t been doing much, so it leaves the whole world open to me. I’ve visited museums and art galleries, taken day trips and plane trips, gone to county fairs and other festivals, done jigsaw puzzles. I’ve always hated jigsaw puzzles — they seemed so pointless, but in a world where everything seems pointless, they make as much sense as anything. I’m taking care of my 95-year-old father now, but when he goes, I’m going to drive cross-country. It sounds exciting when I tell people of such things, and yet they don’t make up for a second of his being gone.

      Like you, I am so very sorry that we have to live through such a loss. I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and sending you thoughts of peace,

  4. Malene Says:

    Thank you, Pat. A cross-country trip makes me think of “Travels with Charlie”. Can any experience, however “exciting”, novel, invigorating or mentally stimulating it may be, ever make up in any measure for them not being here? I am skeptical. You are a good person for looking after your father! A quote for you that dovetails with the blog entry this string started with:

    “People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” -Marcel Proust

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Malene, No experience can ever make up for his dying. Nothing can ever take his place. And yet, even though part of me will mourn the rest of my life, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life crying for him. I know he would hate that. He always felt bad that his illness and the constraints of our life pretty much killed my sponteneity, and so I’m trying to get it back.

      My mate might still be occupying my thoughts, but Proust is wrong about one thing — his goneness from this earth in no way feels as if he is traveling abroad. I thought that’s what it would feel like — as if he were in another room or out on a errand or on a trip, but it does not feel like that at all. His goneness from this earth is so absolute that it feels like nothing I have ever experienced. There is such a hole in the world, an emptiness . . . a sheer goneness . . . that it still staggers me twenty-six months later.

      But it is true that he did not completely die for me immediately. He is still dying, and dies a bit more with every step I take without him.

      • Malene Says:

        Oh man, that threw me for a massive, emotional loop. You know the kind where you end up a wailing, screaming, soggy mess on the bathroom floor. I’m just returning to “normalcy” now. This is what happened: I read “Proust was wrong about one thing … His goneness from this earth is so absolute that it feels like nothin I have ever experienced …” I know that, of course I do. BUT, for the past 10 months, I have learned not to confront the truth of that statement. I have learned to keep my wishes and my thoughts about him to myself and my journal – I have chosen to live in the world that Proust describes; the one in which he will return, if not tomorrow, then maybe next week, or next month or … well sometime soon, anyway. In not telling anyone close to me about this, I have successfully navigated 10 months where I didn’t really have to face his goneness for real, for real. Since, when you don’t tell anyone, you don’t open an window for someone to tell you that he really IS gone. And then … SMACK … there it is and there it is undeniable! On my computer screen. Still, I as I sit here replying to you, tears well up anew as that truth takes root some place in my body and in my psyche while, with all my might, I try to fend it off. I don’t want to know. I don’t want the truth, I don’t want the reality. I don’t want the hole, the emptiness, the goneness. I don’t want any of it, it’s not welcome and I am fighting, fighting so hard to keep the door shot. To seal the cracks. To block it out. I hate that, nonetheless, it is slowly taking root … I don’t want it!

        I know you don’t either. I commend you for being so clear about the facts and seemingly strong (or stronger) in the face of them. There are so many days when I wish I could simply, voluntarily take leave of my senses and not be aware that I am actively blocking the “goneness-truth” and could instead believe, wholly, in the “traveling-abroad-lie”

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Malene, After he died, I moved 1000 miles away. For almost eighteen months, every time the phone rang, I thought it was he calling to tell me I could come home. I knew he was gone, could feel in with every fiber of my being, but something in me could not make the connection. And so I waited for him to call. I still desperately want to go home, but since he was my home, there is no home to go home to.

          I try to find ways to deal with his being dead, and sometimes I succeed for a while, but I hate it. Hate it!

          You are still a long way from being able to face the truth, so don’t. It will come soon enough. That’s why the second year sometimes is harder than the first. The truth come whether we want it or not. And it HURTS! So be kind to yourself.

  5. ryn Says:

    A relief to read your post. So sorrry for your loss. Your acknowledgement of the slipping away of your partner and seeming in another life gave me words for feelings i had yet to be able to express as it seemed that to own that concept was an abandonment of either bob or what we shared. Joking i am approaching more serenity. Thank you for sharing.

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