A Child of Grief

My life mate/soul mate died thirty-three months ago today, and I found myself hesitating before writing this post. I worried it might seem as if I am trying to keep myself in the center of a drama, a drama that has long since lost its power and poignancy. But the truth is, even though I am not actively mourning — at least not often, and not much — grief still shades every moment of my life.

untitledvWhen people fall in love, when they are giddy with hormones, when they get caught up in the emotion of their love and the dream of a wonderful new life together, their friends and family never tell them,  “Okay. Enough. It’s time to get over your love and move on.” The whole world celebrates their love (or so it seems to the new couple), and everything they say and do for the rest of their lives is shaded by this focus on each other.

Grief reflects this process, though through a dark mirror. The newly bereft are buffeted by hormones, caught up in the emotion and pain of their loss, tormented by a future that no longer has any meaning, focused on someone who is no longer there. The loved one might be dead, but the love doesn’t die. (What do you do with love when it is no longer needed? I never have figured that one out.) And the bereft are told, “Okay. Enough. It’s time to get over your grief and move on.”

Other people get tired of our drama, but for us, it is always there — a blankness in our lives. An absence.

I am doing well, trying new things, preparing myself for a future alone. I have hermit tendencies, so to make sure that I don’t stagnate, I am planning adventures — simple excursions and experiences for today and complicated journeys for another time. From the beginning, I embraced my grief, wanting to process the guilts and regrets, the anger and fears as quickly as possible so I could charge into whatever the future held for me. I am now more determined than ever to celebrate life, and yet . . .and yet . . .

I am aware that if it weren’t for his death, I wouldn’t need to worry about my hermit tendencies. We were hermits together, friends in our solitude. Until those last years when he could barely drag himself out of bed, we did everything together, so there was no reason to plan solitary experiences or excursions. Every day with him brought the possibility of something exciting, even if only a long rambling conversation through history, science, philosophy and back to history, so there was no need to find a way to keep from stagnating. But now there is.

Grief has shaped my life in other ways. I am here in the desert because he is dead. I am taking care of my father because I am not needed elsewhere now that my life mate/soul mate is gone. I made new friends through my attendance at a grief support group, and those friendships have long outlasted the group. I am taking yoga classes, learning to find a new way to open to the universe because he is no longer here keeping me connected to the world.

His absence is still a very real presence in my life. I don’t feel his total goneness as much as I did at the beginning, but I am aware of his absence. My yearning to see him once more doesn’t claw at me the way it once did, but I am aware that I will never again hear his voice or be warmed by his smile. I am far beyond the days where I curled up, cradling my new pain and sorrow as if it were some sort of new born creature, but what those days did to me — stealing away the last of my naiveté, lightheartedness, and innocence — will remain with me forever.

I am a child of grief. No matter how adventurous or fulfilling my life might end up being, no matter who or what I grow to be, something deep inside of me will always be aware of the death that made these changes necessary, the absence that made them possible.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

12 Responses to “A Child of Grief”

  1. nivaladiva Says:

    “What do you do with love when it is no longer needed?” I think this is one of the most profound aspects of grief and strangely, rarely discussed. It’s an excruciating, sometimes maddening feeling, which unfortunately only time can heal. Sending you support through the matrix.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      There are a lot of aspects of grief that are rarely discussed, but this one seems to have completely slipped through the grid. I spent 34 years loving someone, and though the love is still there, it has no focus, no one to spend it on. And yet those who have never been in this situation dismiss the question as if it is a childish concern. Thank you for understanding. Sending you support back through the matrix.

  2. joylene Says:

    I don’t think you ever stop being a child of grief. I think you just pretend to the outside world that everything is fine. Every once in a while you come across someone who understands. They may not even say anything, but you sense that understanding, and you gain strength from that brief moment. You also eventually forgive all those well-meaning people who indicated in so many words that it was time you picked your socks up and got back to life. My BIL actually told me to get over the deaths of his nephews because it wasn’t doing me any good mourning for so long. I now realize that it was too much for him to witness. He wasn’t deliberately trying to be callous.

    I still have my mate, and yet I understand the need to fill my empty role. You’re someone’s mother for years and years and years, and suddenly you aren’t any longer. Two days ago someone asked me how many children I had, and I automatically said, “Five.” I looked at my husband. He smiled but didn’t say anything.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t know how anyone survives the losses you’ve had to deal with. I can’t even imagine it. You’ll never know how much I have appreciated opening up to me after J. died. You helped me get through a very bleak time. You are a very gracious and generous woman.

  3. hmcwriter Says:

    Pat, I do not the know the magnitude of your pain and will not pretend to understand. You have just shared the most beautiful gift with the world, in writing this post. Thank you for bearing your soul, it will help many. My Mother lost two partners and the grief still takes her. I tell her to have compassion for herself and that she is allowed to grieve forever. It is not drama, nor any negative thing, it is simply a sad remembering of the loss of the a wonderful, incredible part of herself. My heart is full from this post. Thank you again.

  4. Claire Chamberlain Says:

    Thank you Pat for sharing your inner thoughts about your grief, it has helped me cope a little with my own grief. It is 5 months today since Mykhaylo passed away aged 48. The last time I saw him was January 8th before he returned to the Ukraine. I have good and bad days but the grief and the constant thinking about Mykhaylo never leaves me. I found Christmas very difficult and recently his mother sent photographs of his grave with her standing next to it. Hanna is also finding difficulty in coming to terms with losing her only child and the enormity of her grief is etched on her sad face in the photo she sent. I get comments about I should move on and get over it and grieving like this wont bring him back. At the moment I really don’t want to be apart of this life thing, being normal and getting on with it. I have the added horribleness of my family members who disliked Mykhaylo ( Niece and brother) so I have took the decision to have nothing to do with them any more. My brother said he is not bothered that he died and he got on his nerves anyway. I don’t have a good record with my brother who told me that I ruined his life for being born (he is 6 years older) and has had moments of being verbally horrid to my daughter when she was a little girl. Hanna says in her letter to me, She feels Like she is on an island unconscious with grief and cannot bring her self to even look at Mkyhaylo’s picture. Mykhaylo is buried in the little village of Soroky where he was born and where his mom lives with her 92 year old mother. I am only 45 but have had enough of life already, all I see is a path paved with sadness and have had enough of putting a brave face on it. I do have a lovely 16 year old daughter and she is the only thing that keeps me going, but I know I will never have that magic that I had with Mykhaylo again x

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I hope one day you will be able to celebrate the magic, but it won’t be for a very long time. 5 months is nothing in the world of grief. It takes three to five years to find one’s way back to life, or so they tell me. I do know that I have come a long way from the way I felt at five months — my grief was so very raw back then — so perhaps they are right. You will find your way. Just be patient with yourself. Get through the days as best as you can. Enjoy your daughter. And stop by to talk to me whenever you need to. Grief is very isolating. It’s good that you are in contact with his mother.

      Wishing you peace in the new year.

      • Claire Chamberlain Says:

        Thank you Pat for your support and words of kindness. Grief is so lonely and takes over your life. Many friends and family try to help but will never understand the enormity of it. You have given me a lot of support with your blog and your book, The great yearning
        Bless you, Claire xxx

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