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.
When 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+