All Right With Death?

Mystical desertA friend who lost her husband sent me an email today, relating something a woman told her. The woman said, “I’m not trying to put anything bad on my husband, but I think that if he died I would be all right with that.”

The statement shocked my friend, not just because of the tactlessness, but because of the lack of feeling.

People have said the same thing to me, and to be honest, it’s the way I felt when my life mate/soul mate was dying. I truly thought I would be okay. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain, I thought I’d be relieved when he died. And I was. For about an hour. Those last years of his life, I did many things to prepare myself for going on alone, and I thought I was prepared. That’s why my grief shocked me so much — it came from somewhere so deep inside, I had no idea such a place existed. My grief was beyond rationality, beyond emotion. It was visceral, as if part of my body and half my soul had died.

Some women truly don’t feel much after their husbands die. Sometimes the husband had been sick for so long they did their grieving before he died. Sometimes their relationship was so bad they were glad when it was over. And sometimes people are unable to feel anything. After all, about 5% of all humans are sociopaths — not killers, simply people without human emotions.

But the woman who made the remark could also be in denial, or not know the power of grief. If you know how you would feel if your spouse died, it would put an unbearable burden on you, especially if you think you are an independent woman. I mean, grief to such an extent as I felt seems anachronistic in this liberated day when we are all supposed to be strong and self-reliant. When people found out about my loss, they often gave me strange looks, as if I were an alien species they could not understand. Sometimes after such a look, people would said they could not imagine how they would feel if they lost their spouse. I always told them not to imagine it. They couldn’t. Until you have been there, you do not know the depths of such grief. You cannot know.

To be honest, I wish I didn’t know. Such grief changes your whole perception of yourself and your relationship to life. It makes you rethink who you are, where you came from, and where you are going, and there are no easy answers. The truth is, I was strong and self-reliant. Sure, my mate and I did everything together, but I was perfectly capable of doing things on my own. Still, 2 and 2/3 years after his death, I am struggling with feelings of pointlessness and meaninglessness, as if our shared life was the only thing that mattered. And maybe it was — then. For thirty-four years he was the focus of my life, and to a certain extent he still is. I feel his absence the way I once felt his presence.

For me, the strangest part of the woman’s sentence is her implication that not only would she be all right after he died, but she’d be okay with his death. In my case, I am mostly doing okay dealing with my mate’s absence. I can even accept the idea that he is dead — I have to so I can go on with my life. But as long as I am alive, I will never be all right with his death.


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+

7 Responses to “All Right With Death?”

  1. mickeyhoffman Says:

    All I can say is Holy Cow.

  2. Malene Says:

    Amen to that, Pat. I say exactly the same thing to people when they tell me they can’t imagine: Don’t. And, I’m glad that they don’t know what it feels like. A good friend of mine lost her life mate 2 years before me. I thought I understood about grief, having already lost a number of people important in my life. I was slightly confounded by the depth, breadth and width of her despair. It wasn’t until my own mate died that I understood. I told her how I had had no idea previously, I apologized. But, like you said, there is NO WAY to know until it happens in your own life. Losing and grieving your mate is like no other loss and grief in the world, rivaled in despair perhaps only by the loss of a child.

    Happy New Years Pat, I hope it brings you a bit more closure, a bit more acceptance (something with which I still struggle daily … I want to live in Egypt, it seems).



    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m glad you stopped by, Malene. I’ve been wondering how you are doing. Periods of denial are good — they help protect us from realities we are not yet strong enough to accept. You seem to be doing well, or as well as anyone in our situation can do.

      I never understood this sort of grief — I always assumed the people were dramatizing themselves. Oh, man — if only that were the truth! But even if it were, they would still be dead, and that’s what confuses me. I always thought it would feel as if he were in another room, but feeling of goneness is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. A true void.

      Happy New Years, Malene. Be sure to stop by occasionally and let me know how you’re doing, or if you just need to talk.

  3. joylene Says:

    I agree. I think she’s in denial. Maybe it’s a good thing. She’s obviously not allowing herself to go there. Since I’ve been reevaluating every aspect of my life, I’m great for sticking my head in the sand, maybe she has a point. Meaning, maybe there’s something to be said for being in denial. Hmm. I’ll have to ponder that for awhile. Considering the opposite of denial hasn’t improved my life much, I’m now game for something new.

    Seriously, Pat, I spent way too much time thinking in 2012. This year I’m going to do much less thinking and way more being. I’ll let you know if it works.

    Happy New Year!

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