The Sad Song of Grief

MusicI started crying at the grocery store yesterday.

The last time I cried in public was a year and a half ago at that very supermarket, which reminds me of where my deceased life mate/soul mate and I used shop. I don’t often go to this store, but it’s the only place I can get the salad dressing I use. After I picked up the salad dressing bottle, I looked for some other flavors in that same store brand, wondering if I should try something new, and I saw a dressing he liked. It struck me as being unbearably sad, and right there, in the salad dressing aisle, I started to weep.

The tearfulness caught me by surprise, but I should have expected the flare-up because I’ve been struggling with sorrow for the past two weeks. This year was the third New Year since his death, and inexplicably it began with tears. Grief had been leaving me alone, and I hadn’t had a strong upsurge for a long time — I thought I was through with grief, to be honest — but when the calendar rolled over from 2012 to 2013, grief came calling once again.

This new phase of grief is different from all the others. There is no great pain, no bewilderment, no shattered heart, but sorrow is always with me like a sad song playing in the background of my life. I don’t notice it all the time or pay much attention to it, but still, it’s there.

Last night I watched A League of Their Own (the version he taped, where he cut out the bickering between the two sisters to make it more of a baseball movie) and it affected me more than I thought it would. When one girl got a telegram about her husband dying in the war, I realized that never again would I have to deal with the horrendous shock and sorrow of seeing my mate die, and when Bill Pullman came back from the war, I realized never again in this life would I have such a reunion with my mate. And Madonna’s “Playground” at the end about tore me up.

This used to be our playground (used to be)
This used to be our childhood dream
This used to be the place we ran to
I wish you were standing here with me

It dawned on me then that this latest version of grief feels like sorrow for the end of childhood. I am a long way past childhood, but there was an innocence to our relationship, a belief that no matter how bad things got, we would survive because we had each other. As I discovered though, my love for him couldn’t make him well, couldn’t take away a moment of his pain, couldn’t keep him from dying. The innocent belief that love conquers all, the belief in “us,” is destroyed forever, and I will never get it back, not until I’m dead, too.

It’s ironic — so much was destroyed by his death, but the one thing I thought would be destroyed (me) is still going strong. Sad, but strong.

I got through everything else grief has thrown at me, and I’ll get through this sad song, too. Just, apparently, not yet.


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+

6 Responses to “The Sad Song of Grief”

  1. sarahsolmonson Says:

    Such a coincidence that you mention “A Leauge of Their Own”, as about a month ago I made a friend of mine watch it for the first time. The last time I watched it, I had yet to receive “the telegram”, and as that scene played out I felt a rush of emotions, tears too. The Madonna song can certainly pack an emotional punch. Well written post.

  2. Juliana Says:

    Wow, these experiences sound like they come from my playbook. This morning, I had an epiphany. The greatest source of my torment is the helplessness I felt to do anything to prevent him from dying. This theme of helplessness stems from the death of our son. I couldn’t do anything to stop that either. Helplessness in these situations is a fact of the human experience. There’s just stuff that we have no control over in life, and death is a big one.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      We have the feeling that we have more control than we do, probably because of all the “positive thinking” rhetoric we are bombarded with. “If we believe strongly enough, it will happen.” “If we think negative thoughts, bad things will happen.” But the truth is, things happen that are totally beyond our control, beyond positive or negative thoughts. I know a woman who lost her child, and a “friend” told her, “You didn’t pray hard enough.” Huh? I didn’t understand that at all, and I especially don’t understand anyone being so cruel.

      I wonder if I will feel freer when I get through this period in my life, knowing how little control we have.

      • Juliana Says:

        Certainly we learn to take each moment as it comes. I think the trick is to find meaning, peace of mind, and joy. I know that things that bothered me before don’t even make a blip on my radar screen. I’ve also startrd recognizing the miracles (I call them miracles) that have come since Ken died. It’s like he’s up there saying, “I’m still in charge and I’m going to take care of everything that caused you worry. I even tell him when he needs to get on something done and he does it right away.

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