Thirty-Four Months of Grief

desert roadThirty-four months ago today, my life mate/soul mate died of inoperable kidney cancer. For thirty-four months now, I have been posting updates on my progress through grief, and that astounds me. Thirty-four months? How is that possible? Written out, it seems such a short time for him to have been gone, and yet it feels immeasurably vast — so many minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and now years, spent trying to come to grips with what happened to us. For most of our lives we were connected by some mystical bond, a cosmic twinning, that kept us together even when times were rough. And then suddenly, in a single breath, that connection was broken. I am here, alone, and he is . . . well, I don’t know where he is or even if he is.

I never had survivor’s guilt for the simple reason that I wasn’t sure which of us got the worst end of the deal, but I have felt uncomfortable going on without him, as if somehow I were being disloyal. We helped fight each other’s battles, sticking up for each other, caring for each other, waiting for whichever of us happened to be lagging behind, always taking the other into consideration, and it feels as if I should still be doing so. But he is beyond my reach, beyond my care, beyond my consideration.

I have come to see that continuing the disconnect that began with his descent into death is one of the tasks of my grief. (Grief seems to be not so much about passing through stages, but more about completing tasks, such as processing the loss and learning to live again.) Until I understand within my depths that for all practical (earthly) purposes we are not one, I will never be able to embrace fully what life has in store for me. We are separate persons, each with our own experiences, our own journey, and our own destination. For a while, our paths crossed, but now, I have to continue as me, alone. No matter what I do, or think or feel, it cannot change the past. No matter how much I hate that he is dead, no matter how much I rail against the unfairness, no matter how much I miss him or wish desperately for one more word or smile, he is no longer in my life.

For most of those thirty-four months, this disconnect has seemed an impossible task, but there is a bit of light illuminating my path. Last week, when I went to my Yoga class, they asked how I was, and I said, without thinking, “I’m doing great.” It stunned me to hear those words come out of my mouth, because for more than five years, during the last of his dying and these many months of grief, I have had times of feeling okay, and I thought that was the best I could do. But at that moment, I did feel great. It didn’t last long, only about an hour before I began sliding into sadness again, but that hour stands as a beacon for what might be.

Up until that class, this year has been one of increased sorrow and tears, and such grief upsurges often precede or follow a deeper level of acceptance. It’s not so much that I am learning to accept his death — I accepted the truth of it from the beginning, though I hate it and will never be able to comprehend it — but I am learning to accept that I am alive, and that is a much harder thing to accept.


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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

15 Responses to “Thirty-Four Months of Grief”

  1. Stephen Leslie France Says:

    Moving as ever Pat – I suffered a spontaneous bereavement to close 2012 which meant a rapid departure from the British Virgin Islands to London. One ferry, three flights and four trains later and I reached my destination.

    It was an extremely powerful lesson to conclude 2012 and I have embraced it in the most positive way possible.

    Life certainly throws some curve balls, but I stand by my retort of making sure to ‘hit them all out the park.’

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I learned a long time ago that time never works according to the passing of a clock, but moves on its own frequency. So some days feel short, some days feel long, and at other times you’re like, “What the heck just happened?” I hope that as the 3-year mark comes around, you remember all the happy years you had with your soulmate and that you remember them as long and filled with joy.

  3. Judy Says:

    I write a lot about grief – but I did not lose a spouse; I lost a child. Your writing reminds me of another widow who is unsparing with her words about loss. That blog is at:
    The author, Relinda, has corresponded with me on my blog at this link:
    I think it is great that you are writing. 3 years is a long time when suffering with grief, yet it is also a very difficult crossroads. It is discouraging, because sometimes the progress doesn’t seem to show anymore. Just know that when you think it won’t get better – you might be surprised. I am very optimistic about healing from grief. Hang in there.

  4. Holly Bonville Says:

    “I accepted the truth of it from the beginning, though I hate it and will never be able to comprehend it” That pretty much says it all right there. It is hard to believe that Feb 26th I start my fourth year without Jake. He has been on my mind continuously lately, and I still miss him, I think I always will.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I mentioned in my article about the “tasks” of grief. I have a hunch that is one of them, at least for me — learning how to find new richness in life while still missing him because, like you, I think I will always miss him.

      Starting our fourth year. Woooo. That took my breath away for a second. It seems impossible, doesn’t it?

      • Holly Bonville Says:

        Yes, it does seem impossible. And I really haven’t gotten on with my life yet either. I’m trying, but everything takes so long that all it feels like I am doing is waiting, yet, I have accomplished a lot in the last three years. But not as much as I had hoped to have by this time. I’m still trying to figure out my path. It is still scary and frustrating, and lonely.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          How true that is! It’s scary and frustrating and lonely for me, too. Maybe this will be the year that things come together for you, and you can at least be someplace you want to be.

  5. Malene Says:

    Such wisdom Pat!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      How are you doing, Malene? Finding any peace?

      • Malene Says:

        I’m doing. Just when I think I have some peace, I see my counselor only to I realize it’s all right below the surface. Always easy to tears. That was never me before. I hate it. Accepting that we are alive is indeed difficult. Thank you for asking, Pat. By the way, even if I am a bit quiet, I read almost all your posts. 😉

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          After all this time, I still am easy to tears, and that was never me before, either. It’s good you have someone to talk to — I went to a grief support group, and it gave me a place to talk about him and his death when no one else would listen.

          Wishing you a deeper peace.

  6. leesis Says:

    Pat this is just so…right (I can’t think of another word). Yet again you shine a light for others to follow. People write that they don’t feel like their ‘getting in with their life’ and yet they really are; it’s just that their ‘life’ right now is one of grief. But as long as they do get up each day and don’t deny or avoid the reality of where they are at those moments of being “great” will sneak up and expand. That is healing

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m glad to have you watching me stumbling along on grief’s journey, because the journey itself feels so . . . wrong. It’s such a jumble of small steps forward and giant steps backwards and sideways and every which way so that I’m never sure where I am. But I can tell that I am healing, so that is something.

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