When Grief Comes Calling

desert roadGrief has been leaving me alone lately, probably because I’ve been keeping myself busy with other matters, but Friday night grief came calling. Sorrow has been with me on and off now for two days, perhaps in recognition of my upcoming three-year anniversary. I didn’t think there would be a problem with this anniversary (which is a bit naïve of me considering that I didn’t think there would be a problem with any of the agonizing stops along this grief journey). I’ve been feeling as if the death of my life mate/soul mate happened long ago, so long that he’s been fading in memory. Yet on Friday night, the memory of his last days was so fresh and new, it was as if we’d only recently parted. I could almost feel his arms around me as we said our final good-byes. Could almost see his smile, could almost hear his voice.

And suddenly, just like that, the yearning to be with him one more time overwhelmed me, and the reality lay heavy on my soul. He’s dead? Really? How is that possible?

I know how it’s possible. He got sick, was sick for years, and finally, the inoperable kidney cancer spread, hijacking his body for its own use. But dead? Part of me doesn’t get it. Part of me (just a vestigial part now) thinks I’ll be going home to him when I am free of my current responsibilities, and the truth — that he is gone forever — is again too much to bear.

I do know enough about grief to understand that this upsurge in sorrow will pass, but there will be other days — at ever-increasing intervals — when grief will again come calling. We get so in the habit of life, of dealing with our small everyday concerns, that our grief gets pushed out of sight, but we never completely get over our sadness. How can we? The person who meant more to us than any other is gone, taking part of us with him.

If that weren’t hard enough to deal with, we can never completely forget that we were helpless to keep him here even one more day, which makes life and death seem an arbitrary business. Perhaps if we knew life’s algorithms, we could see how everything fits together, but without such omniscience, we are left with only questions. Where is he? Is he happy? Is he?

Sometimes what keeps me focused on living is the thought of what he would say if we were to meet again. He’d be disappointed in me if I told him that all I did was mourn for him. I can see almost hear him say, “I died to set you free and you did nothing but cry?” Yeah, well, he no longer has a say in what I do. It’s my life and I’ll cry if I want to.

It’s not so much that I want to cry, but sometimes tears are the only way to relieve the incredible stress of grief. I had no idea stress would still come into play at almost three years, but grief, even aging grief, takes a lot out of us. Despite the upsurge in grief and the accompanying feelings of futility, I am making plans, looking forward, trying to find something to live for.

But dammit! I miss him.


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+

11 Responses to “When Grief Comes Calling”

  1. mlfhunt Says:

    Grief has been calling here daily all month…far more often than usual. My brain has become a movie projector flashing memories sad and glad on my heart and soul. Here is a quote from Transcending Loss on FB that reminded me…it is ok.
    Transcending Loss: Understanding the lifelong impact of grief
    The anniversary of ‘transitioning’, of ‘leaving the body’, of ‘death’ — I prefer to call it the angelversary — is a big deal. Often people feel ‘blue’ weeks and even months before the date, sometimes without realizing why. Remember that your dear one is more to you than their death. It is their life and their love that is honored on such a day. You may also wish to donate something in their honor, write a letter to them, or create a ritual to mark the day. Let all the feelings come up and see it as another occasion to feel close to them in a new way.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The lifelong impact of grief is something else I wasn’t aware of before I became one of the bereft. Our culture seems to admire stoicism and positive thinking above all else, which doesn’t take grief into consideration. We seem to be expected to bury the dead and go on as if nothing happened, and although we do go on, we are always aware that something did happen.

      ‘Angelversary’ is a bit too cute for my taste, particularly since I don’t really believe (nor completely disbelieve) that we continue to live as ourselves.But I understand the sentiment.

  2. denise Kackley Says:

    The three yr. anniversary of my husband’s death will be 5/30/13. I have so many of your feelings in this grief journey… sometimes it seems lie yrs. and urs. and other days it’s like WTH happened… The closer the anniv. date gets tho the more inflective I become..

  3. Carol Says:

    I remember thinking the grief would never go away, and in retrospect I was partially right. Sixteen years later the squeezing pain of grief is gone, but the regret remains. I don’t cry anymore, but sometimes I’m angry. Most days I’m just focused on the events of the moment without any measurable reaction.

    Two weeks ago I thought I was losing my hubby. He had three violent reactions after a lengthy angioplasty procedure and “code blue” was called. However, it wasn’t his time, and as I write this he is at the kitchen counter, making a batch of chocolate chip cookies! When I watch him, my heart is filled with gratitude! I’ve decided life is complex and best taken a day at a time, praying our way through the difficult moments, finding joy in little things and being thankful for them.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Carol, a great reminder — to find joy in little things and be thankful for them.

      I am so glad your husband made it through his crisis. Peace and joy to both of you.

  4. Malene Says:

    Pat – as always you say it so well. I’m crying as I write this. Your words and what they mean are so affective.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I suppose it’s only fair you cried when you read this post since I cried when I wrote it. I don’t know why the yearning to see him rises so strongly at times, but when it does, it’s overwhelming.

  5. Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective Says:

    Even after eleven years, sometimes the yearning to see my boy and the loss of his presence hits me hard. For some reason, I thought I had turned a corner last year when it seemed as though ten years loomed especially large. But, for some reason, this month (Jason died 3/3/02) has been so much more difficult than I thought it would be. There truly is no set pattern or time frame for grieving the loss of those held closely in our hearts. I guess those anniversaries – and other unexpected times – will always be a reminder of those we love and lost. Thank you for your writings; I appreciate them.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      From what I’ve heard, anniversaries are always hard, and so are special events such as graduations and weddings that we wish we could have shared with them. Wishing you peace.

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