I Don’t Want Your Sympathy

If you think I write about grief to elicit sympathy or to look for a shoulder to lean on, well . . .  you just don’t get it.

As I’ve said so often, I started writing about grief to make sense of my own feelings, and I kept doing so as a rebellion against a society that reveres happiness at all costs.

Although I am a private person, not given to airing my problems in public, I thought it wrong to continue the charade that life goes on as normal after losing the one person who makes life worth living. So, over the past three years, I have made it my mission to tell the truth about grief. Even though I have mostly reached the stage of peace, and life is opening up again, at least a little bit, grief is still a part of my life. There is a void in my world — an absence — where he once was, and that void shadows me and probably always will. Although his death changed the circumstances of my life, thrusting me into an alien world, grief — living with it, dealing with it, accepting it — changed me . . . forever. It has made me who I am today and who I will become tomorrow — strong, confident, and able to handle anything that comes my way. (And maybe even a bit tough to deal with at times.)

Would I prefer to have him in my life? Absolutely. But that is not an option. All I can do, all any of us can do, is deal with what lies before us, regardless of a society that frowns on mourning.

But I don’t need sympathy, I don’t need you to bleed for me, and I don’t need your shoulder to lean on. So what if I’m unhappy? Does that diminish your happiness? If it does, then that’s your problem, not mine. And you miss the point of these grief blogs —  to survive a horrifyingly grievous loss by finding my footing in an unbalanced and alien world.

I do want something from you, though. If you are still coupled, I want you to smile at your loved one tonight instead of kicking him or her in the shin as you might prefer to do. I want you pause to hug him or her, and maybe give an extra kiss. This is an incredible gift I am giving you — a memory to cling to if ever you should become one of us bereft.


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+. Like Pat on Facebook.

17 Responses to “I Don’t Want Your Sympathy”

  1. kristen Says:

    Beautifully said.

  2. sunnyjmin Says:

    So true. I would never start a blog in an attempt to get others to feel sorry for me. I’m not a charity case…this is just the reality of life for me. I also think that using someone’s death as a way to get sympathy is a serious disservice to your loved one.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I think that’s hard for others to understand, that this is simply a reality of life.

      • sunnyjmin Says:

        For the most part, it’s because society is hell-bent on this happiness/optimism kick…but what’s forgotten is that you can’t have one without the other, and that the journey that results in grief and pain is just as long as the journey to happiness. It’s just as…fun.


  3. kristen Says:

    Thank you Pat. I do agree with what you wrote, but right now i could use support. I have to go back to our apartment to clear things out. It feels like the skin is being peeled off of me. It burns and hurts even deeper then i thought it could. I ache so badly for him and am so alone now :(:(

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That is the other reason I write — to give a shoulder for those new to grief to lean on. Those first months are just too damn hard. And it’s too soon to have to clear things out. The worst day of my life was the day I cleaned out his stuff. Cried non-stop for twenty hours. Just couldn’t stop. And you’re right — it does feel as if the skin were being peeled off. I wish I could be there for you. All I can do is be here for you.

  4. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Some people would cringe in fear at being so candid about their personal struggles. I admire you every time you open up, Pat. It’ll be something for me to remember in years to come if I ever get into a serious relationship.

  5. kristen Says:

    I wish you could too, but your responces are extremely comforting. He never believed he was my everything and i did start to say it matter of factly. Now i see more then ever he really was. I only had one friend in another state and she is no where to be seen. Living her life as she has every right to do, but i’m so sad and scared. Life can really suck to be blunt. Like you now i can’t stop crying

  6. morrighansmuse Says:

    Thank you for that incredible gift.

  7. Vashti Quiroz-Vega Says:

    I admire your honesty. I wish more people were like you.

  8. elainemansfield Says:

    Pat, after my husband died, I wrote first to sort out inner chaos, digest the suffering I’d witnessed in the person I loved most, and find a place to stand on my own. I needed to be honest for myself and for others who have lost those they love and the life they lived. After five years, the void remains, as I go about writing, creating new possibilities, leading hospice bereavement groups for women who have lost their partners, and facing new challenges. I also don’t want sympathy, but feel the world would be a kinder place if we all remembered that everyone we deal with has or will have loss. Grief makes me tough and keeps my heart open at the same time. Thank you for never asking me or anyone to get over it and move on. I don’t want to get over it. I am grateful for the life and love I had, feel supported by the love that remains, and keep opening to what is new–all together.
    As always, I take solace from the cycles of nature and now absorbing the green, yellow, and pinks on my land,
    Thank you for your writing and your honesty,
    Elaine http://elainemansfield.com/

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Elaine, There is no way I’d ever tell anyone to get over it. Grief doesn’t work that way. We learn to integrate the loss into our lives the best we can, and go on from there, creating new possiblilites and facing new challenges, but still the void remains. It always will be there.

      It’s an interesting dichotomy, isn’t it, that we become tough and open-hearted at the same time?

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