Today is the three-year anniversary of the worst day of my life.
Oddly, the worst day wasn’t the day of Jeff’s death. (Jeff was my life mate/soul mate, a man with whom I’d spent almost thirty-four years of my life. Normally I don’t use his name when I write about my grief, but I need the comfort of seeing his name today.) The day of his death was a sadly inevitable day, one I had actually looked forward to. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain, that I was glad he finally let go and drifted away. I might have cried then. I might have been numb. I don’t really remember. All I know is that I sat there with him until almost dawn when the funeral services people came for his body.
I don’t remember when grief first washed over me, either, but I do remember the anguish building for days on end until I was nothing but a screaming bundle of raw pain. (You’d think that grief would start out strong and then weaken, but it doesn’t. It swells and continues to swell until it reaches some sort of breaking point, which gives you a brief moment of peace until it begins to swell again.)
We bereft are told not to make any major changes that first year since we aren’t always thinking clearly — we just want to escape the pain — but I had to leave our home to come take care of my then 93-year-old father. I put off sorting out Jeff’s things as long as possible since I could not bear the thought of clearing out what was left of his life, but I finally steeled myself to do the job.
I knew what to do with most things because toward the end he had rallied enough to tell me, but still, there were a few items that blindsided me, such as photos and business cards from his first store (where we met). Every single item he owned was emotionally laden, both with his feelings and mine, and I cried the entire time, huge tears dripping unchecked, soaking my collar.
How do you dismantle someone’s life? How do you dismantle a shared life? With care and tears, apparently.
Just thinking about it now makes me weep. If I could have waited a year or two, the task might not have been so traumatic, but the truth is, dismantling someone’s life is always filled with sorrow no matter how long you wait. I kept a lot of his things — things he asked me to save and things I couldn’t bear to get rid of such as his music tapes, games we played, a sweater he wore when we first met — and the thought of getting rid of those things still brings me pain.
I did manage to clear out some of those saved “effects” during that first year when I’d get angry at him for leaving me. (Silly, isn’t it? It wasn’t his choice, but I was still angry. Sometimes I still am.)
It’s amazing to me that I survived that day. It’s amazing to me that I’ve survived three years and 55 days of grief. It’s amazing to me that any of us do.
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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.
May 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm
Three years and 10 days here, still having bad days, hour and minutes. My brother was severly injured in a car accident and I had to sign the papers to let him go. Then came the lawsuits.
May 22, 2013 at 9:24 am
I am so sorry about your brother. All the horror surrounding his death must make it even harder to deal with. I hope you find moments of peace.
May 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm
23 years since I lost a husband to death. I was 29. Shocked – raw – emotionally bankrupt. At the time I thought I would cry until I either dehydrated or simply till eternity. Finally, it stopped. Other losses have equaled, paralleled and in some cases overshadowed this loss, but loss never goes away, it simply fades a little more as life makes its demands on us.
May 24, 2013 at 10:34 am
I don’t know how any of us survive such losses, but we do. I am learning, as you did, that the loss fades as life makes its demands on us.
June 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm
[…] Today is the three-year anniversary of the day I left our home behind to come look after my then 93-year-old father. I still yearn to go home at times, but not back to the house — back to Jeff, my life mate/soul mate. He was my home. Still, leaving that house was a physical wrench. It was where we had spend two decades together. It is where we were living when he died. It’s where I endured the worst day of my life. […]
June 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm
[…] are the horrendous tasks of dealing with the loved one’s effects, clearing out the things they no longer have any use for. Sometimes this particular bit of grief […]