Letter to the Dead

I spent almost thirty-four years with my life mate/soul mate, and though we were seldom happy due to various matters (his illness, our business failures, assorted life issues), we were always connected by some mystical bond we couldn’t even begin to understand.

We never saw the movie Of Human Bondage, but a clip from that film showed up in a movie that we often watched, and we found that clip poignant. (She asks him, “Will we be happy?” And he responds, “No, but does it matter?” Or some such.) We’d always look at each other then, in acknowledgment of the truth. It didn’t matter that we weren’t happy. It ony mattered that we were together.

And then one day we no longer were together, and I realized we’d known the truth of it. Whether we were happy or unhappy, every minute we’d been together had been important

During the first terrible weeks and months of grief, I found comfort in writing letters to him. It helped bridge the chasm between being together and not being together. Because of our unhappiness and my relief that his suffering was over, I never expected to grieve, which seems naive of me now, especially considering that after more than three years, I still grieve for him — for us — and maybe always will.

It’s been three years today since the following piece was written, and though I don’t have the physical trauma and emotional agony, I’m still lost, still miss him, still need to be brave. How did I get through three years of such great yearning? I honestly don’t know other than by taking life one step at a time.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 67, Dear Jeff,

Did you have a good night? Are you sleeping? Do you sleep? Do you still exist somewhere as yourself or has your energy been reabsorbed into the universe? I think about you constantly—I hope it doesn’t bother you that I’m still clinging to you emotionally. I feel unsettled, and I’m having a hard time processing all this—our life together, your death, the end of our shared life.

I keep saying I don’t know how to live without you, but I do. The problem is I don’t know how to want to live without you. No one will ever take your place. No one will ever mean to me what you did, in the way you did.

It seems strange that I’m leaving here. The topic of where I should go caused our few disagreements last year. There were just a few, weren’t there? It was such a calamitous year, I no longer know the truth of it.

I look to you for how to be brave. Thank you for that day you talked to me about courage. You thought it was for you, a way of gathering your courage to face your painful dying, but it was for me—I need to be brave to get through the coming days, months, years.

Adios, compadre. I hope you no longer have need of bravery.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning


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+

5 Responses to “Letter to the Dead”

  1. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    “I’m still lost, still miss him, still need to be brave. How did I get through three years of such great yearning? I honestly don’t know other than by taking life one step at a time.”

    And yes, Pat, I too am still lost, still need to be brave and strong…and we have come this far from March 27, 2010 by taking life one step at a time.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s amazing to me how hard it still is, though why I am amazed, I don’t know. I’ve underestimated the power of grief every step of the way.

  2. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    I’m going to make it through, but it still hurts. More than ever, I understand you, Pat. Blessings to you…

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Even that long stage of “pre-grief” while our loved ones slowly decline does not mitigate the hurt. Maybe nothing does. But we do make it through. You have such strong faith. I hope it helps you get through the days.

      Sending you wishes of peace, Carol.

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