When you lose a soul mate or any person who connects you to the world in a significant way, you are born into the world of grief. At first, like any infant, you count your age in days, then weeks, and finally months and years.
I am long past counting the days and weeks since the death of my life mate/soul mate, though I can figure it out. (In case you’re curious, I calculated that it’s been 1,310 days or 187 weeks.) I’m even past counting the months. Today is an anniversary of his death, but without stopping to figure it out, all I know is that it’s been more than three and a half years but less than four.
This is a significant development. People who have never had to deal with the death of such an important person in their lives were spooked by my counting the days for so long, thinking I was unhealthily obsessed with the past, but that wasn’t the case at all. The days were milestones, ways of proving to myself that I could get through my grief one day at a time. And I have mostly gone through it. The horrendous pain, angst, and confusion of those first months isn’t even a memory. I can’t imagine anymore what I went through, can’t imagine how anyone could go through such a series of losses and come out the other end stronger and able to face whatever traumas life has in store. (In my case, not only did I lose my life mate/soul mate, I lost shared hopes and dreams, my most devoted fan, my best friend, and my home.)
When I talk about my grief, people assume I mean I still mourn him. To me, grief is the process, the whole spectrum of grief-related advancements including healing and rebuilding one’s life. The spectrum flows from the deepest black of despair to the brightest white of joy. Mourning is the sadness, the tears, the screams, the soul-deep pain — the physical manifestation of grief. I am long past the soul-deep pain, but I am still a long way from joy, so although I seldom mourn him any more, I still consider myself a child of grief.
Someday, that too will pass. Grief has taught me what we already know: things change. I never thought I’d laugh again, never thought I could live again. And yet here I am, all these months later, laughing and enjoying myself on occasion. I never thought I could forget him, and yet he is not always on my mind. For so long, I couldn’t bear the thought of settling down anywhere when I leave here (I am temporarily staying with my 96-year-old father, looking after him so he can be as independent as possible). All I wanted was to keep on the move. Travel See what life has to offer. I still think of leading such a spontaneous and unsettled life, but I am also weighing the possibility of settling down. I used to fear stagnation, but I am surer of myself and my solitary place in the world, and I doubt I would stagnate. I would do . . . something.
And so grief goes . . .
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.
October 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm
I long to be where you are. We are still slowly working our way to the end. Did you grieve for your spouse before he died? It has been almost a year at my house with watching the slow, painful decline. A question I have always wondered….was your soul mate your husband? I am just curious as you always refer to him as soul mate or life mate? I am a curious person who is not afraid to ask questions. But you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.
October 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm
I grieved for years for him while he was still alive, and that last year I thought I’d reached acceptance, but I only found numbness. Because of this, I didn’t think I would grieve after he died, I thought I had already accomplished grief’s tasks, and the depth of my grief after he died shocked me.
The strange thing is, while you are dealing with their dying, you think it will never end. It becomes your life. And then one day in the blink of an eye or the bob of an Adam’s apple, they are gone. Grief is the same way. I thought my pain was eternal, and now I can’t remember how it felt, only how I reacted to the way it felt.
One day, you will be here where I am. It takes time and effort. Sometimes all you can do is allow yourself to feel the pain. Other times you can use the anger to fuel your determination to do what you need to do. I am so sorry you have to deal with all this.
Sending you wishes of peace.
October 29, 2013 at 10:49 am
Thank you for this Pat! I think that it makes perfect sense. I have been allowing myself to feel the pain but it is hard when you want them to still have some hope. He really thinks he is going to get better someday.
October 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm
In a way, it’s a good sign that you can still feel pain. A lot of people do their greiving before their spouse dies, and so they don’t have a lot of pain afterward, but there are still many things to deal with such as loneliness and emptiness and wondering where to go from here.
And who knows. Maybe you will be blessed with a miracle and he will get better.