Sometimes the hardest thing we have to do is keep marching into the future, especially when the person who connected us to the world lives in our past.
My life mate/soul mate meant more to me than anything or anyone else for almost thirty-four years. His death forty-five months ago brought me more pain than I could ever have imagined, and it still brings me pain, particularly when
I remember the reason he’s out of my life — that he’s dead. Death is incomprehensible to me, and maybe always will be. Even more incomprehensibly, he died relatively young. 63. That’s hardly any age at all in a time when so many live into their nineties.
I do well most of the time. I know I can’t live in the past, especially not the past where we were happy. (A lot of the time during the last decade or so as his health declined, we weren’t happy, but it didn’t matter as long as we were together.) I try to concentrate on today, make what plans I can for the future, add new people to my life in an attempt to combat my loneliness. Mostly, I try to become a person who can survive such a tragic loss, maybe even one who can thrive.
And yet, on Christmas afternoon, I couldn’t stop crying.
It’s odd — Christmas didn’t mean much to us. We weren’t big on celebrations or traditions, but by default, we created our own traditions. Since we couldn’t work or run errands or do any of our other usual tasks when the world was shut down, we spent the day watching movies and nibbling on finger foods — cheese, meats, crackers, fruit, vegetables.
I spent a quiet day this Christmas. I fixed a festive meal for my father, went for a walk, then watched a movie with a plate of food in my lap. And that’s when my forward thinking collapsed, and all I could think of was the past.
I’ve signed up for an online dating service, and even have been trying to connect with people, but today I remembered why I’m trying to move on with my life, and something inside of me rebelled. I don’t want to move on. I want what I had. I want to go home to him, ask his forgiveness for whatever I did that made him leave me, see if we can reconnect. But he didn’t leave me, at least not voluntarily. He died.
I’m tired. I’m tired of his being dead. I’m tired of trying to move forward alone. Tired of trying to fill a void that seems endlessly deep.
But what other choice do I have? I allowed myself that time of sadness on Christmas, but now that it has run its course, I’ll steadfastly resume my lonely march into the future.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.
December 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm
I do so know what you are saying. It’s been 2 years for me since Jim died and I have been busy. I have done a lot of traveling, have a great home and situation and some friends but it is just a matter of forcing myself to survive. I don’t see a future and it is depressing. I am volunteering at a hospital gift shop, which I’m not finding very fulfilling. It gets me out of the house and with some people which is good but I shudder to think this is my future. I don’t think I’m that old, 74, but I’m very active. My problem is I don’t have a burning desire to do something. I certainly don’t want a job and volunteering is good but I wish I could find something I would really love. We were married 52 years and that’s the only life I really know.
I have looked at the on line dating quite a lot but am scared of it. I have heard other people have done well with the dating services. I also am not anxious to find someone who is in need of a caretaker at this age. So I feel somewhat doomed. I would love suggestions fo how to find oneself.
December 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm
Linda, I wish I knew the answer. What we need is to fall in love again, not necessarily with a person, but with something. Without love for something, without a passion to make us want to get up in the morning, without a burning desire to do anything, all we can do is keep trying new things. You’re doing what you can — traveling, trying new things. Maybe someday you will turn a corner and stumble on something you love.
The truth is, from what I have learned from others in our position and what I have experienced, it takes approximately four years to get to the point of finding a renewal in life. Even though you’re keeping busy, grief still is part of your life. Even when you aren’t actively mourning, even when you go marching into the future, the loss takes a long time to heal. Try not to look too far into the future. Take each day as it comes. Be good to yourself.
I have a hunch something good is still out there for you. How do I know? From grief. Grief took me somewhere I never knew existed. I never knew there was such pain. If there is something so awesomely painful as grief hiding in us, ready for the right catalyst to bring it to the surface, it seems to me there should be other unknown states — good states — that need a catalyst to bring them out. This is the thought I hold on to, and who knows — it might even be true.
As for online dating sites, it can’t hurt, especially if you try a free site. In my case, so far nothing has come of it, not even scammers, but then, I’m not really interested in finding a serious relationship. I have no interest in having to take care of anyone as they age. I’ve known two women — one in her eighties and one in her seventies who married much younger men, and in both cases, the women outlasted the men, so even trying to find someone younger isn’t an answer.
I hope you find something that helps make life a matter of more than survival.
December 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm
Oh Pat, yet again you write with such honest, emotional truth that you move me to tears.
We must accept the surges of grief i think knowing that each year the intensity of our emotions will lessen and feeling both hope because of that and grief because we didn’t want this at all and no, we have no clue what it all means.
Yet i think it a good thing that it is also true that joy can be found and that over time it does get easier to be open too receiving it. With love
December 27, 2013 at 8:55 pm
The emotions are losing intensity, but apparently, they are still there inside me. I have a hunch the online dating sites exacerbated the sorrow. All those questions they ask about what I want remind me that I had what I wanted. Even though nothing has come of the site, and even though I’m only interested in friendship, it’s a step away from him, and every step away from him brings with it a spate of grief.
December 29, 2013 at 4:17 am
pat,oh how true,I am coming to two years in February.At times I look around the house and just expect him to appear.It is a kind of an ache.
December 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm
Lorraine, the strange thing for me, as I’m coming up on four years, is that I don’t have a clear memory of him anymore, but that ache is still there.
December 29, 2013 at 11:29 am
I’m wondering if openly grieving is the answer. I have a friend who lost her adored husband several years ago, grieved openly with remembrances of him at every opportunity, and now she is in love again, brimming with happiness. Another friend lost her mother several months ago, and she is using Facebook as a grieving platform. It’s not my style, and sometimes I think she is looking for sympathy, but if it works for her……I keep remembering that when I lost my Dad in 1989, I was devastated but did not allow myself to grieve openly. I had to be strong for my mother. I still tear up at the thought of him. When my mother died ten years later, I went into a deep depression, saw a psychiatrist, and did not want to go on living. But after a terrible year of that, I came out of it. There is a small book called “Good Grief” that helped me to understand the stages we go through after a loved one dies. We never stop loving them, but in time, the emptiness does go away.
December 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm
I think you’re right about letting ourselves grieve. People who do grieve openly eventually find renewal, happiness, and a deeper ability to love. Some people who hide their grief become bitter, others have no problems. Like everything else in life, It depends on the individual.
November 19, 2018 at 4:32 am
This blog was spot on today in describing my feelings. I am grateful I found your site 43 months ago because it has often expressed what I can’t quite articulate. I feel so profoundly lonely and tired of trying to fill as you put it an endless void… especially during the holidays. Today I don,t want to play the “smoke and mirrors” game…I just want somebody somewhere to understand this pain! That is what I got from this writing….I also found a little hope in the following line you wrote:
“People who do grieve openly eventually find renewal, happiness, and a deeper ability to love”
November 19, 2018 at 10:44 am
The seemingly constant reiteration that everyone’s grief is different misses the bigger picture. There are many similarities to the grief of those who have lost the same sort of relationship, and we draw comfort from knowing that we are not alone, that others do understand. And yes, I still believe that we who surrender to the process and allow ourselves to grieve do find renewal, happiness, and a deeper ability to love.
Oddly, this holiday season is harder for me than I expected. Jeff and I didn’t often do anything special for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it hasn’t been that much of a problem, but this year I am very aware that he is gone. And I miss him. (That part never changes, We always miss them, though not with the agonizing yearning of the first few years.)
November 19, 2018 at 12:16 pm
What things,feelings,actions….do you miss?
November 19, 2018 at 12:33 pm
I miss him and his smiles. I miss our conversations. I miss watching movies with him. Just about everything, I guess.
November 19, 2018 at 4:12 pm
Yeah, “Just about everything” I imagine just about covers it all…you and he were very special to each other and it is so sad you can no longer enjoy each other’s company and love.
January 8, 2019 at 9:30 pm
I’m sorry this Christmas was especially difficult for you. Whether the holy aspect of the season is meaningful to you or not, there is a special kind of nostalgia associated with it and family memories can be particularly poignant. Two of my very loved grandparents died in consecutive Decembers, and then our daughter in mid-December another year — all of which provide a lot of painful memories at Christmastime. But there are a lot of good ones, too, and I guess I’m a ‘glass half full’ person.
I also like trying to make good memories for other people — it’s amazing how much better our lives look against the backdrop of other people’s hardships. For me, involvement in our church is a big help because there is always something that needs doing and people who are willing to work together to help. Then there’s inviting other singles or seniors to a potluck dinner, helping out at a ‘soup kitchen’, volunteering for reading programs at inner city elementary schools, collecting necessities and distributing them to the homeless…it feels good to make a difference. Nothing takes away the losses we experience, but making an effort to focus on something other than our ourselves and our sadness really can help. And bit by bit, month by month and year by year, without really noticing the changes, we DO adjust to our different lives. But, as has been said many times, everyone experiences grief differently and what works for one person won’t necessarily for another. There is no ‘secret to success’ for overcoming it, except perhaps in continuing to try. And I know you do. I think of you often, Pat, and send wishes for comfort and courage.
January 9, 2019 at 10:59 am
Thank you as always for your advice. This was an odd year — there were so many things I had to let go of this year, such as my four-decade-old dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, my two-decade-old dream finding a traditional publisher, my forever dream of getting youthfully fit, and oh, so many things, as well as dealing with my brothers death. Things seem brighter today. Thank you.
January 9, 2019 at 12:25 pm
[…] Resuming My Lonely March Into the Future […]
September 18, 2021 at 2:51 pm
I like very much your post
I try to read your fourth year grief when I have some mental strength. Honestly I am still lost some part of my mental strength from 11/February/2018. Your topic really interesting. “ Resuming My Lonely March Into the Future”
It is still interesting that in your fourth year you were occupied with your father. I lost my father more than 35 years ago. And my younger sister two years after. I like to find some good friends but never interested in dating. Opposite to you I have clear memory of her every day and every moment.
I miss everything of her specially her nature and all the conversations.
I know that end of year until end of March it will be going to be very difficult. I continue to walk and survive.
These words of you really beautiful it is going to help me in the future
“ People who do grieve openly eventually find renewal, happiness, and a deeper ability to love”
September 18, 2021 at 6:05 pm
It/s odd, but reading my old posts such as this one make me want to cry. I am so focused on marching into the future that I don’t often think of all the pain on the way here. But yes, you will find renewal, happiness, and a deeper ability to love.