Grief: Going Back to the Beginning

A friend is grieving the loss of a relationship, the ending of which was not her choice. Every time she finds a bit of peace and thinks she’s moved beyond her grief, she ends up right back where she started, feeling bereft, lost, disconnected, and angry. Even worse, she still feels connected to her lover even though there is no chance of their ever getting back together.

I explained the spiral nature of grief, that we do not necessarily go through steps but instead keep revisiting the same states over and over again, so she shouldn’t be surprised that her grief doesn’t stay gone. I also mentioned the tasks speedof grief, such as making an accommodation with the loss, finding a place in our minds for the inconceivable, coming to a realization that, no matter how deeply two people were connected and how much they shared, they are separate persons with separate lives.

She listened, then asked, “How do I disconnect?”

Good question. To a certain extent, time disconnects us from our past relationships — the longer we are separated, unless we cling hold on to the past, the weaker the connection. Simply living helps us disconnect — the more we live, the more new, unshared memories we make, the more the connection recedes. Going back to where we were before we made the original connection also helps. In my case, since I can’t physically go back to where I was, I have tried to go there mentally, to remember who I was before I met my now deceased life mate/soul mate, to pick up the pieces of me when I was alone.

While looking back is not always a good thing, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to see where we were, how far we’ve come, and where we are now. The truth is, relationships change us, and the longer the relationship, the more it changes us, sometimes without our even knowing. Good relationships help us grow, to become better than we are. And each growth spurt takes us further away from our pre-relationship selves. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but it’s one of the reasons for the loss of identity so many of us feel when we lose our long time mates. We no longer know who are without that relationship.

I gained a lot from my shared life, but I also lost. Too many years of having to live according to the constraints of his uncertain health stole my spontaneity. Too many years of always having a companion to do things with or to talk things over with, as wonderful as that was, made me uncertain and even fearful of living alone. Remembering what I can about who I was before him has helped tremendously in moving past him. I had a life before our shared life, and I have one afterward — it’s just a matter of connecting those two lives with the best of both.

In my friend’s case, she’s actually going to go back to the town she was before she fell in love, and see if she can pick up the pieces of who she was.


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.

3 Responses to “Grief: Going Back to the Beginning”

  1. Patty Parfait Says:

    That’s what I’ve been trying for the last 10 years. Returning to the first and last place I remember happiness near where I was born was great! only the past 3 years have tragic multiple deaths of family and friends that I’ve wondered if this was right decision because I’m continually humming something about never being able to go back, happiness, it’s said, is in own backyard. I’m blubbering now.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Ah, Patty, I’m so sorry. The only thing I know is that it is a long way back to happiness. Dealing with multiple deaths? Oh, no — that makes it so much harder. Maybe happiness is in your own backyard, but first, you have to deal with all that overwhelming grief. Even people who tell us that happiness is something we can create for ourselves admit that grief is a special case. And grief is hard. You can’t skip over it to happiness. But as you deal with each of the losses, I bet you’ll find happiness again, and if not that, a reason to live. For a long time after the death of my life mate, the only thing that kept me going was curiosity as to how it would all turn out.

      Wishing you a peaceful New Year, and an end to your grief.

  2. Carol Says:

    This is wonderful advice, Pat! I wish you could have told *yourself* all this years ago when the bereavement was especially difficult to deal with. Time and distance do indeed give perspective.

    Perhaps some (like Patty?) need to go back, not so much to where they were before the relationship began, but to somewhere else altogether… somewhere that they *might* have gone if the relationship hadn’t developed. Explore, try new adventures… invest in a cruise or group holiday… not with the idea of meeting someone else, but of developing one’s self more, gaining personal confidence again, etc. Just a thought, of course. I’ve never done it and don’t know if I would if the occasion ever arose that I needed to. 🙂

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