I called a friend today to offer support on the third anniversary of her husband’s death. She is a strong woman, shouldering the burdens of an unemployed middle-aged daughter and a lively granddaughter, which takes her mind off her loss, but still, there are times (such as this anniversary) when grief descends on her once more.
During the conversation, she said, “I wish I could get over it.” The truth is, you don’t get over grief. Grief gets over you. The uninitiated, those who have never lost the one person who connects them to life, think we have a choice when it comes to grief, but most of the time, grief chooses us. We can, of course, choose to ignore our grief, burying it so deeply that we never have to acknowledge it, but doing so is like stuffing an inflated air mattress in a small storage pouch. Eventually, the pressures of the mattress will burst the seams of the pouch, and that unruly mattress will explode out into the open, causing all sorts of unforeseen damage.
As it is, even with accepting the dubious gift of grief, sometimes sorrow bursts wildly into the open, taking us unaware. For the most part, grief is leaving me alone. In fact, I thought I had gotten over the death of my life mate/soul mate, but on March 1, as I began the countdown to my fourth anniversary, sadness returned. My few tears are not at all stormy, more like a gentle mist. Strangely, I miss the grief tempests — they made me feel connected to him because I could feel the enormity of my loss.
To a great extent I have let him go. Somewhere during this past year, I realized that no matter how connected we were when he was alive, we are two distinct people, each on a special journey. For a while, our paths entwined, but now our roads have swung into two different directions. No matter how much I miss him, miss the me I was when I was with him, miss our shared dreams and goals, there is no turning back. The future beckons, and I must go where it leads me.
And yet, despite this acceptance, I still sometimes feel lost. We were together for thirty-four years, were business partners as well as life partners, making joint decisions about every aspect of our lives. He was my support, my inspiration, my cheering section. I enjoy my newfound independence and growing spontaneity, but I cannot forget why we are estranged. He is not somewhere else on this earth, happy and fulfilled. He is dead. Gone. Deleted from my life. Erased, at times, even from memory. (Which makes him seem doubly dead.)
My friend will get to this place soon enough. Grief will be through with her for the most part, and what she will be left with is . . . I don’t know. Herself, I suppose. In the end, that’s all we have for as long as we are here. Ourselves.
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.