Patterns of Grief

I’d like to clarify what yesterday’s post, Challenges of the Fourth Year of Grief, was all about. I did not mean to imply that everyone’s grief is the same, that we all face the same challenges, and I especially did not mean to imply that these “challenges” are stages people are going through or will go through. I am not a therapist or a grief counselor, so of course I don’t know how a wide range of grievers feel. Nor am I dispensing advice. I do have many friends who are pretty much on the same grief track that I am, however, and all I did was express publicly the things we are talking about privately.

I certainly am not trying to undermine the grief community’s efforts to get rid of the whole “Stages of Grief” mindset. I have railed against the stages of grief from the beginning. Kubler-Ross’s supposed stages of grief do not in any way reflect what my friends and I have gone through and continue to go through, which is why I started writing about grief in the first place — to provide a more realistic view of grief, even if it is just a recounting of my own grief experiences.

Even though everyone’s grief is different, there are still patterns of similarity.

For example, most of us (most of my friends, that is, not most grievers) are being swept by an inordinate need for adventure. This need seems to be a reflection of our birth age as well as our grief age (by grief age I mean how long it’s been since our mates have died). Younger woman still have families to care for, and in older women the need for adventure seems muted (though several have admitted to being more adventuresome then when they were married). Maybe it’s the long, empty, years that stretch before me and my friends that make adventure a necessity. Maybe it’s that grief is so epic that only an epic adventure can make us come alive. I truly don’t know where this need for adventure comes from, but the truth is, most of the women I know who are on the same grief track as I am, desperately crave adventure. Again, I don’t mean to imply that all grievers go through this, but it is a pattern, and more than anything else, I am drawn to patterns.

Which is all I was doing by describing some of the little known challenges of grief — showing a pattern.

And one of the patterns I found is that during the fourth year, most of the people I know did make the big disconnect from their mates, realizing in the depth of their being that we are each on our own path, and that whatever we do or do not do cannot affect the deceased. We only have to deal with ourselves. This understanding is why so many women wake up on the fourth anniversary to find a renewed interest in life. Maybe find they are happy. Maybe find they are in love with life again. For some people, of course, this understanding comes much later, occasionally earlier, and sometimes not at all.

The truth is, no matter what the pattern of grief, your own or someone else’s, grief is hard work. Sometimes it’s nice to know how others feel. It’s especially nice to know that we aren’t alone in how we feel.


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.

8 Responses to “Patterns of Grief”

  1. Benzinsilver Says:

    What an amazing post so true.

  2. cicy rosado Says:

    I am glad you clarified that I remember what we said at the taquito
    place for lunch with marilyn and vivian!

  3. Holly Bonville Says:

    Adventure? I guess you could call it that. I am basically restructuring my whole life. Out with the old and in with the new. 🙂

  4. Linda Says:

    I didn’t realize that this adventure thing is a part of the grief process but when I think about it, I think it really is. This is starting my third year. In the last year I have been fortunate enough to know people who have invited me to Australia, New Zealand and Italy and I did all three! I never thought I would travel at 74 alone around the world but I did it and it did build my confidence. But I have this need to keep on the move which is when I am happiest. Some of it is being with people instead of being alone at home. I don’t know if I’m running away from the loneliness or what but I don’t like being home alone very much. I’ve always been a people person so that is some of it but I still wish I had someone to share my life with, not particularly marriage tho. But I keep wondering if I need to slow down and make myself deal with life alone. I don’t cry like I did but it’s just sad after 54 years of marriage to be thrown out there in the couples world as a single now.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      So what if you’re running away from the loneliness? Sounds to me as if you’re also running toward adventure. And such adventures you are having!

      I hate the idea of settling down. I’m still looking after my father, but when he’s gone, I’ll have to do something. I can’t bear the thought of an apartment or even a house. All that emptiness and loneliness!

      The way I figure it, if we were meant to be settled, we’d still have someone to be settled with. And anyway, life will slow us down eventually, so I hope you will continue to enjoy your adventures and your growing confidence. It’s very difficult being single in a couples world.

    • Linda Says:

      U sound like me..I can’t believe it..I also feel great when I travel..Was married for 35 I have to find another way to complete my life..soo hard..
      Linda from Torrance, Ca

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