The other day, a friend came early to her dance class and sat reading Grief: The Great Yearning while I danced with my class. I thought I would feel uncomfortable seeing such a new friend read the truth of me, but that didn’t affect me, perhaps because I am used to throwing my emotions out there for anyone to catch and make of them what they wish. Still, it did feel odd, as if I were in two places at once — both in the book where I was so abandoned to grief I could only scream my pain to the wind and in the studio where I was so abandoned to dancing I could only smile.
The emotion in Grief: The Great Yearning is so raw, it is as if I myself reside between the pages of the book, and in fact, the friend also remarked on the strangeness of living my story and feeling my grief and then looking up to see me dancing.
For a long time, I thought I would always be that woman lost in grief, but grief itself changed me. From the first moment grief stole my breath from me, I knew it was important to follow where it led, that it would take me where I needed to be, that it would help me become the woman who could survive the loss of her soul mate.
And so it came to be.
Other people read of my grief now, and the description of my journey helps them to follow their own path of grief, which is one great benefit of having written so passionately about my feelings, but another great benefit is that I don’t have to waste time remembering my grief, don’t have to wallow in it. It exists outside of me now. If I ever want to relive those days, I can simply pick up the book, and there I will be.
As strange as it might seem, years from now I probably will want to read the book. I am losing the memory of him and our shared life, losing the feeling of ever having been profoundly connected to another human being, and I might need to remember that once I loved, once I was so connected to another human being that his death shattered me. Even more than that, I still have a void inside of me where he once was, and someday I might need to remember why it is there.
(PS: If you know of anyone who is experiencing profound grief, please consider gifting them with a copy of Grief: The Great Yearning. It might help them to know that others have been where they are, and survived.)
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter 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.
September 27, 2014 at 8:27 pm
As I have told you before, I bought and read your book before my own grief started. I thought it would help ease me into it. But as you well know I have had to experience it for myself. And it is nothing if it isn’t painful. So much more pain than I expected. I thank you for being able to share your grief. It helps to know that I am not alone. I cannot imagine that I will ever forget my soulmate….I know that at this moment I don’t want to.
September 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm
I admired the way you tried to prepare yourself. I didn’t try to prepare myself for the simple reason I didn’t think I’d feel much of anything. His moving emotionally away from me that last year forced me to do so much on my own, I thought it would continue being like that when he was gone, but it was like nothing I could ever have imagined. You’re right — so much pain!
The thing that shocks me now is that life does go on. I know that it’s true, but I never realized “life” meant mental and emotional life, too. We change. Our circumstances change. And our soul mates get further and further away from us. I probably wouldn’t be forgetting Jeff except that the continued weirdness of my life and the continued responsibilities take up so much of my focus. I have a hunch when I leave my father’s house, I could have an upsurge of both memory and grief, because of course, Jeff was not only my soul mate, but my home, and I will not be going home when I leave here.
Wishing you peace.
September 28, 2014 at 8:47 pm
My husband did not to the ‘moving emotionally away’. He became so much more dependent on me. He didn’t want me out of his sight. He hated it when I left for short periods of time. And when my son came to help on weekends and I went back to sleep in our bedroom he really did not understand that. He was so tied to me that I thought sure I would enjoy the freedom from being so attached once the inevitable death came. But it hasn’t been that way at all. I would take every bit of it back if I could have Richard back here. I’m sure you know exactly what I am talking about. It will be hard for you, I’m afraid when you move on!
September 28, 2014 at 10:08 pm
Yes, I do know what you are talking about. At least I think I do. We assume we know how we will feel, but it is very different from what we actually end up feeling. And the worst of it is that no matter how much we get tired of their being sick and dying, their being dead is a thousand times worse. It is still unbelievable to me that Jeff is dead. It’s just not possible.
September 29, 2014 at 9:14 pm
Exactly how I feel…Thanks Pat for your ear when I need it
September 28, 2014 at 6:13 pm
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