Getting Used to the Way Things Become

Someone left a comment on my blog yesterday wondering whether the depression I mentioned was actually grief, and the tears that came to my eyes told me she was right. I had been fine with my injury until Christmas Day, and then I lost it. I haven’t felt that sad for I don’t know how long, but on that day I couldn’t stop crying. I was desperately lonely, afraid because I don’t know what’s going to happen with my arm and how it can affect my life, and more than anything I just wanted to go home. Now that the holidays are passed and we are more than a week into the new year, I am mostly back to normal — whatever normal means — taking each day as it comes and trying not to panic about the future.

It seems funny to be leaning back in a chair, feet up on a desk, and talking my way into a blog using speech recognition software, but it’s actually a lot more natural than clicking away at a keyboard. And less lonely. After Jeff died, I used to go out to the desert and talk to him. I seldom talk to him anymore, but I know a lot of people who still talk sunsetto their deceased spouses even after many years. I always knew it was a way of keeping in touch with the loved one, or at least feeling some kind of connection, but now I understand it’s also a way to offset some of the loneliness. I wonder if we need to hear the sound of our voices, that if we don’t talk we somehow feel less alive. Does it matter if there’s nobody there to listen? There’s no one here listening to me talking, but I suppose I could assume you’re listening, though not at the very moment I’m speaking, which does make this sort of a conversation.

Because of my grief posts I end up “meeting” a lot of bereft spouses, people who once had a life companion and now are alone. I worry about them, and I worry about myself. There are some things in life that can never be undone. The dead do not come back. A new love or a new marriage does not erase the old one. (And a mangled arm no matter how painstakingly fixed does not miraculously become brand-new.) In a little over two months, it will be seven years since Jeff died, and that still matters to me. He was such an important part of my life and his being gone is an important thing of its own.

Sometimes I’m glad he’s not here to have to deal with my injury. There is nothing he could do about it, and it would only make him feel bad, though it would be nice to have someone help put the splint on every night, keep me company, and do the thousands of small things that seem impossible with one hand. I try not to listen to the voice in my mind that says the accident would not have happened if he were here, but it’s true. If I were still living our shared life, I would never have been scurrying across a dark parking lot in the middle of the night. I would have been home with him. But life does what it will, and we are left to cope as best as we can.

One thing the fall taught me is how quickly things change. (Or rather I should say re-taught me, because death has already taught me how quickly things change.) There I was heading for my car that night, happy, contented, healthy, and the next thing I knew I was in the emergency room with an arm that will never look the same, feel the same, or act the same. It just goes to show that any plans we make can be derailed in a moment.

We do get used to the way things become, and often after a bad incident we convince ourselves that it was actually a good thing. For example, if somebody got in a car accident and met his future wife in the emergency room. But generally we just try to make sense of things, and if good things happen after the bad incident, or if we make good things happen, we tell ourselves we were lucky. I wonder if there will ever come a time when I say this accident was a good thing? I suppose it’s possible that this speech recognition software will change my writing habits and catapult me into bestseller dumb. (I was trying to say bestsellerdom, but I loved the way the speech recognition software translated the term, so I kept it.) It’s possible that I don’t write as much as I could because I’m lazy. It takes a lot of effort to either write by hand or sit at the computer and type, and now that I have the opportunity to relax and spout off as I wish, it might make a difference. We’ll see.

It’s been fun talking to you. Talk to you again soon.


(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

12 Responses to “Getting Used to the Way Things Become”

  1. Trev Brown Says:

    Keep going Pat! So sorry about your injury, but don’t forget how many people are rooting for you!

  2. J. Conrad Guest Says:

    Ah, Pat. My mom will be gone from me for 20 years come March, Dad, 19 years next month. I still talk to them on occasion. A former girlfriend told me I had never properly grieved their loss because I wrote about them—and I still do. If that means I haven’t properly grieved for them, I can accept that. They deserve to be kept alive while I live, whether through my fiction or my memoirs. Because once I’m gone, they, too, will be truly gone.

    I grieved their loss in my own way. I grieved their loss FROM me. But they suffered greatly, and I accepted their loss because that meant their suffering was over, and I celebrated their lives. In my mind that’s a far healthier reaction than Terry Schiavo’s parents’ desire to see their daughter kept alive at any cost despite her quality of life, her chances for a full recovery, that an autopsy revealed her brain had shrunk to half its normal size.

    I can’t say how I’ll react, how I’ll grieve, should my wife of two and half years abandon me, whether in a year or in 20 years. I’m sure I’ll take it hard, harder than I did my parents’ passing, because a parent passing is to be expected. I can only hope my wife won’t suffer before passing. And I’ll close my eyes and take comfort in shared memories of our life together. That might not make it any easier, but memories are all I have of my parents, and they bring much comfort.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That’s beautiful, J. Conrad. Something I learned during grief for Jeff is that the deceased are always a part of your life. I think the people happiest are those who find a way to honor that part. It’s good you still remember.

  3. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    ((((Pat)))) I’m so glad you’re “talking” again. All thing work together for good. Hard to believe when you’re in the midst of it, but proven several times over in my life.

  4. Dennis Says:

    Pat, physical injury can pile on emotional injury and make both hurt more. My experience is that physical injuries leave physical scars that can be seen and explained. Everyone understands a broken arm. Emotional scars, as you know, leave few noticeable marks and can only be understood, not often explained, by those who have suffered such. Who is washing your hair and tying your shoes? Heal your arm well soon.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t know how it happened — someone at the hospital must have arranged it — but an occupational therapist comes once or twice a week for a half-hour or so to help wash my hair, make sure I have what I need to keep the wounds clean, and tie my shoes for me. I keep them tied now, and treat the shoes like slip-ons.

  5. paulakayep Says:

    What a fun way to blog! I should probably like to just talk and see my words appear magically. I am so sorry about your arm and your depression. I think that is what the holidays bring about for those of us who are still pining for our soul mate. Today is Richard’s birthday. And I miss him so much!! Keep talking to us!!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am sorry about Richard’s birthday, and sorry I didn’t respond right away. The holidays are hard. I’m glad you commented –it’s nice to keep in touch. I hope you’re mostly doing okay, or is okay as is possible.

  6. Coco Ihle Says:

    Pat, I think you are doing quite well, considering all things. You have become a stronger person than you know. I’m rooting for you.

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