Pain, Cosmic and Otherwise

When I was going through the first horrendous days, weeks, months of grief after the death of my life mate/soulmate, and even later as the grief extended into years, I felt comfortable (mostly) talking about my pain because it seemed noble, perhaps, or maybe even cosmic. The experience was so much bigger than I am that the only way I could deal with it was to cry out my pain to the whole world.

Now that I am dealing with a different kind of pain, physical pain, I don’t feel as comfortable writing about what I am feeling. The pain is localized — it affects only me. To talk about the harshness of losing mobility in my elbow, wrists, and fingers, possibly permanently, seems self pitying because as bad as this injury is (shattered elbow, pulverized wrist, radius broken in 12 places, displaced ulna, deformity) others have it worse.

I know I still have the right to feel bad. That others have it worse doesn’t erase my pain. It just makes it feel less — cosmic.

People seem think I should have resumed my normal life by now, whatever it might be, but it’s all I can do to get through the days. I have to be careful not just because of the external fixator that is still attached my arm, but because of the effects of the strong painkillers I am taking and the need to be careful not to risk a fall. I’m not really prone to falling. The fall that destroyed my arm was a fluke — I tripped over a parking curb I couldn’t see in the dark. But I have to be very careful not to reinjure the arm, at least until it’s healed. I take walks on nice days, so I do get some exercise, but I use a trekking pole as a cane to ensure my balance.

I’ve been trying to cut back on the pain pills because I need to get myself back, but when the cloudy and rainy times come, such as last night, I am grateful for the meager relief the drugs bring. I hope that as I heal, my reaction to inclement weather won’t be as strong because . . . oh, my. The weather -induced ache can be terrible, particularly since I have so many injuries in a single limb.

I no longer have to wear the splint, not even at night, so I am able to work my elbow and regain some mobility at least in that one joint.

Although I have not been writing, I have been keeping busy. Endless games of computer solitaire. Reading. Netflix. Watercolor painting. And doing jigsaw puzzles that came in a care package from a dear friend. (This woman has been especially concerned about me, knowing that I am having to deal with this alone, and she included several delicious treats in the package as well as soups and a throw to keep me warm.)

I’m trying not to worry, trying to take things as they come, trying to focus all my energies on healing, but I have to admit I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what is to become of me. An injury like this is like a new chapter in the story of one’s life with a plot twist that sends you ricocheting off into an unknown direction, but so far I have not had a glimpse of that direction. Even if life doesn’t make the change for me, I can use this injury as an impetus to create something new in my life, but so far I have not had a glimpse of that something new. Maybe it’s too soon. After all it could be a year or even two before I am healed, which gives me a broad scope for growth. For now, though, my life feels like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.

I hope you are all doing well and finding all the pieces of your life in this new year.

Below is my most recent painting.



(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.

23 Responses to “Pain, Cosmic and Otherwise”

  1. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    I hesitate to think of what my paintings would look like if I tried any. Yours are coming out nicely. When does the fixator come off or out or whatever holds it there?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I go to the doctor next Wednesday. Maybe I’ll find out then when it comes off. Actually, I think ‘out’ is a better term since it’s screwed into bone and muscle.

  2. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    Seems like it must be heavy.

  3. Wanda Hughes Says:

    You know, dear, as I read this I realized I do not have a mailing address for you! How is this possible? Oh yeah, most of us are all texting, emailing, pm’ming, etc. So would you mind texting me your snail mail? It would be fun to send you something now and then.

    On another note, your pain and grief is still ‘cosmic’ because it is a death of sorts. Loss of your normal activities is a death, for real. You will find in the coming months and perhaps years that your are surprised at a new thing you can’t do as well or at all. Or you have to figure out a new way to do it.

    Your injury is much worse than my broken shoulder and I still find there are things I have to make allowances for myself to be able to do. Pretty much a curling iron is out of the question unless I create exercised to use the particular muscle I use to hold that darned thing up!

    Take all the time you need, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself for those times when the pain is too much and you take a pill to cope. Just treat yourself well. Stress is damaging to the healing process. And I think your painting is a great thing you’re doing for yourself and for those of us who get a look at your new works.

    Love ya, sis. Now how about that addy?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I sent you the address. And sending thanks for your always loving support. At times think this isn’t as much of a trauma as I think it is, and other times I am in a panic at the thought that things will never be put back the way they were, creating so many changes.

  4. paulakaye Says:

    When you were grieving you wrote about it! And that helped so many others of us that are going through the same thing. I think you should keep writing about ‘this’ part of your life too. It may help others!! Take it easy Pat. You are in my prayers.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You’re right. I should write about what’s happening. For now, one day is pretty much the same as another, and all I have is someone else’s guess as to what will happen. I’ll know soon enough, and then I will need to write to help me figure out how to deal with the changes.

  5. fuadberolahraga Says:

    great post

  6. Sue Says:

    Again you’re post are inspiring, again you’re hurt and on another journey, l love the way you acknowledge but still move forward. You gave me hope at a time when l couldn’t see any, I’m sooo sorry you find yourself here, but hope that all the strengths you called on before help again. Can only imagine that the inclination to lay it down must be so strong, l do hope you don’t. Again sending much love from across the pond. Much love. Sue x

  7. Trev Brown Says:

    Hi Pat – I can see you turning into one of the great American surrealist painters, do keep posting them, they’re great! I hesitate even to suggest this but the cost is minimal – have you ever tried Arnica as form of pain relief, it’s natural and I have always found it helpful. There are tubes for a few dollars on Amazon (, a different brand to what we have in the UK, but worth a try perhaps? Love from England, thinking of you!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thanks for the suggestion about arnica. I will try it out when the fixator is off and the open wounds healed. And thank you for the flattery — so glad you like my paintings.

  8. Terry Allard Says:

    I pretty much eat dinner alone everynite on a tv tray and repetively have seen an add to help with post cancer ailments. It opens with a very sickly sad women sitting in her kitchen staring down at the floor. The view widens as a man brushes a fallen strand of hair from her face and reassuringly puts his arm around her as he draws her into a protective hug. The voice over says “when you finish your treatments and go home to your support system…”. Obviously the man is her husband and she looks up at him with a tired smile. As I look side to side in my empty living room, I think who would ever be my support system now that my husband is gone. In your grief posts you frequently write of the challenge of growing old alone. That challenge to me is scary not a case of self-pity. I could use your insights as you go through this to help me be less frightened.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Growing old alone is terrifying, especially since we live in a coupled society. So many things set me off — all the ads about products for old people show couples, assisted living places show couples, cruises and tours charge double for singles, but the thing that gripes me more than anything are the ubiquitous articles where a couple who is celebrating there gazillionth wedding anniversary gives advice on how to have such a long marriage — I always want to scream “You did it because your spouse didn’t die.” It’s as if somehow society blames us for being alone. If I ever have any insights on how to do this, I will pass them on. All I know is that dealing with such a terrible infirmity as I currently have mimics old age, and it’s horrible. I am not totally alone — a health care worker comes for an hour a couple of times a week, and two or three times a month a friend will help, but the rest of the time I struggle alone. All I know is what grief taught me — take it a minute at a time.

  9. Constance Says:

    Wishing you well.

  10. michaeljordahl Says:

    Lost my soul-mate of 35 years 5 years ago. I don’t want to “get over it.” Why would I?

  11. leesis Says:

    my dearest friend
    Pain sucks
    It will feel SO MUCH BETTER when they take out the fixator
    Everyone at sometime-a-rather has to deal with sudden pain and physical incapacitation.
    It brings up stuff!
    And as usual your courage to share and your way of dealing with things inspires others
    Love me xx

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