“I Can’t Do This!”

So often during the early years of my grief, my blog writing would be precipitated by a bout of crying. In subsequent years, I’ve tried to be more upbeat in my posts, but always a bout of crying would inspire another blog post and yep, you guessed it — today is one of the crying times.

In my previous post, “A Halcyon Time,” I told you about the occupational therapist who’s been visiting me for an hour a couple of times a week. She’s been helping me take a shower, massaging my incisions, teaching me a few therapeutic exercises I can do to keep my fingers and elbow working as much as possible. She’s helped subdue my fears, hugged me when I needed it, and brought a note of sanity into this whole insane experience. She’s treated me as more than just a client — she really seemed to care — and oh, how I needed that! It’s been years since someone cared for me in such a personal, hands-on way, and it’s made this time of home-bound healing palatable.

So why the tears? I just found out that Monday will be her final visit. My insurance won’t pay for any more days, and though she has fought for me a couple of times already and got the visitations extended, she has reached the end of what she is allowed to do, so I’ve been cut loose. I feel so terrible, so tearful. I haven’t even started the hard part of this whole healing journey. The fixator is still on, and once it comes off, it’s going to take a long time — maybe years, painful years — before I am back to a semblance of normal, and even then I will only regain about 50% mobility.

I’m screaming to myself, “I can’t do this!” (this being the next stages of recovery by myself), though I know I can. I’ve done so much I didn’t think I could do during the past seven years.

I still remember those first two months after Jeff died. I was all alone, in the worst agony I’d ever experienced, barely able to breathe, totally lost, and feeling as if half my soul had been amputated. I kept screaming “I can’t do this!” But of course, I did whatever needed to be done. I dealt with the mortuary, the bank, the government. I disposed of his clothes and other “effects.” Packed my stuff. Had a yard sale. Got rid of most of the things I didn’t think I would need. Traveled 1000 miles to go take care of my father. All within two months of Jeff’s death. All while screaming “I can’t do this!”

So yes, I know I can do this. Whatever happens in the next couple of months will in no way match the agony of those long ago months, and even if it did, there is something unbreakable in me that will allow me to do whatever needs to be done. But truly, it would’ve been so much easier with the counsel and support of that occupational therapist.

I hate to admit it, but I’m scared. I’m afraid of the next stage of healing and then going into old age alone with a disability (even a minor one), and more immediately, I’m afraid of falling back into the despair of loneliness and isolation.

There are people in my life who care, but it’s not like having a partner, either in life or in healing. I always knew, of course, the occupational therapist was only a temporary angel, yet I’d hoped to have her support until I felt well enough to continue on my own. Still, as with all partings, I am grateful for the time we had together. (Oddly, I don’t even know how I got involved with the home health service. I think one of the doctors at the hospital prescribed the service so a nurse would check on me since I was going home alone, and the therapist came along as part of the service.) It felt great being in someone’s concern, even if only two hours a week. I know I was darn lucky to have had her in my life the last three months, but now I am bereft.

A friend asked, “Do you think the loss of your OT is triggering the start of your annual grieving? Or it could be you are grieving only her, a caregiver who is gone. I know you feel the loneliness more acutely right around this time of the year, especially as it gets closer to your anniversary. If one could only push a button to fast-forward through these wretched months.”

She’s right — I do feel the loneliness more acutely at this time of year, and it’s possible that the nearness of that terrible anniversary, the seventh anniversary of Jeff’s death, is exacerbating my grief for the loss of therapist’s support, but even without that anniversary I would still feel the loss and the coming isolation. (Without her, I go weeks without seeing anyone.)

But there is no doubt the echo of that one devastating loss magnifies any current losses.

The death of a lifemate/soul mate creates a soul quake that leaves behind a huge void. When I went to stay with my father and discovered that he was living a scant 15 miles from the San Andreas Fault, at first I panicked, and then out of curiosity I went in search of the fault line. Unlike the image I had in my mind of a big crack in the earth, signs of the fault were much more subtle, such as red soil miles from where it originated, but in one place where the earth split, I found a leftover cavity filled with water. (It’s called a lake, though truly, it seems more like an elongated pond than a lake.)

Now that my soul quake has mostly healed, it has left behind a similar cavity inside me, and that cavity seems filled with tears, creating an underground lake or well that seeps to the surface of my life too frequently for comfort. And yet without the comfort of those tears what do I have? Only my ability to plod ahead, I suppose.

And plod ahead, I will.



(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.

21 Responses to ““I Can’t Do This!””

  1. kencoffman Says:

    If I could wave a magic wand and transport your anguish and ailments back to God, I’d do it in an instant–and without any guilt. Where does the strength to keep placing a foot in front of another come from? I have no idea, but at the same time, I don’t want to give in to nihilism. Life is like bluebells growing in manure.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You have such a way with words (Life is like bluebells growing in manure.) that you should be a writer. Oh, right — you are! Walking that narrow line between theism and nihilism sure is a drag.

  2. Judy Says:

    I’m so sorry that you are loosing your one source of help an comfort. Tears can be a good cleansing of sorts. I haven’t had a good cry in 4 yrs., and wish I could have one. Let me know what I can do to help.

  3. Paula Kaye Says:

    I am sorry about the therapist. But your writing about it is superb! I loved the analogy of the crack filled with tears!!

  4. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I don’t know if there’s anything I can do from Ohio, but if there’s anything I can do, let me know.

  5. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    I like your painting, and I feel sympathy pains and pangs for your loss. Is it possible that the doctor would re-prescribe some alternate source of therapy of assistance? They may know of a program that would provide help in an instance like yours. If I were closer I would come and give you a big hug.

  6. agshap Says:

    I cant imagine losing the love of my life; and while you had comfort with your OT, you sound like someone who is very strong and will do fine. I see your writing as an outlet also. Hang in there and know that you can always come here to find an interested ear.

  7. LordBeariOfBow Says:

    The joys of medical treatment in the USA, it’s not treatment it’s just a business.

    Here in Australia the treatment you receive from your doctors, your therapists et al, goes on until such time as you no longer require their services, and you do not have to pay, our Medicare System takes care of the lot. and that is how it should be in any civilized society.

    It’s the governments responsibility to care for the welfare, education, and health of it’s citizens. And to hell with profits.

    I just wish you could have the same treatment and opportunities that I have Pat. I wish you well and I wish you luck, I think you’ll need that.

    Any ‘nay sayers’ amongst your readers & followers need to read of my experiences over the past few years, if they doubt the wisdom of my words.

    It does make me angry, the lack of care for our cousins, in the United States of America.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Mostly I stay away from doctors. My method of dealing with severe medical issues has been basically to stop eating, go to bed, and wait for the end, whatever it might be. Unfortunately, such drastic treatment doesn’t work for broken bones, hence my need to deal with the medical establishment.

      I’m glad things worked out for you. I wouldn’t have had the courage to deal with what you had to go through, nor would I have had the courage to deal with the results. I’d probably still be in bed. Of course, that method only worked when Jeff was alive to support my decision, so who knows what I would do now.

  8. Sue Williams Says:

    You are a terrific writer Pat – you manage to describe the anguish and grief of widowhood so perfectly. When I think of the things I have had to learn to do by myself since my husband died two years ago, I am amazed at myself. I did not even know how to turn on the computer two years ago and now i could not live without it! i have lost count of the times I have cried and said “I cant do this” – but in the end I always do. I think we are given some kind of inner strength by our loved ones when they leave us.
    I feel so sorry for you on your own and in pain. We in the UK complain about our Health Service, but we are incredibly lucky to have everything completely free, including home nursing care. This service enabled my husband to have his wish and die at home, cared for 24 hours a day, and with no charge. I do hope you manage to have some more care soon, so many people all over the world are wishing you well.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Unfortunately, I well know the anguish of widowhood. People say that grief sometimes brings a special blessing, and mine seems to be a talent for writing about grief.

      I think I should be okay. I am pretty sure when the fixator comes off, the doctor will send me to physical therapy, so that will help. And once I can drive again, maybe I won’t feel so isolated.

      You’ve come a long way in two years. Wishing you peace.

  9. Sue Says:

    Once again you lift my spirits and make me realise there is always someone in a harder situation than me, nearly four years, and I would have to say it’s different, not better, not worse, different. Not,what I know any in this situation want, but we still put one step in front of another and move forward. I did like you, sold a house,packed all my belongings and moved, I’ve always been strong that way. I am lucky I have family close by, l try not to lean too heavily on them, but at least l know they are there, l wish l could wrap my arms around you and tell all will be well. Sending love from across the pond. X

  10. Terry Allard Says:

    . I gently, and respectfully ask you if your next blog title goes from “I Can’t Do This” to “Why Would I Want to Do This????”

  11. Sisyphean Tasks | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] “I Can’t Do This!” […]

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