Vulnerability and Upsurges of Grief

Lately I have been experiencing an upsurge of grief so strong it feels as if Jeff died a short time ago and is just out of reach. If I could only stretch my arm a bit farther. . . and farther . . .

But no matter how far I reach, he is gone. In one month it will be seven years. Always the weeks leading up to an anniversary are hard, but this year is much harder. I even had to resort to writing Jeff a letter last night, which is something I haven’t done in years. The letter writing helped enough that I will probably repeat the exercise until I get through this difficult time.

Because of this blog, I have been in touch with many people who have lost their mates, and I discovered that a common occurrence was a huge upsurge of grief at 18 months just when we thought we were over the worst of it. My current upsurge makes me wonder if there is a significance to the seventh anniversary. It’s been said that because of the constant changing of cells in our bodies, every seven years we have undergone a complete changeover. After the loss of a life mate/soul mate, it takes 3 to 4 years to find a renewal of life. I call that time the half-life of grief because half the physical connection is gone. Does this mean that at seven years, any remaining iota of his physical presence in my life and body is now gone and hence this grief upsurge?

This morning while texting with a friend, I mentioned my upcoming anniversary. She thought my grief had less to do with the number seven and more to do with increased vulnerability because of my poor shattered arm and my needing “a soft place to lean.” (She also thinks I should be documenting what I’m going through for a possible future book that might help others who are dealing with a similar situation, but this blog is all the documentation I will need.)

She could be right about my needing a soft place to lean. Ever since my fall, I had been feeling a bit of an upsurge in grief, both for my arm and for my now long-gone shared life, but it wasn’t until I lost my occupational therapist (the one person I had to lean on) to bureaucracy that I began this downward slide into profound grief. But also, coincidentally, that is when I began the downward slide to the anniversary.

Whatever the truth of the matter, this current upsurge surprised me because I thought I left such deep sorrow in the past. You’d think after all these years of learning about grief firsthand, there would be no more surprises left for me, but grief does what it wants.

People tell me to get over it, to move on, not to be sad, and in recent years I have been doing all those things, even went on a great adventure. But now, suddenly, I am in a place of “not doing.” I have to be very careful with the fixator attached to my arm. Because the pins go through skin and muscle and all the way through bone, the insertion points are prone to infection, and it is a full-time job keeping them clean. I want to hurry up with my hand exercises, to try to quickly get back as much range of finger motion as I can, but too much stress and stretch aggravates those puncture wounds. So here I sit, isolated, alone with my hand-me-down Nook filled with books, and my computer. (Though the poor Nook is threatening to quit on me, and my aged computer is struggling to keep up with today’s technology.)

I don’t feel quite so sick or so lost in the post anesthetic fog as I did the first couple of months after the fall, and I only take pain pills now to help control the pain so I can sleep. I hope that one day soon I can go back to writing. I try to put myself in a happy place, and it seems as if it’s been years since I’ve been happy, it was only a few months ago. Last October. Writing. Finishing my dance novel.

When I started working on my grieving woman book, I couldn’t help feeling sad for that poor woman and all she went through, so it did not bring me much happiness. But now that my normal state is sadness, writing might offset some of the sorrow. It does amuse me, though, thinking that this grief upsurge, so reminiscent of the early months, puts me in the proper frame of mind to write about a brand-new widow. Also amusing, though in a more ironic way, I can’t figure out how to end that woman’s story, just as I can’t figure out how to end mine.

Luckily, I have a treat in store for me today — I am going grocery shopping! A friend who comes to town occasionally to help with her aging mother makes time to help me with errands, and today is the day! I will revel in the company, the laughter, the largess spread out all around me, and be grateful for this chink in my isolation.

And tonight, if tears flow once again, I will write Jeff another letter, thank him for letting me share his life, and tell him how glad I am that at least one of us is spared any further pain and sorrow.

But dammit, I miss him.

Apparently, I always 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.

15 Responses to “Vulnerability and Upsurges of Grief”

  1. Trev Brown Says:

    Shedding a little tear for you Pat, grief really is a strange beast isn’t it? Your picture is magnificent, though I doubt that’s much comfort! Love from England…

  2. paulakayep Says:

    Until one goes through losing their closest friend (mate/husband) they will never understand what you are feeling. I have been pretty lucky, so far, that no one has told me to move on. But I am pretty private in my grief. And I always cry alone. I like the idea of you writing again to Jeff. If this helps, this is what is best for you to do. Sending you love and virtual hugs!!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That’s the problem, isn’t it? We don’t just lose a husband, life mate, soul mate, we lose our best friend, our confidant, the one person who “got” us, who had a stake in our lives, the person we could do nothing or everything with, all in a single moment. Returning your hugs and love.

  3. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    Love your painfully honest thoughts and your rainbow painting. Yours has been a lengthy storm. The sunshine and joy will come.

  4. Sue Says:

    Feeling down again today, but I sooo feel for you, l have family close by and l admire how strong you seem. Am getting to the stage where I’m shutting my world away, three and half years for me, and it gets harder. With him went my soul, l want something to fill this vast void, and nothing works, the hole gets bigger. Soooo I send some of the love in me that has no one to take it and hope that it helps a little. Love from across the pond. ❤️

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’ve often wondered where our love goes when the loved on no longer needs it. Thank you for sending it to me. Sorry you are feeling down. And yes, that void is a real problem. A widow of fourteen years says she still feels it. I guess we have to learn to live around it, amoeba-like. Sending you wishes of peace.

  5. heidi94558 Says:

    I am so sorry each of you that is feeling that sad, gut-wrenching void, but am very thankful to know I am not alone, and that yes, apparently, I am normal in feeling the way I do. Reading your letters Pat, (and what a great idea to write a letter to your spouse) and comments of all helps me a great deal. Although my husband no longer occupies every moment of my waking thoughts and sleeping dreams anymore, I am still wondering how to get on without him. He was rather my flag pole. I could be droopy or flying, but he was there, holding me up every day.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, yes – you are normal! As crazy as grief makes us seem, what you are feeling is part of the process. If it were simply emotional, it would be easier to handle, but it’s also spiritual, psychological, mental, hormonal. Every part of our being feels the loss. I go long stretches of time when I don’t think of Jeff, but this isn’t one of those times. Writing to him has pacified me greatly. But how to go on? In my case, I just do it because what else is there. But I still hope for some sort of answer.

  6. The Power of Words | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] Vulnerability and Upsurges of Grief […]

  7. Says:

    Thank you Pat for your blogs I can so identify with what you have said so much grief coming up on five years for me. I wish to return to writing I have been working on a book for over a year sometimes feeling very prolific in writing and sometimes not willing to write it all I tried to find that app that you suggested where you can talk into it and it will write for you so far no luck but you have inspired me To start writing again thank you many times over for sharing your life this is not an easy task that either one of us has chosen my best to you Rosie Gibson Sent from my iPhone


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It is hard, isn’t it? I was so determined to live fully despite his death never thought I would still be dealing with the effects of grief after so many years. The voice recognition software I use is Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home speech recognition software version 13 It has been a great help. Best of luck with your book.

  8. samba2017 Says:

    Thanks for this very emotionally honest post and for being brave enough to share your experience of grief. I lost my Father just over a year ago and began writing poems nearly every day after this and now have a poetry blog here on WordPress in case you have time to look? We need to have a voice for our grief. It is part of the human experience! Have a good Thursday, Sam 🙂

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