End of the Great Yearning?

My last upsurge of grief came exactly one month before the seventh anniversary of Jeff’s death. That upsurge was so severe, my grief felt raw, as if he’d recently died. I feared a terrible month leading to the anniversary, but there were only a few moments of sadness after that horrendous day. In the two and a half months since the anniversary, I haven’t experienced much emotion, either sad or glad. (Hence the sporadic blog posts.)

It’s as if the great yearning that gripped me for the past seven years took a sabbatical. There’s been no particular yearning to go home, no unbearable yearning to see Jeff once more, no yearning to know where he is or if he is. There’s been no yearning for adventure, no yearning for experiences to prove that I still exist, no yearning for meaning or knowledge or wisdom, no yearning for an end to the loneliness. There hasn’t even been any yearning to express myself. Just a barely swinging emotional pendulum and a quasi-quiet mind.

I thought this hiatus from yearning was due to my arm — not just the shock of the fall, the months of pain, and the horror of having a deformed arm (if you could see my arm, you probably wouldn’t notice the deformity, but what I see and feel is far from normal), but also the torpid backlash from the highly traumatic experience. For more than four months, I’d been mostly housebound and isolated, and I thought the restricted life helped me welcome aloneness. Recently, though, I read that in year eight of grief, people begin to feel a little tired of working so hard that they let go of the busyness, pull back, and go in their alone zone. Apparently what I thought was a stage of my physical healing was actually a stage in my grief healing, though I suppose it could be both — coming to terms with the physical trauma could have helped me come to terms with the residual loneliness of grief. (If this woman’s timeline holds true, next year I will be ready to question my old dreams and start new ones. These dreams are supposed to be magical because they will be from the new me.)

Whatever the reason for this equability, this lazy pendulum swing, this hiatus from yearning — whether it’s due to the destroyed arm or the grief timeline — it’s been . . . different. I’ve been indulging my indolence because . . . well, because . . . why not? Nothing pulls at me. Nothing pushes me. I’m sure some day adventure, responsibility, or need will call to me once more but for now, simply living is enough. After my long months of isolation, I’m gradually picking up my life where I left it when I fell — taking an occasional walk, going to dance classes now and then. Next week I will probably be back at all my dance classes (with a third ballet class thrown in for good measure) as well as continuing my own version of physical therapy.

(The doctor hasn’t yet prescribed therapy sessions for my destroyed arm/wrist/elbow/fingers because he said all the therapist would do is sit me in a corner and have me work my immobile wrist and fingers, and that I can do on my own. Next month, though, I will probably start more advanced therapy. I’m doing well on my own — I can now drive, type, open bottles and doors, make a fist, do curls and overhead presses with a five-pound dumbbell, hold on to a ballet barre, do the requisite hand movements for Hawaiian dances — but I still have a long way to go.)

Oddly, this “active passivity” (for lack of a better term to describe my current state of mind), hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for the small miracles of living. Yesterday I went to lunch with three other women, and in the middle of the meal, it awed me to think of all the life choices and coincidences that led us — a woman born in Taiwan, one born in Singapore, one in Los Angeles, and one in Denver — to that very place.

Soon there will be a couple of more miracles in my life (and yours!) — the publication of two new novels, the first new Pat Bertram books in five years. Next month look for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, a mystery involving my dance class, and Unfinished, a novel about a grieving woman. (I’ve read too many books where someone dies and no one goes through grief except for a brief bout of tears, or the author tosses in a single sentence about the character going through the five stages of grief, or the author completely skips the first horror of grief and picks up the story years later. I wanted to do tell the truth and show the strength that comes along with the constant tears of breath-stealing grief.)

For the moment, though, I have no real plans and no plans to get plans. I’ll just accept this (possibly temporary) lack of yearning the same way I accepted the great yearning that propelled me for so many years.

Wishing you blue skies and clear days until next time.


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.

13 Responses to “End of the Great Yearning?”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I actually prefer cloudy days (less chance of sunburn), but I appreciate the sentiment, Pat. Hope the therapy goes well.

  2. Charlotte M. Liebel Says:

    Dear friend Pat ~ The scene you have posted is so beautiful. I cannot decide if it is a painting or photo!
    = What I’d like to send you is a Hug for the courage you possess in sharing your grief and/or non-grief. Some of us are unequipped for the task. = Also, congratulations on the publication of two new novels. As soon as you share the dates they are published, I will post them on Twitter and on my Pages.

    Charlotte M. Liebel

  3. Coco Ihle Says:

    Pat, having not heard from you in a while and then reading this blog post, it struck me how remarkable you really are. Just look what you’ve been through! Reading your latest feelings, I can’t help feeling amazed and uplifted at the way you’ve handled everything and are going on–not only going on, but going on with two new books! Congratulations to you for surviving, writing/dictating, trying to heal, painting, and THRIVING!!!! Bravo!!!!!! keep on keeping on!!!!!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Remarkable? How kind you are! But I have come a long way. It seems as if life is determined to offer me varying challenges, but so far I’ve been lucky enough to be able to meet the challenges. It’s odd dealing with debilitation. Never experienced that before. Something new to color my writing. I hope you are doing well.

  4. speak766 Says:

    I am sorry you’ve gone through all of this. I really can’t even imagine. You’re an amazing person for being able to write about this and I’m sure it’s helping many others struggling with the same thing. Wish you healing and better days to come – speak766

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I checked out your blog. We seem to be in sort of the same place but from opposite ends of the age spectrum. Being one’s self is hard work

      • speak766 Says:

        Thank you for looking at my blog. One thing I really like about blogging is that it connects people who have been through similar experiences, even though they may be different ages or from different backgrounds. It’s amazing how many commonalities there among survivors and our stories. Wish you all the best

  5. Faye Taylor-Mason Says:

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog entries and I am gratful to know that i am not alone. It’s almost 17 months since my Joe’s sudden passing but it feels like an eternity. I busy myself to the point of exhaustion and I’m trying to continue to do things ae did together, because I limed thoze activities anyway but the loneliness and need to touch him, talk to him is overwhelming sometimes – all the time. I tied a brief round of grief support but it wasn’t for me. Probably just the wrong group for me but I can’t do it again. It felt like no one knew what I was feeling – it was and is My grief. But reading your blog has helped to make some since out of what I feel. Thank you and I look forward to the next entrt. Wishing you well in your continued recovery for your arm.

  6. Terry Allard Says:

    Hi Pat, As I have mentioned I am 26 months post loss of my husband. I read your grief blogs as they they correspond in time to my loss and use what I read to write in my own journal. I just read “Grappling with Death” from June 18 2012. I also just read this blog. If you would like,can you comment or compare what you express in this blog with the older entry.

    June 18,2012 Grappling with Death
    There certainly isn’t any purpose for me.(finding meaning in his death). I thought I’d feel free once I no longer had to live under the constraints of his illness, and maybe someday I will feel free, but for now, I’m lonely, sad, angry at times, and miss him always. Perhaps his death is a growth experience for me, but if he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have needed to grow in this particular direction. And anyway, his death is way to big a price to pay for something so paltry.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      When something traumatic happens to us, we try to find a reason because it is so hard to deal with the purposeless purpose of many aspects of life. For me, that search for understanding was part of my great yearning. I desperately wanted to understand what had happened to him and consequently to me. Desperately wanted his death and my being left behind to mean something. At the moment, that yearning to understand and to find meaning in his death and my grief are on hiatus, helped by the passing of years and by the destruction of my arm. There was no greater purpose for falling or the injury. Whatever lessons I might learn from the experience are an aftermath — my mind finding a way to deal with the trauma. And there was no greater purpose for my grief. Any lessons, growth experiences, or positive outcomes are due entirely to my finding meaning after the fact. Death is too big. For years, I felt as if I were on the brink of eternity, pulled there by my connection to Jeff and by the very fact of death. I seem to have moved away from the brink so death, and specifically his death, is not the major aspect of my life.

      Oddly, I still don’t particularly feel free. It’s true that I am no longer tied to the vagaries of his illness and constrained by the limitations of our shared life, but somehow, despite it all, being with him gave me a sense of freedom, maybe because he pulled out the best in me. And the anger that so readily bubbled to the surface seems to have diminished. I still miss him, of course, but I think it’s finally sinking in that this is my life now. That no amount of yearning for him or holding on to thoughts of him will bring him back. That no amount of grappling with the idea of death will bring understanding.

      Does any of this have any meaning? I don’t know. I might never know. I always thought that if I worked hard on living despite grief, it would bring me purpose and possibly even joy, but so far, both elude me. I do know that the push to make something of my life without him seems to be gone for now, though his absence still seems to shape my life. Obviously, if he were still here, my life would be totally different, and so would my writing. (Most of my characters now deal with grief because what I write reflects what I feel.)

      Best wishes as you continue to go through this very complicated and uncomfortable state we call grief.

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