I’ve had requests to continue writing about grief, but the truth is, it’s hard to write about something I no longer particularly feel. And yet, whether I write about it or not, grief is still part of my life.
It’s been almost a year since my last real upsurge in grief, and though I’m just as glad not to have to deal with the horrendous sorrow and the bleak outlook that comes from grief, I feel that something is missing — not just Jeff, because of course he is missing from my life, but also a wildness that came from grief.
I had never experienced anything as massive as grief before Jeff died, except perhaps falling in love. Grief is an all-consuming state that seems to swallow you whole. In addition, if you have been deeply connected to the deceased loved one, you often feel as if you are straddling the line between this life and eternity, as if part of you went to the other side with him, and part of you remains here. Gradually, you move away from the abyss, but that feeling of being on the edge of eternity, as much as the death itself, leaves its mark.
Whenever I have to explain what my life is like, I usually mention how little I have to anchor me to the world, with no house, no children, no living parents, no place I really want to be, and no mate. The other day a woman told me, “You say Jeff is gone, but he is still in your life.” This wasn’t a patronizing remark; it was said more as an observation.
The truth is, he is gone from my life in any real concept of the term — I cannot touch him, cannot hear his voice, cannot see his smile, cannot take care of him, cannot be comforted by him.
His absence, however, is in my life. His absence bounds my life.
If I were still with him, I would never have come to the desert, never have taken dance classes, never have gotten the madcap idea of an epic hike or even a short backpacking trip. I wouldn’t be searching for something to fill the hole in my life because there would be no hole. I wouldn’t be looking to experience “something more,” because I probably wouldn’t know there was more.
It’s grief that taught me about “more.” If there is such an awe-full and awful state as grief that we humans can experience, a state that changes our very being, perhaps there are other unknown states to experience. Love, of course. But could there be more?
A downside to this lingering phase of grief, for lack of a better term to describe it, is difficulty in putting up with some people’s spirit-draining chatter and their perpetual self-aggrandizement. Even if their narcissism comes from a sense of their own inadequacy, I can understand and sympathize, but in no way do I want to have to deal with their negativity. Because if there is more, I don’t see why I should have to settle for so little.
To be honest, no one — grief-stricken or not — should have to settle for less than pure wonder. There is a whole lot of world out there to experience. If you can walk, you don’t even need to go to other countries, don’t need to do tours and such to see the wonders. Every step shows you a new marvel, every turn of the path gives you a new view to contemplate.
What it comes down to is that even though I’m not exactly grieving anymore, not trapped in the wild center of the whirlwind we call grief, I am still caught in the outer fringes by grief’s gravity.
And chances are, I always will be.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.
February 6, 2018 at 9:11 pm
An interesting perspective, Pat. I haven’t lost a spouse, but the loss of a daughter and both parents brought their own kind of grief. I think our memories keep reminding us of the unique joy we experienced with our loved ones so even when the ‘grieving’ is gone, we’re aware of the ‘more’ that we once had and are now missing, so consciously or not, we’re always searching for something to replace it.
Some time ago I read Ann Voskamp’s ‘1000 Gifts’ and began a journal to record daily little joys that I previously overlooked. Simple everyday things — sunlight through a window making a pattern on the floor, the texture of my handwoven scarf…that kind of thing. Life is full of things to marvel at if we choose to look.
February 6, 2018 at 9:36 pm
From what I have heard, and from your various comments over the years, I understand that the loss of a son/daughter is even more devastating than the loss of a spouse. I think the pain we suffered makes us more sensitive to the every day marvels. And there are so many of them! I think that’s why I like walking in the desert. There aren’t the huge vistas like with the mountains. In the desert, you have to look for the beauty in all that drabness.
I looked up 1000 Gifts. Sounds like an interesting book. It reminds me of something Joylene Butler told me years ago, about an old woman who had lost everyone in her life, and yet the woman was the most joyful person she knew. I have often thought about that and what it takes to find joy despite life’s losses. Maybe joy, like gratitude, is a habit.
Thanks for the insight!
February 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm
Well, so you have just written another helpful piece on grieving! I am always looking to see if you write on this subject.
I was married at the age of 19, he was 25. We were married for 50 years!!
He has been gone now for three years. I have children, grandchildren, a great grandchild, and sisters, etc. Yes, of course they bring me comfort, and joy. I love them all very much. But, I will never be over my first and only love of my life. He molded who I would become in life and miss her everyday.
Memories also flood my life everyday. Some days I feel like I am drowning in them.
I am grateful to have experienced a love like we had. I know that some never do.
As always, thanks for your thoughts on the subject of grieving!
February 7, 2018 at 5:15 pm
It’s hard. And three years is really not much at all. It’s only the beginning stages of finding renewal in life. And yes, you will always miss him and miss who you were when you were with him. That never changes. Nor does the void his being gone leaves behind. You’re doing well, though, as well as anyone can after having survived such a trauma.
February 8, 2018 at 2:43 pm
Thank you for your kind words!
February 8, 2018 at 4:21 pm
Wishing you peace . . .
February 7, 2018 at 6:40 pm
Your last sentence “I am still caught in the outer fringes by grief’s gravity.
And chances are, I always will be” caught my eye and heart.
To reflect my feelings, I would change the words to “I am still clinging to grief’s gravity. And chances are, I will always want to”
Your writing brings me personal clarity….thanks.
February 7, 2018 at 7:32 pm
One thing those who have never lost the one person who made life worth living (or at least made life make sense) is that we need grief. Sometimes it is all we have to cling to.