Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home

When I was young, my favorite song was Joe South’s “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home.” Back then, the lyrics spoke to me of poignancy, change, and the way growth was destroying the special places in the world.

Now, I couldn’t bear to listen to the song. It would speak to me of grief, of loss, of my inability to ever go home again. And oh, I do so want to go home!

This is an especially hard time for me because I am nearing the eighth anniversary of Jeff’s death. I’ve been holding on to myself, not giving in to sadness, (or rather, not welcoming it), just trying to take life as it comes.

Well, today at dance class, life came hard. After we’d practiced the dance we’re learning for a performance, the others were standing around talking about the dance and how to do things or change things or something unimportant like that.  So I took the opportunity to step outside and scratch myself discreetly. As I left, one woman called after me as if I were doing something wrong, “Pat, don’t be like that.”

Well, I scratched, took a few deep cleansing breaths, and went back inside to where a couple of the women were talking about me. Then the teacher lectured us on how there is no animosity in dance class.

Huh? Animosity? The only animosity I felt today was against this itch that won’t go away. Through ballet class and then belly dance class, I’d barely said anything to anyone, just minded my own business, and for what?

I don’t know.

I don’t know what I’m doing here anymore, but I still don’t know where to go, still don’t know how to create a new life. Still don’t know how to earn a living. (I’ve always hoped I’d be able to make a living with my books, but I can’t even give them away.)

I just know I want to go home and there is no home to go home to. Jeff was my home. He’s gone, and I am just so damn tired of it. I’ve done very well with my meager resources all these years, finding renewal, finding a dream, even finding joy at times, but still, he’s dead.

I spend a lot of time counseling grief-stricken folks — sometimes just through this blog, sometimes through email or phone conversations, and I always tell people the truth. That it is almost impossibly hard. That they will always miss him/her. That they will find renewal, though it might take many years.

What I’ve never said is that the one thing you never get over is being tired of their being dead. How can you? Although your efforts through time do make things better, it’s the passing of time that continues to make things hard, because every year that goes by is another year they’ve been gone, another year you’ve had to live without them.

Luckily, this month is more than half over, and every day that brings me closer to the anniversary also brings me closer to my May trip. I can’t make changes until after the trip since I won’t know until then if any sort of epic hike is possible, so I’m sort of just hanging in there by the tips of my fingers. Holding myself together the best as I can.

But oh, I’m so tired of having to do any of this.

If I could just go home for a little while . . .

But I can’t.

Dammit.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

19 Responses to “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home”

  1. S.E.May Says:

    – it’s the passing of time that continues to make things hard
    There is so much truth in that. If I could take you home for a moment, I would.

  2. SheilaDeeth Says:

    Your words remind me of my mum, whose words remind me of you. I’m so glad we might finally meet.

  3. Steph Says:

    Oh Pat. I’ve only just started following your blog so haven’t found out a lot about your hike yet and nothing about the dance class. All I can say about that is I hope you have loving, understanding, true friends who can counteract the effect this class of 5 year olds seems to have had on you!
    The constant effort to rebuild is exhausting and you wonder why you’re bothering at all sometimes but I tell people who say “I don’t know how you do it” that I have two choices. I’ve been cast adrift in the ocean and I can either sink or swim.
    Writing must be a very isolating occupation, and grief counselling surely quite draining when you’re still dealing with your own loss – I don’t think I could take on other peoples as well.
    Maybe you’re just having an off day, or maybe it’s time to re-group, have a look at what nourishes you and what drags you down. It’s ok to walk away sometimes, and it’s ok to admit that there are some good things about being on your own…. like the fact that the only person you have to please is yourself!
    And now (in the U.K.) it’s a new day with new possibilities….

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Hi, Steph. Thank you for your encouragement. It’s funny but for the last year, I was able to abandon the effort to rebuild and just to be, but now it’s slamming into me full force again. For a long time, dance class nourished me. I started taking classes three years after Jeff died, and it was the only thing that made me feel alive. And now there are simply too many complications for it to replenish my soul as it did in the beginning. And you’re right about the two choices. You only hinted at your story, but it certainly sounds as if you know what this grief thing is all about. Wishing us both peace in this new day.

  4. Sue Says:

    Dear Pat, just read your blog, my heart aches for you you pull no punches all you said is soooo true, it’s a struggle and you have inspired me. Like you coming up to an anniversary, makes it that much harder, like you am changing things in my life. Do either or all of us want this…..No …..but what else is there. It’s the first time l detect a note of giving up, please don’t, you’re amazing and will continue to be so.sending love from across the pond. X

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Dear Sue, you’re so right — we have to accept what has happened to us because what else is there? But oh, even after all this time, some days are so hard. I am discouraged at the moment, but the only thing I was going to give up was dance classes, but when I called my teacher last night to tell her I was quitting, she talked me out of it. She said not to let anyone take dance away from me, and not to let them win. So, I will continue and hope for the best. Oddly, it feels good to be giving up temporarily. The need to be forward looking and to accept all the changes that come my way is exhausting, as I’m sure you know. I hope you are doing well. Wishing us both happier days.

  5. Terry Allard Says:

    I have often felt my reward for getting through a day without my husband is I’ll be given another day to get through…. a cycle which is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. It holds true whether I am doing something positive or not with my time. I hope as you twirl in this tornado your able to find or feel some respites of peace from the agnony of loneliness for him. I dearly wish I had some “good words” to help you but anything I say almost seems to demean the hurt you feel. Eight years? Eight months? Eight days,hours or minutes? Time does not matter nor does the behavior of others towards you. Please know for me your writings on grief have helped me by giving a focus for my own journaling which can often be a place of temporay peace for me.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sometimes I feel silly for still talking about grief after eight years. In our society, we’re supposed to “get over it” long before that. But as you say, eight years, eight months, eight days — it doesn’t matter. It’s all the same, though it is easier after eight years than eight months. Your words were perfect, and what I needed to hear. But know that nothing you could say would demean the hurt because it would be coming from a place of understanding. I will try to remember today that the behavior of others toward me doesn’t matter. Thank you again for your “good words.”

  6. Mimi Ray Says:

    Thank you for this post, Pat. It’s been four years since my sister died, and the passage of time does not diminish, and as you mentioned can even increase, the sting of her absence. You’re right that we’re encouraged to “move on” and to “recover” from the grief, but I’ve come to understand that I cannot, and that it’s not good for me to try to do that. Acceptance of the new reality of my life – as much as I love my life – means that I, like you, am sometimes just plain exhausted from missing her and longing for what is no more. You are not alone, and your words are relief of a sort, because you understand.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am so sorry about your sister. Sisters are supposed to be there throughout our lives, so it seems an especial affront when they are taken too soon. And yes, I do understand, at least to an extent. There is always a hole when our loved ones are taken from us.


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