Always Writing

I’m laughing at myself. Well, chuckling, anyway. I’ve often railed against the foolish comment, “A writer writes. Always.” For one thing, “always writing” is a physical impossibility — you also have to eat, sleep, work, do at least a minimum of household and personal chores. For another, spending all your time writing gives you nothing to write about because you are writing, not living. (Though some people would argue that writing is living.).

Of course, if you accept a broader definition of writing that would include living, thinking, outlining, researching, learning the craft, promoting, then yes, a writer spends much of his or her time writing. But still, that does not have the same meaning as “A writer writes. Always.”

So why is this amusing me today? Well, I’d planned to spend the past few days going through all my grief blog posts and my email responses to messages from fans and supporters to glean what bits of wisdom I can for my new book on grief, and I’ve only managed to get through part of the correspondence. Haven’t even started rereading the hundreds and hundreds of blog posts I wrote on the subject of grief.

Apparently, while denying that a writer always writes, I’ve been always writing.

It turns out this is a good thing. I’ve forgotten so much of what I’ve said during the eight years I’ve spent writing about grief. (Not surprising since most of it was stream of consciousness more than long thought theories.) Even though it’s painful visiting the past, many salient points have been buried beneath all those words, and those points need to be considered for inclusion in the book.

For example, in response to a fellow who said he didn’t know how to forgive himself for the things he’d written to his mate during an argument. I wrote, “Don’t forgive yourself,” which shocked the heck out of him because the advice goes against everything we are taught and everything we believe.

I’d completely forgotten this exchange, and yet, it’s true. Why should he or any of us forgive ourselves for things we said while in a living relationship? The only thing wrong is that his mate died. If death hadn’t intervened, they would have made up, and life would have gone on. But life didn’t go on. Death did. We so often think we are the villains of our life, and yet death is there off to the side, waving its bloody hands and yelling, “Me. Me.”

Well, here I am, adding more words to an already overloaded gallery of words instead of tackling the dreaded task of revisiting my grief. But what else can you expect from a writer who seems to be always writing?


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.

5 Responses to “Always Writing”

  1. charlesgraham1930 Says:

    My wife of 63 years has had Parkinson’s Disease and this grieving in my case started several years ago and she is still here in body but not in communication. My love for her seems stronger if that is possible. Will my final grief be harder?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You will probably still continue to grieve after she’s gone, maybe even worse for a while. The truth is, you are still connected in some way as long as she’s here on earth. What people seldom take into consideration when talking about grief is the toll that final amputation of her from your life will take. Grief is not just an emotional reaction — it’s also physical, mental, spiritual. We can almost feel that we are standing at the edge of eternity. We don’t just grieve the loss of what we had, but what we never had. If nothing else, you will grieve these last years — years that should have been a time of communication but aren’t. If she is still at home, and you have the care of her, you will grieve her also as if she were a child, wondering who is taking care of her now. If she is somewhere else, you might not have to deal with that aspect. I do know there is no way to prepare yourself for what you will feel after she is gone (perhaps even a cessation of the grief you feel now rather than an increase in grief), so take each day as it comes. If there are any joys left in the relationship, even a smile or a touch, revel in it. Because death is final, at least for us left here on Earth. (Take what you need from this comment and ignore the rest. And someday, please stop by and let me know how you’re doing.) Wishing you both peace.

  2. Lovey Says:

    Hi again Pat… I love reading your stuff, you understand – you get it. I find I’m a bit of a writer myself, although more of a very short story writer, as opposed to a novelist – I have too short an attention span, and not enough patience. Since I lost my beloved husband almost 2 years, I write in a computer journal to him, wrote a short story about him & me called The 2 Trees, that I occasionally revise and add to. People have told me to submit it for publishing – but I’m not yet convinced of the need to do that – although maybe some other widows could identify with it. If I didn’t write, and get a lot of inner poison from the grief out, I honestly don’t know where I’d be now, probably in a rubber room. And – then, there’s my e-mails to friends & family that are always more lengthy than theirs are to me. Oh I am sure – ‘they’ think there are any varying amounts of self pity in my writing, probably true. But – look what I have lost. I talk about him, I refer to him as often as I can. It’s said that we don’t want our loved one forgotten. We don’t. We also want others to know how much it still hurts to live without them. It sure does.

    The love of my life is really gone, and I am alone in this house, other than my animals. So many odd mishaps have gone on, or occured in the house since he passed, sometimes it feels like nasty gremlins are at work, trying to spoil what’s left – what he isn’t here to correct or repair. I’ll betcha many other widows can attest to this, many oddball repairs needing attention, or just negative things happening since they lost their husbands. If they are lucky – they have male relatives that can step in & do the needed repairs. Or like childless me, have to rely on a handyman, and you need to pay them.

    The 2 year mark is July 18th. The heaviness of that fact is always with me – some days more than others – this being one of them. You were so right about the 2nd year… The shock has worn off for the most part, yet, the fact of his absence still often jolts me into reality… he really is gone….what happened to all that time we were together? How could it have just ended so abruptly? Why can’t I go on with him beside me, like I see other women with their husbands. My dear friend “Violet” – so much busy- ness, with her still alive husband & her running to & fro to this & that event – that son’s party, or this grandchild’s graduation, this friend’s wedding – she needs to get her husband’s suit from the cleaners, but her blue dress will do just fine. I listen & want to slap her & scream – “SHUT UP – MY HUSBAND IS DEAD – I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR HUSBAND!!!” But of course – I won’t. She tries to hear me & doesn’t minimize my pain, and tells me I can vent as often as I need to. She’s one of the more understanding friends. And – she & her husband loved my husband, and were devastated by his sudden death. But – life for them went on – back to normal, soon after. And of course – I would want that for them, I wouldn’t wish this tragedy on anyone, It’s just that mine didn’t, and never will. Even my dreams taunt me. Lately – I have been dreaming that he has come back to me from the dead. In the dreams, we both know it, and it’s an accepted fact. In one dream, I was telling him that he has to go to the doctor to make sure his aneurysm hadn’t grown, to be on the safe side. In the one I had last night – he told me that he wants to go to physical therapy so he can get into better shape, and we can have a better life together – so he’s not sick anymore. I know it’s my subconscious screaming out for some sanity to be had, instead of living in this insane, walking nightmare I am now living, without my love. My precious love…

    OK – I think I am done for now… yes – writing does help get it out somewhat – but then there’s the reality away from the keyboard. Thanks Pat, for listening… Cyber hugs from this lonely widow.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It really is hard. Sometimes I wonder if us childless women have it harder, but I try not to go down that path. It’s hard for all of us who have lost that one person who anchored us to life. Sometimes grown children make it harder because they don’t want their mother to grieve. So either way, it’s hard.

      At two years, you still have such a long way to go, but even writing these words I wonder, “go where?” Further into a life without your husband? It’s so not fair! And yet life doesn’t care about fairness. I hope as you continue on this path, you read some of the posts in my grief archives from when I was in the same place you are. It might continue helping if you know that whatever you are feeling, for as long as you are feeling it, others have been there.

      I’m glad your friend lets you vent. Eventually, it won’t scrape your soul to hear her talk about her husband. Eventually.

      And yes, those dreams can be painful. Until you don’t have them anymore. (Which is what happened to me.) I have a weird theory that if the dead still exist somewhere, then they might miss us as much as we miss them. Or at least think about us. If it’s true, your dreams might not be taunts so much as his grief reaching out to yours. Just a fanciful notion I once had. And anyway, how do we know that they don’t miss us? Grief is so bizarre, anything could be happening beneath all that pain and chaos.

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