Going Home

It wasn’t until after my Jeff, life mate/soul mate, died that I understood what home meant to me. It turns out, he had been my home. Wherever we were, as long as I was with him, I was home.

And then Jeff died, and suddenly, just like that, I lost my “home.”

For me, home was definitely not a case of “home is where, when you go there, they have to let you in.” I left the house and state where Jeff and I had lived and moved 1000 miles to go look after my aged father. I’d visited my parents several times while my mother was dying, but I had never lived in that house, so it was not in any way a homecoming. And although I was there for four years with my father, it never felt like home. I was awash in too much grief, missing Jeff, feeling bereft and lost and adrift.

When my father died, the house had to be sold, so I lost that place of residence, too. And oh, I wanted desperately to go home. But my home was gone from this earth. Because he was gone, and because I felt lost and rootless wherever I was, there didn’t seem to be any reason to be one place rather than another, so I drifted.

I tried to find home within myself, and to a certain extent, I succeeded because wherever I am, there I am. I have lived on the road, babysat houses and a bed and breakfast, stayed with friends, rented rooms, camped out, spent more nights than I can count in motels. It worked because one place felt no different from any other. I was always myself, always doing my best to celebrate life despite missing my dead.

Recently, my homeless brother died, and I started thinking of a different kind of home — a house of my own I can turn into a home. A place where I can set down roots. A place where I can grow old in peace, maybe.

Such a strange feeling! I’ve never wanted to own a house. Never wanted the problems, the aggravation, the expense, the very fact of owning something so . . . big. Jeff and I were minimalists before minimalism became a fad — we didn’t even own much furniture — and yet, here I am, all these years later, suddenly wanting, needing, a house to turn into a home.

I daydreamed a house into existence — a very small, very old house in a very small, very old town. A house just big enough for one person, a house with a walk-in shower and a modern galley kitchen.

I’m now in the process of buying the house (closing is almost upon me — in thirteen days to be exact), and I am starting to feel as if I am going home despite never actually having seen the house, only pictures of it. And oh, yeah — I don’t know anyone in the area, either. I am going back to Colorado, but to a corner of the state where I’ve never lived.

I’m taking a leap into the unknown, into my future. An epic adventure!

It’s actually not as much of a risk as it sounds. An inspector and a contractor both assured me it was a cute little house, and solid. More than that, what do I need to know? I will have a refrigerator to myself!! A kitchen of my own. A yard.

If anything comes up, I will deal with it. If I don’t like something, I’ll change it. If it doesn’t feel like home, I’ll create a home within its walls. If neighbors are noisy, I’ve learned to live with earplugs.

But none of that is important. I’m going home, not to settle down (which still scares me because I am afraid of stagnating) but to settle in (which sounds comforting).

I truly have no qualms about any of this. I don’t understand it, but Jeff’s death shattered my life and my world, and now it feels as if my brother’s death is gluing my life back together. I feel as if this house is meant to be.

It’s hard leaving my dance teacher, who has become like a sister to me. It’s hard leaving dance class and my dance friends.

But . . . a house!

A home.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

29 Responses to “Going Home”

  1. Lori Ferguson Says:

    Talk about looking for a home…OMG…that is most definitely me and where I am. The love of my life, passed 4 yrs ago yesterday and I have been lost, torn apart and have been wandering since he left. A week after my Dano died, my younger son took me home with him, some 5300 miles away. I wandered around, in absolute grief for some 8 mos and finally made the decision to go back home to the city where we had raised our children and had lived for so long. I moved into an empty apt and over 6 mos, furnished it but was still miserable. Every nite I went to bed with my little dog of 8 yrs and cried myself to sleep. Our friends of many yrs began to drop off and I did not understand, at the time but now I was considered “single” and no longer wanted. A grief Counsellor, a wonderful lady, helped me to understand that this new chapter of my life was going to being even more painful. I truly wished to die at times. I have learned that sometimes even the closest of friends cannot deal with deep grief so they turn away. I have 1 friend of 30 years left and I luv her dearly. She also lost her husband 10 yrs ago and is still wandering all over the place- stilll looking for a home again. Then last October my heart finally broke. I had a heart attack. It was a life changing experience. With my health, I thought that moving out to where my son was living was maybe the answer and began packing to move again…so far away. Didn’t have it in my heart to go tho. Yesterday on 4th anniversary of my love’s death, sitting alone, with a slew of packed boxes I cried my face off, longing for the comfort of the “home” Dano and I had shared. Upon reading your post I finally realized that I had already taken the first step and had returned to the city I loved, even tho I was alone. Now I just had to make a “new” home, for Mims, my little dog and I. It was like a light came on for me. Dano was no longer my comfort blanket. Your words tugged at my heart and I could finally see thru this thick density of grief that has hung over me for what seems so long. This is the first relief I have felt in 4 yrs. Thank u…Thank u. I CAN DO THIS! I can now see a way out of this nightmare. Where have I been? My Dano will still be with me…as I put together our new “home”. Thank u again. The Lord bless u for sharing.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, you can do this. You’ve been doing “this” for four years. There is a chance that your grief will lighten a bit, which will enable you to start putting together your new home. It takes about four to five years to get past the worst of the pain and to find a renewed interest in life. So much of grief for a spouse no one talks about. Like how long it takes. Like how rootless and adrift we become. How we search desperately for . . . something. How the anniversaries are always hard. How we have to build a new life for ourselves even though we don’t want to. It’s all so hard. For what it’s worth, it sounds to me as if you’re doing fine. Just be sure to take care of yourself.

      Wishing you peace in your new home. Let me know how it goes.

      • Constance Says:

        To some people, a divorce can leave you this way., if you truly loved your spouse and felt they were your “Soulmate”. Took me 5 years to recover.

      • Lori Ferguson Says:

        I was so taken with your post that I forgot to wish u well in your move and oh I do. Today I called my real estate agent to begin my search for a “new” home for Mimi, my little dog, and I. My beloved Dano will always be with us…no matter where we go. Staying here in Calgary, is where I want to be. The day I read your post was the the 4 yr Anniversary and I was not doing well at all. My heart was so shattered…as raw as the day I woke up and my I beloved Dano was gone, beside me. Then I heard the ping on my email and read your post thru my tears. I can’t tell but my eyes opened and my heart lifted for the first time in 4 yrs and I understood what u said. Thank u. It all made sense and these painful past 4 years became so much lighter. Thank u. 4 yrs is not a long time time but in so much grief and heartache…it is a lifetime. A few days now since reading your words and I can actually see the sunshine in the morning when I wake. I laughed today. Haven’t done that in long time. Thank u again my friend. Love Lori Ferguson

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Oh, I’m so glad you’ve made a decision, glad you saw sunshine in the morning, glad you stopped by to share this milestone with me. I wish you well in your search for a new home. Such a great thing, to know where you want to be, geographically, at least. Be sure to let me know how the search goes.

          And thank you for the well wishes. Here’s hoping we both find “home” in our new homes.

  2. Judy Galyon Says:

    I am surprised & very pleased that you are so adventurous. I wish you the very best with this & hope to see you whenever I get back there!

  3. Joe Says:

    A character of one of my all-time fave authors says in an early book of the series (paraphrased), “My home is people.” He was being threatened with being disinherited for staying with his offworlder galactic wife who was a disruptive influence on her new society’s planetary norms. With Mark gone, I now understand that statement. Don’t know how many times I have said to myself, either silently or out loud, “I just want to go home.” I’m not entirely sure what this means, because I *am* home, in the place I have lived for 20 years. I spent 18 of those with him, and the last two without him. In a month it’ll be the start of Year 3. I notice I tend to put down roots wherever I live, wherever I work. But in my mid-forties, I am questioning if I want to keep this place and go somewhere else, somewhere smaller, and likewise, questioning the value of what I do in a country seemingly bent on self-destruction. I very nearly did put this place up for sale a year ago, but I decided I had lost too much to lose this, too. I guess I didn’t want to voluntarily become rootless and adrift, as you say. However, I’m getting restless again, probably an outgrowth of severe cabin fever with the endless snow hereabouts. Anyway… it’s an exciting development for you, Pat. I hope you’ll let us know how it goes! 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That restlessness is part of grief, especially as time goes on, and cabin fever or illness or boredom or just about anything aggravates that restlessness. My restlessness grew and grew until just recently. When we’ve lost so much, we’re always looking for . . . something, “Home” for lack of a better word to describe that something. Maybe “home” is just being able to live without the weight of the loss. To just be instead of being without. After all this time, I still have that feeling of wanting to go home, even though it’s not as strong as it was in the beginning. I’m hoping this move will help with that somewhat. And if it doesn’t, I’ll still have a place of my own!

      And of course I’ll let you all know how it goes. You won’t be able to stop me!

  4. Toby Burnett Says:

    I’m happy that you are now really settling.
    LIke you, and the other commenters, the concept of “home” was upended by such a profound loss, no longer where one actually lives. You expressed it well on your day 15 in Grief…:
    “The conventional wisdom is not to make any major changes for a year, and yet, what is here for me without him? It’s not as if I’m leaving my home–my home already left me.”
    A difficult time for me was returning “home” after a trip–to an empty condo.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I can imagine how hard that must have been, returning to an empty condo. I’m glad I had to leave the place we were living to go take care of my father. I don’t think I would have had the courage to live in the same place, knowing that every time I went inside, he wouldn’t be there.

      It’s all so hard. I’m still amazed we are able to continue on.

  5. Constance Koch Says:

    Pat, I am so happy for you. I will miss you. Glad that I got to know you. Best wishes on your journey to your new

  6. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Mazel tov! I can’t wait to hear more about your new home.

  7. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    This is great news. Hope you don’t get writer’s cramp signing all those closing documents. I’m guessing you’re going to enjoy having your own place.

  8. Jo Green Says:

    Congratulations on a new home.

  9. Terry J Says:

    I just bought a condo almost four years after my husband’s death. At the time of his death we were thinking about where we wanted to live in our newly retired down sized manner…so there is the obvious component of what I thought would be and what is. The buying proccess for this condo felt mostly flat (not joyful or exciting but on the upside also not terrible. If I were to give my feelings a color it would be beige). One of the comments above said to you “you can do this!” and for me the more important question was “why would I want to?”. This place offers me much more financial security therefore much less a chance of becoming a burden to any or all of my three children. The point isn’t to have a home…the point is not to be bleeding money in rent. Mission accomplished. I will stay open to the possibility it can go either direction (home or not). Given what I have experienced over all since the loss of my life partner I expect somedays it will and somedays it won’t be home.

    I strongly related to these words you wrote. They helped me feel understood and validated. Once again I thank you my friend!

    you wrote “Maybe “home” is just being able to live without the weight of the loss. To just be instead of being without.”

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      My main consideration with getting a house is the same as yours. Financial. If I had a bigger income and didn’t need to worry about my financial future, I might not have done it.

      I imagine I will feel the same way as you do — somedays it will feel like home, and other days, not so much. But we both do what we need to do, and this is what I need to do.

      As always, I appreciate your comment. They always help me make sense of what I’m going through. So, thank you.

  10. Kathy Says:

    Congrats, Pat! That’s wonderful news!

  11. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    I am so excited for you! I don’t know how to send you a virtual housewarming, but I’m hoping this experience is everything you want it to be and I think you will love having a place of your own were you can build new memories of whatever sort. Congratulations!!!

  12. Good Madness and Magic and Dreams and Surprising Myself | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] myself are all pinkie promises I made to a friend on New Year’s Day. My newest adventure (buying a house — a very small, very old house in a very small, very old town to be sure, but still a house) […]

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