In the Past? Or Still to Come?

Now that I’m getting settled in my new place, I seem to be reverting to the life I lived before I met Jeff — reading, a few chores, an occasional meeting with acquaintances. I don’t spend much time on the computer (except for solitaire, of course). Don’t use my phone much at all except for an occasional call. Haven’t been promoting my grief book like I should. Haven’t even been writing.

Such a simple, unconnected life it was back then and so it is again.

This feeling of reliving the distant past is so strong that strangely, I find myself looking forward to when I will be meeting Jeff — not in an afterlife, but in this life. As if he’s waiting for me to find him. As if we will be starting our life together. As if what I thought was in the past might instead still be to come.

I don’t know where this feeling originates, but somedays it is very strong. And, as always, when the truth hits — that he is truly gone from this Earth and anything else is just make believe — I can’t breathe, can’t help getting teary.

I seldom look at the photo of him I have by my bed, though it is often in my periphery, just as he is in my periphery. I still have his ashes, though I’d forgotten about them until I noticed them in my car the other day. (They’re waiting, I suppose, until I go back to the north fork of the Gunnison where we used to live.)

And I get caught up in this new single life of mine.

So I’m not sitting around bemoaning my loss.

But somewhere inside, I always know he’s gone. I still don’t know how that can be — even after all these years, his utter goneness makes no sense to me. We’re supposed to be preparing for our old age together. We were supposed to beat the odds, and find health and happiness and vitality together in our final years.

No matter where this feeling of the past being the future comes from, I know the truth of it. I’m preparing for my own old age, not ours.

And yet, and yet . . . in my heart, I can’t help thinking that someday I will walk into a store, just as I did all those years ago, and there he will be, behind the counter, happy and healthy and waiting for me.


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.

16 Responses to “In the Past? Or Still to Come?”

  1. Dennis Says:

    Pat, I am with you line by line with this blog, although I am only 4 years out. I met my wife in grocery store. I was behind the counter. Dennis

  2. Lori F Says:

    Oh Pat can I ever identify with what u just said. My Dano has been gone now for 4 1/2 years. I have just moved 5300 miles across the country to be closer to my son and his family, bought a new home with the full intention of re-starting my life. Yesterday I realized how much I hated my life and I was so disgusted with myself that I really am not trying to get out or do new things. When I moved here I thought it was time to relocate my love’s ashes from my bedroom to the spare room but last nite I wound up in that spare room, listening to our last song that we recorded together and crying so hard I could barely breathe. I finally went to bed asking God, “What is wrong with me?” My heart ached so badly. Guess I cried myself to sleep. Today I had to push myself to go out and do groceries. Isn’t this supposed to get better? Is this depression? Another round of this hell in this chasm of grief? It never ends! All day I have been questioning my sanity and thinking that maybe I am just waiting for the time I can be with my Sweet Dano again. The least little thing can set me off. Tonight I was actually thinking about seeing a grief counsellor before I lose it. Then I heard my email ping and I read your blog. As I read, I cried…again…only this time…relief totally washed over me. You were meant to write this blog dear lady Thank u for sharing this. I am not losing my mind. We will always feel as though half of our heart is missing and wishing for the years we had planned to grow old with them. You know each nite I thank God for the years He gave gave me with my Dano. I will always be grateful for those years and will always wish we could have had more. Thank you Pat. Thank you. Please do write your book. There are many who need it. Lori F.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It does get better. I promise you. They are always gone, and we always feel that, but we do eventually learn to be happy despite the shadow of loss. It makes sense, really — artists who are renowned for painting light make heavy use of shadow.

      Incidentally, if you need to see a grief counselor, please do so. Sometimes it does help to talk about our deceased loved ones, to prove to ourselves, if no one else, that we once were loved.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      BTW, my grief book is finished as is available on Amazon. It might help you make sense of what you are going through.

  3. Sam Sattler Says:

    Pat, I can’t figure out how to say this without it sounding like some kind of backhanded compliment. But I’m going to take the chance anyway because after reading this piece I feel like I’m finally starting to understand, truly understand, what you have been going through all this time. This is a powerful piece of writing, and I thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you for your not-at-all backhanded compliment. It’s interesting that now I am beyond the heavy emotion, I seem to be able to show the truth of grief better. (The truth being that the loss is always with you in some way or another.)

  4. Alien Resort Says:

    Finding ways to stay busy is about all you can do.

  5. Judy Galyon Says:

    It’s not surprising that you are having flash backs. I’m just glad that you have found peace & a simple life. Peace & quiet is a wonderful thing to have, especially given all the horrors in the world today. Enjoy what you have, even if you aren’t up to writing right now!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      This is a very good place to be right now. The horrors are passing us by, and when people get too caught up in the insanity of politics and politispeak, I walk away. I’ve gone through too much to let people destroy my peace.

  6. Terry J Says:

    I have been experiencing many secondary losses over the past 8 months which have challenged me at times beyond my capacity to get up and try again to make a happy life for myself. The lonliness can feel like it is eating me alive…I never get “ahead”because I am always just trying to get back what I again loose. The idea “people have their own lives” is true and despite the tone of this writing I do get that and do not expect anyone to replace my husband. Facing the loss of health and old age alone is frightening. I do picture a day when I will go “back to the future” only this time there will be a different ending. I wish that for everyone who suffers loss similar or different from mine.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Facing the loss of health and old age alone is very frightening. Some days I can handle the idea, other days not so much.

      The thing about people having their own lives — what makes it so hard, is that once we did, too. When you lose the bedrock of couplehood, you lose . . . everything.

  7. Terry J Says:

    well said. I feel understood.I guess that makes you a “secondary gain” …thanks.

  8. Joe Says:

    Yup. Every so often I am reminded he is gone and just shake my head in disbelief. The past few days are another hairpin curve on this grief road… Today is fine, but I can almost look over my shoulder at myself experiencing the relatively awful days I had had just hours earlier, and marvel at the about-face, while skidding and bumping along this rough patch of road. It’s crazy. it’s like that Tilt-A-Whirl carnival ride. You swoop in your little car’s track and find yourself staring at the spot where you just were a second ago but from a new perspective. “Utter goneness” is a good descriptor. I looked at some of his clothes that are folded up in the top drawer, especially the one that still faintly smells like sunblock where he accidentally splatted some on the front of it while on a boat in a lake in 2006. Why is it these clothes, the sunblock smell, the memory of that day, etc. all exist but he does not? I just don’t get it.

    It’s a little unnerving that even after the amount of time since Jeff’s passing, you still have this breath catching thing going on. I can do things we used to do, like the farmer’s market, or look at him in his best photograph staring back at me, and be wistful but not breathless and teary, but then something else will happen like reading about someone else going through this, or something in a movie, and it’s like being a ball on a billiard (pool) table, being struck by the white cue ball– crack! And down you go, into the dark.

    I’m full of analogies these days.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      To be honest, I don’t often get that breath-catching feeling any more. I am used to the idea of his being gone so I seldom think of the reason, but every once in a while I remember the why of it, and that is utterly unbelievable. I’m to the point where I try not to think of that reason.

      It’s good that you’re mostly nostalgic rather still feeling the ghastly pain of new loss, though I am sorry for your loss. (And mine.)

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