Someone Who Understands

I made a pastor cry today. Or maybe it was just that I offered him the opportunity. But still . . .

A local church had a potato bar and pie auction for a fundraiser, and I went. Interestingly, I’ve spent more time in various churches during the past few months than I have in decades; all of my new friends are religious, and each of them attends a different church. Since all the churches seem to work together for various activities, I see these people at many functions.

And I see new people. As I was leaving at the end of the auction, someone I’d never seen before came up to me and asked me why people called me Pat in the Hat. She said that when I came in, she heard people saying, “Here’s Pat in the Hat.” I pointed to the hat I was wearing. Yep. That’s my claim to fame. Always with a hat.

Today was an especially fun event until I ruined it with my talk of grief. The pastor auctioned off the pies, and he was so persuasive and so utterly charming and amusing, it was hard not to participate. Afterward, a friend introduced us and mentioned I was a writer. He asked what I wrote, and I said mostly mysteries but I had also written a couple of books on grief. So of course, I started expounding about grief, what I’ve learned, and what I’ve been doing to pass my experiences and expertise on to others.

He seemed impressed that I had such a mission. We talked about how so many grief counselors hadn’t experienced profound grief themselves, and how it skewed the help they were able to offer.

Then I noticed he had tears in his eyes. “Who did you lose?” I asked quietly. “Your wife?” He couldn’t respond right away. Finally he said, “Not wife. Children.” I hugged him, and said I was so very sorry. He nodded at that, and said, “You do know the right thing to say.” (So yes, I was right with my post a couple of days ago about saying “I’m Sorry.”)

I didn’t ask particulars about the deaths — it seemed too intrusive — but we talked a few more minutes about grief and loss and emptiness. He thanked me for participating in the auction, and for being such a good sport. Then we parted.

It still holds true after all these years, that grief can quickly bind two people in a profound moment of sharing. Neither of our losses are recent, but both have left holes in us that nothing can fill. Although his faith is strong, and he believes he will see his children again, he still sorrows. He never got to see them grow up. Never got to see the adults they could have become.

It’s hard to lose part of oneself like that. It’s hard to live with it. But he does.

We all do.

We always feel their absence.

And we always feel the grief that connects us to someone who understands.


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.

5 Responses to “Someone Who Understands”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    You are powerful, Pat. Your experiences make you greater than Superman sometimes. Never forget that.

  2. Judy Galyon Says:

    I understand some grief. Not only have I lost my mother, but a good friend of mine passed this past March. We were working on plans to go to Ireland. I was really starting to get excited about it when she had her stroke & died 10 days later. Now we get together for breakfast every couple of months with her oldest son, who is 2 yrs younger than my daughter. He refers to me as “mom 2” which I think is very sweet.

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