All I Have Lost

Grief seldom visits me anymore, but last night, I couldn’t keep the tears from falling. I thought I’d gone through all the firsts — first Christmas after Jeff died, first birthday, first everything. But there was one first I hadn’t expected.

I’d gone to a women’s club Christmas dinner, and it turns out that husbands were invited. In all the years since Jeff died, although I’ve often been in the company of married women, this was the first time I’ve been in a group with mostly couples. I had no idea that such a first would be a problem. But it was. Since the couples wanted to sit together, I got shunted toward the end of the table, between two husbands, both of whom were faced away from me.

I didn’t know any of the men at the dinner, barely knew the women, didn’t know any of the people they talked about, didn’t understand any of the local issues they discussed, so there I sat . . . alone. Toward the end of the evening, a couple of women made the effort to talk to me, so I was able to keep my tears in check, but as soon as I got home, I started crying.

I thought I was over this part, this feeling out of place in a coupled world. I’ve been spoiled in that most of my new friends are widows (or once were widows). There is no feeling of being a third wheel or fifth wheel or any sort of wheel when I’m with them, so the feeling of being superfluous hit me hard. I’m still feeling sad and unsettled. In a little over three months, it will be ten years that Jeff has been gone. It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve lasted this long. It doesn’t seem possible that I can still feel so bad and for such a silly reason.

I’ve been doing a good job of looking forward instead of back, of not lamenting all I’ve lost, but last night, it was simply too much. I wanted go out into the dark and scream about the unfairness of it all, wanted to wail, “But I didn’t do anything wrong.”

But death doesn’t care about fairness. Death doesn’t care about rightness or wrongness. Death came ten years ago, and sometimes, like last night, I can still feel the cold winds of grief it left behind.

Part of me feels as if I’ve been playing a game, playing house, playing at being sociable, and I was suddenly brought back to the reality of my aloneness. Luckily, there’s nothing I have to do today, so I can find my center again before I once more put on my smile and act as if this life is what I wanted all along.

Don’t get me wrong — it is a good life. But sometimes, oh sometimes, I can’t help but think of all I have lost.


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.

17 Responses to “All I Have Lost”

  1. joanspilman Says:

    Beautifully expressed. Death doesn’t care about fairness . . . that entire passage.

  2. Vartan Agnerian Says:

    Thank You for sharing your widow experience of those ”sometimes” when it truly is too much’ when the realisation of the immense loss glares in your face’
    A widow of a year ‘ I am experiencing those “sometimes” moments’ those unprepared moments of grief outbursts’ and uncontrollable crying’ calm and functional one moment and sobbing and emotionally drained the next’
    The most recent one happened at the pharmacy’ casually going through the disposable diapers isle’ when suddenly became overwhelmed seeing the brand name that I used to buy for my husband’ due to his advanced Parkinson’s deterioration and bladder dysfunction’ by the realisation that I am a widow now’ I am all by myself wherever I go’ and my husband is no more’ . . . . . . Laura

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I think statistically, the grocery store is when most of us break down. One time for me was when I needed to buy salad dressing, and I picked up one for him, too. I think that was about three years in. You’re doing well for being so new to the whole horrible experience. Peace.

  3. Treve Brown Says:

    You’ve brought a tear to my eye Pat. As you say, what did any of us do to deserve it? You and I know that it’s just how it is – we’ve not been singled out for special treatment by life – but it still hurts so hard at times like that. As always you write so well about how it feels, but sorry you had to feel it at all! Cheering you on as ever, Treve

  4. Royann Behrmann Says:

    I am so sorry that you had a rough experience. Hopefully things will get better as you get to know the women.

  5. Uthayanan Says:

    All I Have Lost

    Dear Pat,
    I am terribly sorry Pat.
    I started to feel the same hard feeling.
    Now nearly 20 months after departure of my wife and my best friend. The same circumstances I try to go with someone hélas at the moment I have nobody. I know that you are strong women. Jeff will always with you.
    Big hug from Paris with love.
    More energy and peace for you

  6. Jina Bazzar Says:

    It’s not a silly reason at all. Loneliness sometimes hit us even if we’re surrounded by loved ones – there’s always a person we miss.

  7. Terry J Says:

    “It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve lasted this long. It doesn’t seem possible that I can still feel so bad and for such a silly reason.” …” Part of me feels as if I’ve been playing a game, playing house, playing at being sociable, and I was suddenly brought back to the reality of my aloneness.”

    I respectufully say to you …..OF COURSE you can still experience these feelings! Jeff died… not your love for him! Loss is not on a linear time line. It is what I call oragamni time. My way of descibing experiencing time where one minute we are in the current right now and the next minute time has folded into itself and the surface we see/feel is ten years ago.

    I am sorry for your loss of Jeff and encourage you to have self-compassion. I think you have been brave and done what you needed to do to build another life and have absolutely no reason to apologize or be fearful your love for Jeff still lives.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Origami time is a good way to describe it. Even though I’ve talked about grief so much, over the years, I still need to be reminded of its truths.

      It’s good to hear from you. I’ve been wondering how you are doing.

  8. Uthayanan Says:

    I agree with the post of Jina Bazzar and your reply. Pat sometimes I mise my wife heartily. First time nearly more than 6 monts I am staying alone in my bed nearly 24 hours only drinking water and a cup of soup and without my everyday walks. And I started to understand I am going to mise her forever. Pat’s writings helped me a lot to understood of grief.
    I try to keep calm and patient. Even sometimes I don’t understand about the life and I am simply lost, empty and mise her.
    Even I don’t know what about my future. To love somebody never have to be feel sorry.
    I loved my wife all my heart
    I’m still love her the same as from the first day
    I will love her forever until my last day
    I try to keep going day by day
    I feel Jeff’s love will help you to keep going.
    I wish you peace sometimes you mise him more.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m glad you’re not staying in bed all the time any more. That’s a major step. One day you will find a way to live with that hole in your heart. Someday you won’t feel so lost all the time. Wishing you peace.

  9. Rishi Says:

    I lost my wife in 2014, she was only 37..I identify so much with “the unfairness of it all”.. What was taken was what most people have and I too once had.. Thank you for sharing your pain, ive written a lot about mine and can certainly identify.

  10. Judy Galyon Says:

    I think we all go thru this at some point or another in our lives. The last time I had a major breakdown cry was in the surgeon’s office when he was telling me I had probably 3-4 years to live. That was in 2013. We all have different triggers.

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