Our bodies remember trauma even if we don’t consciously remember, and for those of us grieving the loss of an intrinsic person in our lives, body memory accentuates the strong emotional impact of anniversaries.

Body memory is often associated with extreme stress. Body memory is not a flashback, where you are actually experiencing the trauma again. Nor is it simply a vivid memory. In fact, the body memory comes first, and only afterward do we remember why we felt such an upsurge of emotional and physical grief reactions.

People often tell us to try to put our deceased loved ones out of our minds. They have the erroneous idea that if we don’t think of our mates, then we won’t grieve.

At first, it’s impossible not to think of our loved ones all the time. Perhaps we feel as if by holding them in our minds, we can stave off their death, even though it’s already happened. Or maybe we want to continue to feel connected. Or it could be that the enormity of death is so overwhelming, we can’t think of anything else.

But eventually, we do learn not to hold as tightly to these thoughts, and sometimes we even forget to think of our loved ones. But our bodies still keep the faith.

I’ve been feeling downhearted lately, more than simply the dreary skies would account for. There is an echo of tears to the melancholy, which made me stop and wonder why now. The tenth anniversary of Jeff’s death isn’t for another few weeks. But ah, I remembered — this is the month where the end started. He bent down to pick something up, felt a terrible pain, and never had a pain-free moment again.

He resisted going to the doctor for as long as he could because he knew it would be the end of him as he knew himself to be. But finally, in the last week of February when he simply could not stand the excruciating pain any longer, he went to the doctor.

And he was right. He never was the same after that. Luckily, we only had six weeks to deal with the horror. (Even though the doctor had said he had six months.) I say “we” because those weeks were hell for both of us, but for different reasons.

Except for this melancholy (and my missing him, of course), there is no real angst, at least not today. He has, after all, been gone long enough for me to get used to the void he left behind. Instead, it seems as if I am keeping vigil as I did that February so many years ago.

The truth is, though, I wouldn’t mind an upsurge of grief. It’s good at times to feel the loss, to know in my bones we had shared our lives, to know that I once loved and once was loved. To remember that I was so connected to another human being, that when he died, it felt as if part of me was amputated.

I’ve been sitting here for the past few minutes trying to find an end to this article, but there is no end. He might be gone from this earth, but he will always be a part of me, a part of my life, if only in memory.


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.

6 Responses to “Remembering”

  1. Treve Brown Says:

    Beautiful and true words as ever Pat. What a strange thing grief is!

  2. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    Memory brings us both happy and sad recollections, but it’s the moments of recalled loss that seem the most painful. It’s a dim, rainy day here, and I’m told that February and March can be the most difficult months of the year…the months when depression and illness frequently strike. I often find myself staring out the window at my messy debris-laden winter garden, trying to imagine what it will look like in the coming spring and summer months. I think this might be a good time to visit the nursery and buy a flowering house plant! I could use some cheerful colour to stave off the dreariness.

    I’m sorry you’re downhearted right now and hope other happier memories will soon help you overcome.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It must be for that very reason that flower catalogs are so popular this time of year. I too try to imagine what I will eventually plant.

      I’m okay. I didn’t think I should be alone, so I went to play train dominoes with some friends. It helped take the sting out of the day.

  3. Joe Says:

    “this is the month where the end started.” So understand this. The 3rd year marker is coming up for me in March. I still stop and count on my fingers, in disbelief that it’s been this long already. Three effin years.

    As for physical grief, I remember my hands, arms and shoulders ached so bad for months afterward that I was afraid something was developing. It went away after awhile, mostly.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I think so much of the physical pain comes from the stress of trying to hold ourselves together because such pain cannot be contained and feels as if it would blow us apart. Oddly, in my case, I lost my grip. Couldn’t hold on to anything. What a strange thing grief is. But how else would we deal with such an unbelievable and unbelievably painful loss? Thinking of you and sending you wishes for peace on your upcoming anniversary.

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