The Sorrow, Stress, and Solitariness of Grief

A friend asked me how long it took me not to cry every day after Jeff died. My first response was “months” because I didn’t want to freak her out with how long grief lasts, but when I realized that it was better to be forewarned, I told her the truth.

I don’t remember when I stopped crying every day, but I know it went on for years. In a way, it’s not as bad as it sounds. At the beginning I cried almost all the time, but as the months passed, even though I still cried every day, it was not as long or as often. Even years after Jeff died, I was still tearing up almost every day — not really crying, but not not-crying, either. Sometimes the tears came from missing him or loneliness or exhaustion or being around those who were still happily married. Other times, something happened to cause the upsurge of grief: a smell, a memory, something I read or saw.

Now, months go by without a tear, but then, I am not a new widow. I am used to his being gone, used to being alone, used to the void that remains somewhere deep inside.

Not everyone has that deep well of tears, but enough of us do that I know tears are a normal part of dealing with such a devastating loss. Losing a life mate ranks at the very top of stressful situations. On a scale of 1 to 100, the loss of a life mate or child tops all at 100. Divorce, the second worse stressor is 73.

Sorrow. Stress. Solitariness. Any one of those makes for a very rough time, but when they all come at once, as they do when one has suffered a profound loss, they create a near-impossible situation. No wonder tears are such a common occurrence after the loss of a spouse or soul mate or life mate.

Although none of us like to cry, and although we perceive tears to be a sign of weakness, tears are necessary to help us relieve the incredible stress of grief. What adds to an already stressful situation (not the least being that the one person we need to help us through our loss is the very person we are mourning) is the sporadic and chaotic nature of grief. We can be doing fine — fine meaning not tearful — when suddenly, we are overtaken by grief. When that bout of sorrow is over, we think we have a grip, and then we’re hit again with the realization of our loss, and there we are, back at the beginning.

Unsettled times such as this current world-wide crisis, as well as the enforced isolation, can make grief even worse since there is nothing to do to take one’s mind off the pain, nowhere to run to for a moment of solace.

But there are always tears. At the beginning, crying seemed to make me feel worse, but as time went by and I realized that there were worst things than crying — such as suffering the physical and mental effects of stress — I came to appreciate the relief. Later, I came to welcome any tears because they seemed to bridge the gap and make me feel closer to him, and if not to him, then to my grief.

And if there are no tears to relieve the sorrow, stress, and solitariness of grief? Then you can try screaming. That works, too.


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 “The Sorrow, Stress, and Solitariness of Grief”

  1. Uthayanan Says:

    Dear Pat,
    I admire of you like always very well written. Me too I don’t remember when I stopped crying every day. After two years I cry almost every day. I put your words “not really crying, but not not-crying, either”. First time in my life that I never ashamed of while traveling in the metro when it happens with or without reason I was overtaken by grief I let the tears come from eyes.
    I can cry anytime and anywhere. It is the first time in my life. I never cried for my father’s, mother’s, and my sister’s funeral even thought I loved them very much and very much attached to them.
    I have no fear to cry with tears or without, no shame, and I don’t think or feel tears to be a sign of weakness.
    I continue to walk every day. Even I am an agnostic during my walk I pray for the people who continue give their moral support for me including you.
    Pat I have no words to thank you. Simple you write wonderfully and keep going.
    Now I know that you can walk better than before.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I didn’t cry when my brother died. And I didn’t cry when my mother died, so it really shocked me when Jeff died and I couldn’t turn off the tears. I didn’t think I had it in me to cry like that or to feel such horrendous pain. Losing a life mate is definitely different from other kinds of grief. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you’re doing well. Keep taking care of yourself, especially now.

  2. Judy Galyon Says:

    Thanks Pat. The tears seem to help a smidge at times. My eyes swell when I cry, so I’m a little relieved that there is no one around to see me. Talking to my few friends & seeing my daughter for dinner on Saturdays helps a little. I know it’s just time & my dog that will get me to the other side of tears.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    Thank you for your honesty!!
    11 years ago I lost my only Daughter. All Hollidays stoped 11 years ago for me. I lost my “man” 2 years ago when he died in my arms at home suddenly in an instant! I have no family/reletives left. I cry almost daily/nightly – and no one knows this. I do find some relief of that “gut punch” feeling at least after the Sobbing. I would explode if not for my private Tears that no one knows. It gets me thru another day. I hide it tho from others – and they say how strong I am – seeing that I will only give others my “joys” instead of my “grief”. It is private between me and God – as I cry out for “solace” sometimes all night long! Exhausting to be sure! Sleep is minimal still at best. I can be up for 3 days straight in tears still. I think people need to know they are not alone in these (private) behaviours. I thought I was not normal – as I never heard “the truth” of the Sorrow that Stays inside even a decade later! We are not alone in this tupe of grief is what I now know. It is just not talked about openly is all. Lets All get used to being a Real Human being – that grief does “live” inside and does not go away. U just Learn skills to cope with living with it. Otherwise it Can (kill) you if you give up “dealing” with “what IS”. Bless you ALL!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, my. I am so sorry. Of course you cry all night. So much loss! It’s hard, especially when you have no family left. No, you’re not the only one to feel this way, Like you, most of us only cried when we were alone at night, so no one ever finds out the truth about grief — that it is devastating and stressful, that it will always be part of our lives to some degree, that it changes us. You will find a way through to a renewal in life, though it might take a few more years. Wishing you peace and a good night’s sleep.

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