Quantum State of Grief

It’s kind of funny that after all these years after Jeff died, after all the years of grief and then the subsequent years of no grief (at least not more than a momentary pang or two of nostalgia), I still sometimes fall into the magical, quantum state of grief where Jeff seems to be both alive and dead.

I know he’s gone. I feel it in the very depths of my being. But sometimes, when I’m going about my daily life (that doesn’t seem anywhere near as ill-fitting as it once did), I find myself thinking one of those quantum thoughts.

Last night, as I wandered from room to room preparing for the night (checking to make sure the doors are locked, turning down the bed covers, making sure I have a glass of water on the nightstand), I thought that I should call his mother to find out how she’s doing, so I can let him know the next time I see him.

The realization of the illogicality of the thought didn’t send me into a spiral of grief, it just made me wonder why that thought, and why now. (Come to think of it, a friend called and mentioned that a mutual acquaintance inherited the care of her hated mother-in-law, which is probably what put the thought in my mind.)

It just goes to show that even when the pain is gone, the habits of grief and grief-thinking linger. That’s not the only stray thought — on more than a couple of occasions, I have found myself wandering through the house, wondering how and where Jeff would fit when he got here.

Hmm. I see a pattern here. I tend to think these thoughts when I am simply wandering from room to room, but that’s no reason to stay put. I do like wandering around my house, feeling the “home” of it. For so long, after he died, I never felt at home anywhere in particular (he had been my home), though I did learn to feel at home wherever I was because . . . well, because that’s where I was. Back then, I had to break myself of the habit of saying I was going home when I returned to one of the places I was inhabiting because it wasn’t home, just a place to roost. I still catch myself editing out the word “home” until I realize that hey! I have a home! It’s not just a place to go back to, but a place to settle into. A place to make my own.

I do wonder what Jeff would think about all this — my moving here, my owning a house, my getting old. (In three days, I will have lived six years longer than he lived.) But mostly, although he’s in the back of my mind and the back of my heart, thoughts of him and his death and my grief no longer dictate my life. Others things dictate the terms now, such as keeping up the house, keeping up my health, trying to hold back the infirmities of an aging body as long as I can. You know — life. Even though I knew from the beginning (odd that I still call his death and my ensuing grief “the beginning”) that the business of life is living — or do I mean the business of living is life? — I never really felt it. I felt the nearness of death and the winds of eternity more than the importance of my continued life.

But here I am, living, despite the occasional and brief lapses into the magical realism and quantum state of grief.


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

10 Responses to “Quantum State of Grief”

  1. Uthayanan Says:

    Pat I try to understand but I feel it is some how abstract for me. My late wife loved very much abstract thinking. I have understood when you said “I never felt at home anywhere in particular (he had been my home)” but as far as myself a very young grieving person I try to understand. May be I try to read again tomorrow. Because today it makes me to much crying.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      All I mean is sometimes we forget they are gone (even though we know they are gone) and unconsciously we act as if they are here.

      I hope tomorrow is a better day for you.

  2. Estragon Says:

    To the extent they’re indelibly part of us, and our memories didn’t die with them, they truly are still here with us. I also find myself thanking/behaving as if she is still here in corporeal form at time. Interesting that it’s still happening to you so long after.

    On the “home” front, my experience is sort of opposite, at least so far. The house feels like an empty shell of a former home. If it doesn’t start feeling like my home in the next year or so, I may look for a change. Maybe a spell of wandering about?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      A “spell of wandering about” takes hold of a lot of us. It’s one of the ways we look for new ways of being, I think. Or maybe it’s just that it’s a reflection of the homeless feeling. I went on a six-month cross-country road trip. Other people bought a motor home and traveled in it for a while. Others waited a few years, then moved. I know a couple of people who are still in their “coupled” home but most of us end up leaving. It’s too painful. Every sound reminds us it’s not our mate, every time we go into the empty house we are reminded they are not there. On the plus side, those who stay might feel more connected and comforted in later years, but getting to those later years is the problem.

  3. Uthayanan Says:

    Pat first I must thank you for your reply it helped me a lot.
    I am goin to read again tonight at the moment I’m still weak in my mind.
    And Estragon writing very much touching I feel like him but I don’t know how to express.
    First year I try to go for (run away) one year to Island or to Japan (I am a Japanese student). Administrative process of succession and other process made me that I cannot leave my appartement for lot of reasons inevitable. It hurts me a lot and helped me a lot. As far as I’m apt intelligent wise and intellectual like that I thought it is not a bad idea to continue to live for de moment even it is not easy. Specially it is very difficult for cooking and eating alone and before go to sleep.
    This year I have lot of dreams of her (not bad dreams) from August.
    Nearly every day. It is strange. I respect my grief and continue.
    My wife was very much fighter for the sage living so then I’m going to do the same.

  4. Judy Galyon Says:

    I understand the business of life.

    • Uthayanan Says:

      Hi Judy Galyon Could you kindly explain to me what do you mean by “ I understand the business of life.”
      Simply first time in my life I lost the reality about life.
      After brutal departure of my wife and my best friend
      I feel thousand men can build a strong fortress (chateau)
      In my point of view it is difficult to build a home without a woman.

  5. Rishi Says:

    I can truly understand this feeling though I’m much behind in my timeline, it’s been a little over six and a half years. I guess the isolation that such a loss brings, the inability of finding anyone who understands these feelings and the painful realization that the person you want to confide in is the same person you lost..all these linger on regardless of how much time has passed. The gasping hole of their absence is permanent.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, exactly. Even if you find peace, contentment or even happiness years later, that hole is always there. The inability to find anyone who understands is why I started writing about grief, and in doing so, I found others who did understand because they had been there, too.

  6. Uthayanan Says:

    Thanks Rishi for your explanation of the reality. Pat helped me a lot about the grief and to understand. Specially her reply’s. Some replies worth a book. I lost about the notion of the time line. Every day look like the same and I lost the feeling of days, months, and years. The worst I have no felling between birth, marriage, and dead. I never afraid of dead but I have got to continue. In France it became a taboo about talking about grief after Second World War. Now with COVID-19 i don’t know how people are going to react later.
    As you said “ The gasping hole of their absence is permanent.”
    I must thank you again for your words.
    Take care

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