A friend who became a widow about a year ago asked me if the loneliness and tears ever stopped. I always hate to have to tell the truth that so many of us discovered — that it takes three to five years to find some sort of renewed interest in life, but even then, tears still come, though not as often or for as long as they once did, and the loneliness can continue to be a problem.
It took me ten years and a major life change — moving to a new town and buying a house — before I settled into a feeling of normalcy. I do still tear up at times, but that’s all it is — a momentary tearing up without enough moisture to escape my eyes, and I do still get lonely, though again, it’s more of a blip than a barrage of feelings because after all these years (it will be eleven years in seven weeks) I am used to being alone.
I still marvel that we can get to the point of feeling any sort of normalcy because the truth is, no matter what happens in our lives, they are still gone.
I remember having lunch with a woman who asked me how I was. This had to have been about four years after Jeff died, because I was mostly doing okay, which is what I told her. I would never even have mentioned him except that she asked, which is why her subsequent lecture on how I must really get over it and move on seemed so unfair. It’s not as if I brought up the subject or even bemoaned my fate. My response was just a simple, “I’m doing okay.” She eventually changed the subject back to herself, and this is where things really got bizarre. Her husband was gone for the weekend on a fishing trip, and she spent the rest of our time together talking about how much she missed him and how lonely she was.
I could only gape at her. Her husband had been gone but a day, would be home in another day or two, and their lives would continue as before. Jeff had been gone years, and would never return. It simply did not occur to her to correlate the two situations. Somehow it was okay for her to miss her husband, but not okay for me to miss Jeff. It was as if in her mind, death had erased him, not just in the present, but in the past, so that whatever we had shared was gone, eradicated from the record of my life, and for me even to think of him was an affront.
You’d think as the years pass, our loneliness and missing them would escalate because every new day is another day piled on the heap of days we’ve already spent missing them, but the miracle of grief is that although those feelings are still there, they become subsumed into the depths of our being, and so they don’t demand as much attention.
And so our lives continue.
But for most of us, getting to that point takes years.
If you are still in the midst of the hard years, I am truly sorry, but there is hope. Most of us who manage to claw our way out of the chaos of grief do find renewal of some sort. For me, first it was dance classes, and now it’s my house and home. For so long, Jeff was my home, but now I have an actual place I can call home. It’s not the same, of course, but considering the circumstances of my life, it’s pretty amazing that I got here.
This renewal isn’t unique to me. Many of us find ourselves, ten years after the death of a spouse, life mate, soul mate, in a completely different place, sometimes geographically, sometimes mentally or emotionally, sometimes spiritually, sometimes all three.
It doesn’t in any way make it okay that they are gone, doesn’t eradicate them from our lives, but it does make it easier for us to embrace life once more, to move away from the edge of the abyss where we teetered for so long.
Meantime, in your loneliness, know that at least one person understands, at least to some extent, what you are going through.
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
February 9, 2021 at 12:37 pm
Pat, I am working on six years. You have been a keel of understanding, guidance, and reality through my journey. I am blessed that I found your blog as most of the others didn’t track my path, although I can only speak for me. Perhaps most track a different, shorter timeline and that’s on which the research is based. Thank you.
February 9, 2021 at 1:02 pm
So many people who write about grief, as well as a large number of therapists and people who should know better rely on research to tell a griever what they should be feeling, rather than listening to them to find out what they truly are feeling. It’s a travesty.
February 9, 2021 at 12:46 pm
I don’t understand that woman equating missing her husband during a brief fishing trip with the death of a spouse/mate. She should be ashamed of herself and/or see a psychologist.
February 9, 2021 at 1:00 pm
People do tend to think that when a person dies, they are simply erased from life, so they tend to think that after a year or so, it no longer matters.
February 9, 2021 at 1:29 pm
They think that until they experience that.
February 9, 2021 at 12:57 pm
I am three years and four months without my husband physically by my side, but he is always here in my heart no matter where I am or what I am doing. I find myself at this point saying aloud, “I really miss you!” I may be in the car, walking through the house, or walking in nature and I just have to tell him that I miss him. I do not plan it; it just hits me hard at the moment. I have moved to another house in another location although not far away. I have sold a truck and bought a car. I have obtained a second dog. I have made changes but one thing will never change. I will always miss him. The idea of moving on from that seems impossible. I am okay… he did everything to make sure that I would be, but I miss him. I don’t think this is ever going to change. Only a person who has not lost a soulmate / lifemate would think you can get over it. There are so many things to share that only that one special person understands.
February 9, 2021 at 12:59 pm
Even after all this time, I am aware that Jeff is gone. Missing him still hits me hard at times, and that’s okay. I would never want to eradicate him from my life and heart.
February 9, 2021 at 3:52 pm
I have cried again of Pat writing, with others Den, Malcolm. R
Campbell and rheashowalter. First I must acknowledge Pat for always to help me to understand grief and to cope with and specially to understand others grief and respect.
I am really sorry for Den, I have no words and thanks a lot for the compassion of Malcolm. R Campbell and rheashowalter for the first six lines and the last four lines for me it was better expressed. I want to write the same words. In two days I am going to start my fourth year.
The only objective of my fourth year is to keep her souvenirs intact.
Try to internalize her love inside me to make a positive force with all of her love inside me. Dream one day I may have a chance to honor her and pay homage.
At the moment I honestly I don’t know about my future and try to survive day by day.
I continue to learn. I will always miss her.
February 10, 2021 at 4:43 am
I say “WTH!!!” to that lady with the husband gone fishing…no surprise he takes a seperate vacation from her!
As to you my friend, I read your words and once again admire your writing which validates my grief and gives me hope!
February 10, 2021 at 8:31 am
And you validate my writing, which gives me hope. Thank you.
February 10, 2021 at 8:55 am
My Mum still tears up when unpredictable circumstances have her missing Dad, 21 years after his death. She would agree with you; you reach a place where life goes on and it’s good, but you don’t erase the person you wish you were sharing that life with.
February 10, 2021 at 12:28 pm
I’ve come to really dislike the words “get over it”, and “move on”. Although I’m only a year out, I’m pretty confident I’ll do neither, ever.
What I am trying to do is learn to live with it as best I can. Along those lines, a lady friend and I have been spending time together recently. Both being single households, this is allowed by the Bob rules. My adult kids seem to feel this means I’m “moving on” too soon. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t, I guess.
February 10, 2021 at 5:41 pm
That’s all any of us can do — live with it the best we can. And yes, damned if we do, damned if we don’t. It’s why I try to stress to the family of and friends of those who lost a life mate that a person’s grief is there’s alone. No one else has the right to an opinion, but people always feel as if they do have that right.
February 11, 2021 at 10:04 am
Adult kids do get interesting. My son actually said to me that he hopes I do not get married again. I have no plans to get married again. I had the love of my life and before that lived with my son’s father in an unhappy marriage of 27 years. I just looked at my son but thought, “That is my business and I will do what I feel is right.” There was no reason to talk about it because he has no say in what I do in my relationships like that. If he had had his say in it I would have missed out on the 18-1/2 years I had with my soulmate.
February 11, 2021 at 5:27 am
Do the Loneliness and Tears Ever Stop? Today no. You are a brave and a sage woman. But I am not. Today I start the fourth year please don’t feel pity for me but simply try to understand. I am not afraid to loneliness, illness and dead. Mentally I was supposed to be a strong person. But not now. Your latest white snow photos were beautiful she left me a day like that.
C’est la vie! (It is the life !) I continue to my journey if it is necessary have a nice day
February 11, 2021 at 8:52 am
People always think we are brave when we continue putting one foot in front of the other, even though it doesn’t seem brave to us, and yet maybe we are. Maybe you are, too.
February 13, 2021 at 8:24 pm
I’d have walked out on her and left her to pay the entire check her own damn self.
February 13, 2021 at 10:21 pm
That would have been the smart thing to do, but in the end it worked out — I walked out of her life.
February 14, 2021 at 8:56 am
I can relate. I often find that I am so taken aback by such heartlessness that I can’t react until much later, usually with ghosting them or severely reducing my contact. It requires some fine-tuning, though… people need to be confronted with their insensitivity or thoughtlessness, in some cases. However, it’s hard to decide if that is worth the energy it would take, so I usually don’t take that route. OTOH it has come back to bite me when I failed to hold someone accountable and took the easy way out of avoidance.
February 14, 2021 at 7:42 pm
Usually I don’t think it’s worth the effort. Some people are naturally insensitive and have no idea what they did wrong. Sometimes things people said were so thoughtless they stunned me into immobility.
February 14, 2021 at 5:33 pm
two weeks. And I still have to get up and try to walk again. I am devastated and adrift – twenty years six months and fifteen days we were married and then suddenlyhe was gone. The house is full of him. *I* am still full of him. I find it hard tl get up in the morning.
February 14, 2021 at 7:45 pm
I am so very sorry. And yes — devastated and adrift. It’s a hard thing to have to deal with; it’s hard even to breathe.