4,000 Days

This is the 4,000th day since Jeff died. That’s a lot of days, taken one at a time.

I never used to count days or months or years. Well, my birthday, that’s the one count we all make, though after I reached adulthood, the number of years I’d lived became a curiosity rather than celebration, a number to acknowledge and then move on.

After Jeff died, counting became a part of my life, of my grief. Surprisingly, I’m not the only one who counted the days; most of us who have been left behind count at least for a while.

When we lose a significant person in our life, one whose death rocks us to the very depths of our being and changes us forever, it’s as if we are born into a world of grief, and our internal clocks reset themselves to that moment of birth.

At first, we count the minutes and hours we’ve lived, then after we’ve survived twenty-four or forty-eight interminable and interminably painful hours, we being counting the days. Eventually we move on to counting weeks, months, years, and even decades. To the uninitiated, this counting seems as if we’re dwelling on the past, constantly reminding ourselves of our sorrow, but the truth is, counting is a way of helping us survive this new, alien world.

Grief distorts time. Sometimes it feels as if time stops, but simultaneously it feels as if it speeds up. Seconds seem like hours. Hours can feel like days or pass by in seconds. We lose track of what the date is. The past and future might become so entwined that we can’t always be sure if we’re going forward or backward. A particularly strong flashback to the days before our loved one died can make it seem as they are still alive, in another room perhaps. An especially serene moment between grief upsurges can catapult us to a future world of possibility, a world without pain. Counting the days helps put time back into perspective.

Mentioning that this is the 4,000th day makes it seem as if I am still counting, but the truth is, I stopped counting days, weeks, and months, a long time ago, though I still count the years. (On March 27, it will be eleven years.) During research on another matter, I came across the number 4,000 and I put in on my calendar, otherwise this day would have passed without a comment. And maybe it should have. After all, what difference does it make how many days he’s been gone? He’s gone, and no amount of counting will change that.

Still, I did survive all those days, too many of which were pain-filled and angst-ridden, so that’s something worth acknowledging, I suppose.


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

11 Responses to “4,000 Days”

  1. rheashowalter Says:

    Loss and grief are strange companions in many ways. I do not count anymore either as I usually have to stop and think about the time passed. Some days it seems like it was yesterday and some days I wonder if I really lived that life full of love once. Some days out of the blue it seems I still can find myself in tears as the memories flood in. Other days I go about my business with a sense that he is still with me. For me it will soon be 3-1/2 years since my husband changed worlds and 26 years since my 18-year-old son left this life. One might think that after 26 years I would not find myself in tears over than loss but it does not work that way. Although it has been woven into the tapestry of my life and who I am today, I can still have a good cry that loss from time to time.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, that’s the way it is. Sometimes time folds into itself, and it feels just like yesterday. Other times it stretches out and that shared past seems so very far away. It’s funny, last night, for no particular reason, I got that falling elevator feeling and realized . . . again . . . that he’s gone.

  2. Uthayanan Says:

    1100+ days. Lost and grief and time really strange for me. My wife said always I have a very good memory of the past. It helps to keep her souvenirs. But her suffering’s last days with cancer I feel often. Yesterday I have cried more hurtfully and profoundly than third year. I try to convert her souvenirs forever in my heart as a strong force still not with success.
    Mentally I was supposed to be a strong person but not now.
    With curfew 6 pm to 6 am I try make some little projects for my future to keep occupied. If I stay alive for another 2900 days I will have my best chance to honor and pay homage to her.

  3. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    In many ways grief is timeless. It ebbs and flows as our inner strength does and permanently wanes only if we’ve managed to push the past behind us. Strangely, I’ve never counted those days. Long ago I started jotting the dates on my calendar, so now I can tell you the specific year, and usually the month, that marked the departure of people special to me, but beyond that I have to actually calculate how many years it is. Maybe that’s a defense mechanism? 4000 days sounds like a very long time. I don’t really want to know how many days it is since my daughter’s departure in 1996.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I think it’s that very timelessness that makes some of us count the days, trying to bring it into the “time” of our lives. I can understand not counting, too, as a defense mechanism. I think it would be impossibly hard to lose one’s child. I’ve never counted days other than with Jeff, though I do know the date other family members have died.

  4. Joe Says:

    Coming up quickly on 1,460 days, plus 1 day for Leap Year Day, or 4 years. I like all of the analogies shared here and in comments, and the collective grief going on worldwide is certainly playing tricks on our perception of time. My most recent rabbit hole moment came when watching _Contact_, the movie adaptation of Carl Sagan’s book, starring Jodie Foster. The scene where she emerges from the wormhole and encounters the alien emissary, in the form of her late father, has a whole new dimension for me now. I suppose these sorts of blindsides will always happen.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      My latest “blindside” was a bit weird. Not grief so much as vertigo as I realized, once more, that he was dead. I don’t think things can ever be different because they will always be gone.

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