During the past couple of years, I have tried to concentrate more on what I have gained rather than all that I have lost. The tally is still vastly weighted on the loss side, but good things have happened, such as finding a house and creating a home for myself.
The past few days, however, melancholy has gotten hold of me, and I remember the losses. I don’t know whether the plethora of dark clouds and rainy days are responsible or if it’s merely one of “those” times. That this is Memorial Day is entirely coincidental. In fact, I didn’t even remember it was Memorial Day until I went to the library and found it closed. Besides, although Memorial Day has become a day to remember all our dead, its original intent was a day for remembering those who died for their country in any of its various wars.
It’s true that most of my “losses” are loved ones who have died in the past decade or so — my parents, my brothers closest to me in age, and Jeff, of course — but there are other profound losses during those same years that still shape my life, such as the destruction of my arm (though I have become used to the deformity and the remnants of pain), the lack of dance classes, the inability to hike long distances, and losing my home not once but twice (once when Jeff died and once when my dad died). The home loss is especially poignant in an area where families have remained for generations. They might not have lived their whole lives in this very town; they might have come from a nearby town, but to someone who is new to the area, this seems inconsequential. It’s not as if they moved hundreds of miles. They are still within reach of where they grew up, within reach of family and memories.
But this isn’t about them. It’s about me feeling the losses and me feeling lost. Although I didn’t list it with my losses above, I think one of the greatest losses is of myself. Grief changes a person. Being semi-nomadic changes a person. Being isolated changes a person. Owning a home changes a person. I am getting used to who I have become and am still becoming, but it’s not the me I remember being all those years with Jeff. Somehow, our being together allowed me to be a truer version of me than I’d ever been before. I tend to think I am again living a true version of myself, but it’s a different version, one that sometimes strikes me as being . . . not me.
It might be that I spend too much time alone. Although I am comfortable living alone, I must admit I still miss having someone to do nothing with. Sometimes I have someone to something with, but those days of doing nothing in particular with someone are long gone. There are so many little nothings in a day — miniscule victories or insignificant happenings that aren’t worth talking about, but that we want to mention anyway. And there are times when we’re sad or lonely or restless, and just want a moment’s connection — perhaps nothing more than a shared look — before continuing our daily tasks. I can call people or text them, but it’s not the same thing. By the time I make the connection, the moment of nothing has become something.
I don’t mean to sound as if I feel sorry for myself. I don’t really, at least, not much. I just think it’s important to occasionally stop and remember what once was and is no longer.
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
May 31, 2021 at 6:59 pm
Pat first it is a beautiful photo. At the moment I can’t look her photos.
I am afraid one day if I have enough strength to see her photos. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. I lost my father, mother and my sister in difficult condition and two funeral for me it was impossible to attend. Helplessly I try to bury my grief of them. But my wife’s departure changed me completely. I try to use the word departure always instead of she has died because I feel that she is living permanently with me interior in my heart. Positive, negative, success, failure, good things and bad things going to happen to my life if I continue to live.
Like lots of people lost their soulmate. My life will be never the same and I am not the same person anymore.
As you have said always even at the moment I am still shell shocked, completely empty, confused and grief will make appearance without warning.
At the moment I have not enough serenity to understand.
Please don’t feel sorry for you.
I hope for the Memorial Day memory of Jeff will give you more peace.
May 31, 2021 at 7:32 pm
Thank you. I too hope it will bring me peace. And I hope you will eventually find your own peace.
May 31, 2021 at 7:04 pm
I understand. I had such a day yesterday, partly due to the cold, gloomy weather, partly due to memories of better times, partly due to the isolation (mostly self-imposed) and wondering if I will ever have someone again, or if I even want such a thing.
May 31, 2021 at 7:31 pm
I wondered for a long time if I would ever have someone again or if I even wanted such a thing, but now I don’t think I do. Too much upheaval, I think.
June 1, 2021 at 8:27 am
Well, I’m young enough to think it might happen one day, but old enough to know it would be a huge adjustment. And the prospect of re-experiencing loss and death is deterrent enough, I think.
June 4, 2021 at 7:47 pm
I feel the same way, Pat.
Upheaval is a great description, along with chaotic, traumatic, terrifying and countless other words.
Having been married for 29 years and together for 36, then losing my husband in a month has been unfathomable, unbelievable and still is.
This pain and sadness is unlike anything in my life AND I will Never
deal with losing a spouse again.
It has been 3 1/2 years and I am just starting to truly realize that he is not coming back. Not going through it ever again.
Maybe others may feel differently.
May 31, 2021 at 8:53 pm
Living in a quite sunny part of the country, there aren’t all that many long runs of gloomy weather. Still, when then do happen, I find the weather tends to impose its gloom on me.
In thinking about loss, I find it helpful to remember that the loss is a consequence of having had something in the first place. One simply cannot lose what one never had.
I suppose that raises the question of whether, knowing what I know now about the pain of loss, I would avoid the having in the first place? In my case, the answer is no. The having was more important than the losing. For others, the losing apparently trumps the having, so they choose to never have (or never again) – I guess.
May 31, 2021 at 9:46 pm
I agree about the having being more important than the losing. Even if I knew what awaited me (and actually, at the beginning I knew — it was more than a premonition, I simply knew — that our relationship would eventually bring one of us pain, though I had no idea it would be me or how or why or how bad it would be), I still would have chosen to be with him.
June 2, 2021 at 4:00 am
Your first grief book” Grief: The Great Yearning” definitely saved me during the overwhelming early days following my husband’s passing. Your honesty and personal experience navigated me day by day and month to month.
So, here I am, three and a half years later and finding your blog in my inbox.
Grief has become part of my daily life, missing my husband in ways as you mentioned above. The nothingness, the shared glances. Simply knowing the other is in the room. All of the memories create aches in my heart. I havent arrived at the point where the memories make me smile, in fact they make me cry. One day…
Solo parenting. Tough, sad, difficult.
It hasn’t gotten easier. Sadder, in fact.
Glad to have re-found you. I have discovered that only widowed persons truly understand.
June 2, 2021 at 10:13 am
Although I am terribly sad about why you need my book, I am glad you found comfort in my words. At three and a half years, you are just at the beginning of the time when you will find some sort of renewal and an ability to smile at the memories (it takes three-and-a-half to five years). As you can see from my most recent post, though, that grief to some extent will always be a part of your life. I can’t imagine raising children at the same time. Thank you for stopping by, Antonella. Wishing you peace.
June 4, 2021 at 12:52 pm
“All of the memories create aches in my heart. I havent arrived at the point where the memories make me smile, in fact they make me cry. One day…”
How beautifully expressed by Antonella Totino
I would like to say the same words.
And Pat thank you very much for your reply very much convincing.
My grief at the moment like seesaws and it helps.
October 29, 2021 at 7:22 am
Veryy creative post