An email correspondent sent me this French quote: “L’être aimé devient votre énergie intérieure” meaning “The loved one becomes your inner energy.” I don’t know if the quote originally was about a deceased loved one or any loved one, but it does seem to fit those of us whose mates have died. At least, it seems to fit me.
Jeff was the first person to accept me as I was, who actually seemed to enjoy my stray and strange thoughts, and who often could do me one better. Until I met him, the best I could hope for from my friends was a bewildered look as they listened to whatever I had to say before they changed the subject to something more mundane. I was stunned on the day I met Jeff when he threw the conversational ball back at me. That truly had never happened before. It was intoxicating, having a back and forth and up and down and all around conversation dealing with things I was thinking about.
Being with Jeff allowed me to be myself in a way I had never been before. The world does not treat its unwitting and naïve noncomformists well, and I was both. I had no idea why people thought I was different, and obviously, I had no idea how to be like them, because whenever I tried, I became even more different.
With Jeff, I wasn’t different. I just . . . was.
Now that the pain of his being gone has dissipated, and now that I am used to living on my own without my special friend — the one with whom I could do everything, the one with whom I could do nothing (finding people to do something with is fairly easy, but finding someone to do nothing with is special indeed) I notice that whatever energy we generated between us that allowed me the freedom of self is still with me.
I don’t in anyway think that he himself is actually with me — I have no idea if he still exists anywhere in any form — but I do feel that energy. It could be why I talk to him (or rather to his picture on my bedside table). Even though I still feel the void where he once was, I also feel that somehow he is still part of my life. This energy could simply be generated by memories of him, though despite the fact that I draw comfort from thinking of him in general, specific memories tend to make me sad because so many of those memories are tinted by his ill health. (For example, if I have a sweet memory of us sitting on the living room floor playing a board game, then it is followed by the memory that the time came too soon when he could no longer concentrate to play.)
When I was new to grief, a woman told me something her widowed mother said, that the loved one’s absence comes to mean what their presence once did. This is sort of the same thing as the French saying. In both cases, I draw strength from having known him, from being with him, from steeping in the courage with which he met his end.
Part of the eventual acceptance of my new life and my new/old self came from a belief — possibly a nonsensical belief — that he wouldn’t have left me if I wasn’t going to be okay. It’s what kept me going for years when I was so bewildered by all that grief threw at me. And it’s given me the inner energy to fuel all the changes in me and my life that have happened since he died.
It truly is odd to think that though he has been gone almost twelve years, he is still so important to me and influential to my life. But then, it’s no odder than any other weirdness encompassed in the experience we call 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.