The theme of the book I finished read last night was about lies, both ancient and not so ancient, and how those lies changed people and places even decades later. A secondary theme was about what makes a home a home. It wasn’t a particularly enthralling book; in fact, the story was rather predictable.

At the end, the female character was walking down the aisle, to “her friend. Her groom. Her home.” And suddenly, I was sobbing. I hadn’t been emotionally invested in the story, so my reaction to the ending surprised me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have. It was a reminder of what I have lost and that I am alone. Even worse, that I am alone at Christmas. Jeff and I never celebrated Christmas except by default, sort of like my Jewish friends who watch movies and eat Chinese food since there’s nothing much else to do, but it’s still an emotional time of year for those of us who are alone.

I don’t have to be alone, of course. It’s my own choice not to try to shoehorn myself into other people’s family gatherings despite their kind invitations, but whatever the reason, I will be alone while others are celebrating with their loved ones.

The upsurge of grief didn’t last long, not more than a few minutes, but it did make me wonder how much I’ve been lying to myself, merely pretending to be happy in my new life. I focus so much on the good things and the things I can do, such as having a house and friends, creating a home and a garden, and that focus blocks out the unpleasant truths, such as Jeff being dead and me being alone (and lonelier than I admit even to myself).

But those sad thoughts disappeared in the bright light of morning. Today I’m fine with no lingering aftereffects of that reminder of my loss. I also have no lingering afterthoughts about my contentment being a pretense. It might, in fact, be a pretense, like a kid playing house, but I don’t see what difference it makes. As I keep saying, what it comes down to is taking each day as it comes, being grateful for what comes, and letting go of old hopes and dreams to concentrate on creating new ones.

Which is what I am doing. There is a certain amount of pretense to hoping, dreaming, and recreating a life for oneself, and that pretense is what helps bring forth the reality. So if I am pretending, it’s all to the good.


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.

4 Responses to “Pretending”

  1. Uthayanan Says:

    Pat your house looks nice and well maintained. With red color rock stones and green grass. Honestly I am struggling with my fourth year grief. But I am pretty sure that neither Jeff or my soulmate want us to stay unhappy or to be pretend. Obviously I lost my happiness but I am very calm at home.
    My doctor suggested not to stay alone during the festivities but it is impossible for lots of personal reasons including pandemic. I wish you peace and you are not alone with all the people wish peace, calm and serenity to you around the world.
    I have tried Baileys Irish Cream for the first time today it tastes quite good. For a person who appreciate quality Bourbon whiskey.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sometimes it’s less lonely being alone during the holidays than to be with others, especially couples.

      I’m pleased you tried the Baileys. It’s always good to try something different. Come to think of it, I should take my own advice and try something different during the coming holidays.

  2. Estragon Says:

    The word “pretense” is interesting. In ordinary use, it seems to imply something factually incorrect or deceitful.

    Thinking about the bits of the word (i.e. “pre” and “tense”) is where it gets interesting. Tense is the time, past/present/future, in which something has/is/will occur. The past and present tenses can be factual in that they have happened or are happening. I can say I met you yesterday, or I am meeting you now. There is or could be evidence to that effect. The future tense is a bit different though. I can say I will meet you tomorrow at 3:00pm, which may or may not be true when that future becomes present or past tense. In the meantime, our meeting is simply an intention. Before (“pre”) those tenses, our meeting tomorrow may be planned, but is factually uncertain. Not necessarily incorrect or deceitful, just uncertain “pretense”. We may be pretending to meet tomorrow, but isn’t that an important step in making it become factually correct?

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