One Thousand and One Days of Grief

clockAlthough yesterday’s post 1000 Days of Grief — and this one — might make it seem as if I am still counting the days of grief, I actually stopped counting after the first year. Once when I could not imagine ever being able to get through another hour, I counted to the 1000th day and marked it on the calendar. It seemed like a significant number — a guidepost — and I thought I should know the date. It is astonishing to me that I have managed to survive so many days since the death of my life mate/soul mate, but in truth, I am doing more than simply surviving. I am living.

Of the articles I have recently written, posts about celebrating various aspects of life outnumber my posts about grief, which puzzles me since I am not feeling at all festive. When you lose the person who connects you to the world, you have to find new ways of reconnecting to life, and apparently those celebratory posts are indicative of the changes in me, of how on a visceral level, my focus is turning away from death to life.

For so long, I didn’t feel right about embracing life when he was dead. I knew he wouldn’t want me to be sad, but frankly, he had no say in the matter, and for the most part, neither did I. Grief is a force, like a whirlwind, and all I could do was endure as best as I could until it lost its power. Even when the power of grief began waning, I still didn’t feel right about embracing life. It’s not so much that I had survivor’s guilt (especially since I wasn’t sure I still wanted to be here), but that it didn’t seem fair. If life is a gift, why was it taken from him?

Maybe he got the worst end of the deal by having to die so young. Maybe I got the worst end of the deal by having to live. This conundrum of who got the worst of the deal tormented me for a long time, but now I see that it doesn’t matter. It can’t matter. He died. I didn’t. That’s the way things are.

I’m starting to see myself as just me now, not as a shattered, left-behind half of a couple; starting to feel that whatever our life together meant, whatever our connection, this is my life. Not his. Not ours. Mine.

On a larger scale, perhaps, there is no such thing as “my life” and “his life” and “your life.” Maybe we are all somehow connected, like books on a library shelf, our stories interlocking and making a whole. But I cannot think of that larger scale right now. I need to be me, or rather, to find a new way of being, and oddly, this seems to be a typical leg in grief’s journey. I am taking a yoga class (therapy yoga, a gentler form of yoga that allows for one’s imitations) as part of my effort to open myself to new possibilities, and I recently discovered that, coincidentally, all the women in the class have lost their husbands. Our losses vary from one to ten years, but we are all striving for a new way of being, a new focus. We are also all trying to learn how to take care of ourselves in our old age since we won’t be growing old with anyone.

Whether I count the days or not, time is still passing, and at an increasingly rapid rate. On September 16, 2015, it will be 2000 days since his death. (No, I didn’t count those days, I used a decimal birthday counter.) What will I be like in another 1000 days? What will my life be like? If the changes come as rapidly as in the previous 1000 days, I doubt I will recognize me. Whatever happens, though, the number of days since I was born into this new life that his death forced on me, has little significance except as another guidepost. Each day stands alone. Each day finds its own meaning. Each day is mine to survive, or to celebrate, as best as I can.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

1000 Days of Grief

S1000 days have passed since the death of my life mate/soul mate.

1000 days. An incomprehensible number. At the beginning, I could not imagine living one more hour let alone one more day in such pain. And yet now 1000 of those days have passed and I don’t know where they went or how I survived them.

Even more incomprehensible, while I remember being in absolute agony those early months, beset by panic attacks, gut spasms, loss of breath, inability to grip things and hundreds of other physical and emotional affects, there is an element of blank to the memories, as if it were someone else in such distress. I remember screaming to the winds, though I can’t exactly recall what it felt like to be so stressed that only screaming could relieve the pain. I remember feeling as if I would die if I did not hear his voice, see his smile, feel his arms around me one more time. I remember the horrible feeling of goneness I was left with, as if half my soul had been wrenched from my body leaving an immeasurable void, but now I am bewildered by it all. Was that really me — staid, stoic me — lost in such an emotional maelstrom?

Most incomprehensible of all, as recently as a month or two ago, I was still subject to occasional flashes of raw agony, but even those seem far removed now. I still have times of tears, and probably always will have. How could I not? Someone whose very breath meant more to me than my own is gone — gone where, I do not know. But I no longer feel as if half of me has been amputated. I am just me now, not a shattered, left-behind half of a couple. Or maybe I have simply become used to this new state, as if this is the way my life has always been.

I still hate that he’s dead, but I’m also aware that his death has set me free. I spent many years watching him waste away, numbing myself to his pain, waking every morning to the possibility that he hadn’t lasted the night, dreading the end, worrying if I were up to the task of fulfilling his final wishes. All that is gone now, though the feelings of dread and worry and doubt inexplicably lasted way into this third year of grief. I used to think that grief was his final gift to me — despite the angst and agony, I embraced grief like a friend. I knew instinctively it would take me where I needed to go.

But now I know freedom was his final gift, though it was as unwanted and as unasked for as the grief. I haven’t learned yet what to do with this freedom. Perhaps if I embrace it as I did my grief, it will also take me where I need to go.

I’m still so very sad, though I am more at peace than I have been for a long time. In fact, the same photo of him that was too painful for me even to peek at for more than eighteen months after his death, now sometimes makes me smile. It might take me the rest of my life to puzzle out the meaning of our shared life, our incredibly bond, his death — if in fact there is a meaning — but what I’m left with right now is the knowledge that for whatever reason, he shared his life with me. He shared his dying. And then he set me free.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+