A Downsurge of Grief

I’ve just passed through an upsurge of grief (though it was really more of a downsurge — I’ve been in a funk the past few weeks). I hadn’t realized I was experiencing an episode of grief — it just felt as if it were sorrow as usual — until this morning when I noticed the grief had seeped away leaving behind a strange feeling of optimism. (Strange because there is no reason for it — nothing has changed, no issues have been resolved, and a blank future still lies ahead of me.)

Why that particular upsurge? I’m not really sure — grief needs no reason. I have a hunch, though, it had to do with the odd anniversaries of grief I’d just passed through. First there was the anniversary of the worst day of my life, then there was the anniversary of leaving our home. I’d barely noticed these days during my second and third years of grief, so I never expected to even remember them this far into my journey, but apparently my body did. (It remembers even when I don’t.)

Or perhaps the grief upsurge could have been instigated by the recent loss of a couple of friends. (Lost not to death but to differences of lifestyle and opinion.) Any loss seems to bring on an upsurge of sorrow, reminding me of that most grievous loss — the death of my life mate/soul mate.

Or maybe I’m just making a big thing out of no thing. Maybe I’m blaming the normal vicissitudes of my life on grief, when in fact this is the new me, though I hope not. I hate to think that I’ll always be so emotionally frail, given to tears over the least little upset. At least with grief, there is always the possibility of someday being able to reclaim my equilibrium and once again take life as it comes.

Though come to think of it — are tears really so bad? They relieve stress and help wash away the hormones that build up because of that stress. (Remember Holly Hunter in Broadcast News? Peppy little thing, always on the go, always thinking, always two steps ahead of everyone, then when she’s alone, she breaks into tears for a few minutes. I never understood that part of her character . . . until now.)

Maybe I should worry more if the tears dry up forever.

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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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Anniversaries of Grief

I don’t know why certain anniversaries loom so large in our lives, but for whatever reason, the anniversaries of grief are immense. At the beginning of my grief over the death of my life mate/soul mate, a minister friend told me that always on the anniversary, even if I’m not consciously aware of the date, I will feel an upsurge of grief. This is only my second anniversary, with perhaps dozens still to come, but I can already see the truth of his words. Grief comes from somewhere deep within, somewhere deeper than thought, somewhere deeper than volition. And it keeps track of time.

People who have not experienced a grievous loss often think that grief is a choice. Sometimes, especially when young children are involved, the remaining parent can put off grief to focus on the childrens’ needs, but still, grief will surface at the anniversary. Later in life, this grief will surface again, perhaps when the last child leaves home, or when a beloved pet dies. I know a woman who went from taking care of a dying husband to taking care of her aged mother. She didn’t grieve after the death of her husband because of this new focus, but the death of her mother about destroyed her. For most of us, though, grief cannot be denied. We embrace it or it embraces us, and we reap the whirlwind.

This anniversary phenomena does mystify me, though. I’ve been experiencing a devastating grief upsurge, and yet nothing significant happens on the anniversary to count for all the sorrow. In fact, if last year is anything to go by, the day itself will be peaceful, bringing with it a quiet gladness that he was in my life. But the anniversary is not the end of anything. In fact, it is the beginning of something even worse — the beginning of another year without him. Another year where he is dead. Another year of trying to build a future on the ashes of our shared past.

The worst thing, of course, is that I’ve had two years of living in a world where he does not exist. The sheer goneness of him builds rather than dissipates. He is more gone now than he was two years ago, and next year he will be even more gone. Apparently, one can get used to anything, so eventually I’ll simply get used to the feeling of emptiness he left in the world, perhaps even learn to look beyond the blank space on Earth he once inhabited.

I hope, of course, I will be able to find a new life. Or do I mean a new focus? Because, of course, this is my life and always has been. It was my life before I met him, it was my life while we were together, and it is still my life, as alien as it feels. And as much as I hate that he is dead, as much as I fight the idea that I am still alive, the truth is that he is, and that I am.