Grief: The Great Learning, Day 445

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons gleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no sequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Although this letter was written three and a half years ago, it reflects much of what I am thinking about now. My father recently died, and now I am facing what I could only think about back then — the vast open plain of the future before me.

I am packing to leave this house and go . . . I know not where. I’ll probably stay around here for a while. I have made new friends after those referred to in this letter disappeared out of my life, and it just occurred to me that I can speak about all of my concerns to at least one of those women. It’s nice and helps offset the loneliness that still hits me every evening.

And oh, yes. I still keep hoping for major changes — good changes.


Day 445, Hi, Jeff.

I’ve been going through an upsurge of grief, missing you so damn much. It stuns me, like a snake stunned by a rock thrown at it, to think I’ll never see you again. You’d think I’d have come to an accommodation with that, but such ”acceptance” of that fact does not bring acceptance of what it means — death for you, loneliness for me.

Life involves people, doesn’t it? I’m trying to “people” my life, but it’s not the same thing as being connected to one specific person. We were often lonely even when we were together, but this loneliness is incomprehensible. I’m considering staying here after my father dies because at least I know people here, but so many of the people I have met, especially those from my grief group, have already faded from my life. And if the rest disappear, then what?

It should be exciting to have the vast open plain of the future before me, but all I see is bleakness and aloneness. I have no one to talk to about my concerns. I don’t know how to cope with that. I keep hoping for major changes (good changes), but all that seems to be happening is a slow descent into inevitability.

I hope you’re not lonely. I couldn’t bear that.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Letter to Jeff, Day 435


Day 435, Hi, Jeff.

Another Saturday. I’m tearing up again, though I’m not sure why. Loneliness, I guess. Feeling sorry for myself. I need to get on with my life, concentrate on myself. But how lonely is that? Perhaps it’s better to have no hope. Just try to take the days as they come. It sounds a lot easier than it is. The damn emotions get in the way.

Will this sorrow ever end? Will anything good ever happen to me? Do you miss me? Do you still exist? Will I ever love again? Will anyone ever love me? Is this all there is — this emptiness? I can fill the emptiness with doing things — reading, writing, walking, whatever comes my way — but as soon as I stop concentrating on the “fill,” the emptiness shows up again.

I need something to hold on to. I need something concrete to build my life on, but there isn’t anything but maybe survival. Survival — that’s what your life ended up being about. Is that all there is? Survival until there is no more survival?

How did you manage to survive as well as you did? Was it worth it living with such pain? I guess, in the end, there isn’t really a choice. You have to play out the hand you’re given. Damn. I wish I weren’t so lonely. I might be able to deal with your being gone if not for that. And I really should be able to deal with it. For cripes sake, I am not a child.

What a mess my life is, well, if emptiness can be called a mess. I wish I cared about something. I wish I could talk to you. I wish you weren’t dead. I wish you hadn’t been so sick for so long.

Maybe I’m being insensitive, whining about my life when you no longer have a life. But then, maybe you got the better end of the deal. I hope so.

I love you.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Trying to Imagine a New Life

It’s amazing the convoluted paths one’s brain takes when one needs to start building a new life.

Technically, I suppose, it’s never possible to start anew since we always drag ourselves and our experiences with us, but still, for me and others I have recently met, our old life has expired, become unworkable, or no longer exists. In my case, my shared life with my life mate/soul mate no longer exists. He no longer exists, at least not here on earth. I still have many of our shared belongings, but even if I wanted to, there is no way to retrace my steps. Not only that, my current life has expired. When my old life ceased to exist, I filled an interim niche looking after my nonagenarian father. And now he, too, is gone. Even if by some stroke of good luck (or bad) and I were allowed to stay here in my father’s house, it would not be workable because I simply would not have the resources to keep up such a huge place.

And so I am trying to imagine a new life.

I often think of living on foot, at least for a while. Although it seems physically impossible for me, I can’t get the idea out of my head. Could I? Would I? Should I? It’s possible that life itself would dictate my taking the massive first step. For example if my ancient VW were to break down in the middle of nowhere, I would need to start walking. And perhaps I would simply keep on walking.

trailsOr, my latest harebrained idea — a friend has broached the subject of my visiting Florida. A long shot, and only in the first stages of consideration, but my thoughts immediately glommed onto the idea of walking back across the USA if the trip came to fruition. Supposedly, if one is going to make a cross-country trip on foot, east to west is best — probably because there are more resources in the east, such as close-flung towns and more water sources than in the dry west.

I would like to visit a friend in Louisiana, a very dear friend I have yet to meet. Could I walk to her house from deep in the Florida panhandle? There are roads, of course, mainly highways, but then I checked the national trails map, and oh, my. There is a Florida National Scenic Trail for hikers. (Click on the map, and then click again to zoom out if you’d like to see a higher resolution image.)  The Florida National Scenic Trail is not finished, but there are connecting spurs via rail-to-trail paths and other such footpaths from completed section to completed section. (Rail-to-trail is a system of abandoned railroad tracks and rail beds that have been converted to various trails.) And so my mind spins wonderful possibilities as well as even more wonderful impossibilities.

I have been thinking about some sort of trek for so long, some day I will have to attempt . . .  something. Even if I manage a single day and night, that would still be an adventure.

Meantime, I’m also considering the possibility of some sort of van conversion for an extended road trip. Should I buy something already outfitted like a mini camper? Should I get something inexpensive in case I end up hating the idea? (I’ve been researching renting such a camper van, and the cost for a year is more than the purchase price of a decent used model.) Or should I buy something that would also serve as a city vehicle, and just a throw a mattress in the back to start? Would I want to live in a van for any length of time? (That old Saturday Night Live sketch about living in a van down by the river comes to mind.) And if so, would I want to design and build my own interior as a couple of people have suggested?

I like the idea of living large in small spaces — there seem to be a growing trend to miniscule homes, 300 square feet or less. I considered such a house, even went so far as to check out the feasibility of building one myself, but to tow the finished product would require a stronger vehicle than I have or would want to have. Still, the idea of designing my own place based on my basic needs is an interesting concept. What do I need? A bed, of course. A computer and electricity to run it. Some sort of potty. Maybe cooking facilities, maybe not. Maybe a lovely and lovingly furnished interior, maybe not. Maybe a shower, maybe not. (Yeah, I know, “maybe” includes “maybe not” but I liked the alliteration and the emphasis.)

Some people who have chosen such a lifestyle have omitted bathing facilities from their tiny space, instead opting for a membership at a national health club where hot showers would be available. An interesting solution.

People caution me about planning too much. They keep telling me I have no idea what might happen, and that is true, so I am simply playing with these ideas. Maybe, contrary to my gut feeling, my father’s house won’t sell right away. Maybe someone will offer a suggestion that I fall in love with for my next step, something I didn’t imagine. Maybe . . . well, I did say I have no idea what might happen so it’s foolish to continue listing maybes.

But I will continue to wonder what it is I need from life, what it is I need for life.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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+. Like Pat on Facebook.