Still Confounded by Grief

For two years, my reaction to the death of my life mate/soul mate has bewildered me. I knew he was dying and I’d spent over a decade preparing myself for that eventuality. I thought I’d accepted the inevitable, but now I see I was merely resigned (and perhaps exhausted). Still, I am independent-minded, always have been. I know how to do things on my own, know how to entertain myself, know how to take care of myself. I’ve never been afraid of being alone, never been one to hide behind pretty lies or protective fantasies. And yet his death devastated me as much as it confounded me. In fact, after almost two years (two years minus two days, to be exact; 729 days) I still feel lost, still feel broken.

Not all deaths affect people the same. My mother died three years before my mate, and my brother died a year before that. My grief for them was what I used to consider “normal.” I missed them and felt bad that they were gone, but my life went on without any major upheavals. But when my mate died, it was a cataclysm, affecting every part of my life. And the strong connection we always had, a cosmic-twin sort of connection, was broken.

The day before my mother’s funeral, I broke my ankle, so I spent her viewing at the emergency room and I spent her funeral at the bone specialist. It turns out that what I had was a very bad sprain, so bad that when the ligaments tore away, they cracked the bone.

I realize now this same sort of thing happened when my mate died. Whatever connection we had was so strong that when he was torn away from me and our life, it fractured me. This fracture had nothing to do with my being weak or too dependent on him or unwilling to face the truth or any of the other snide rationalities people have made about my sorrow. However deep and prolonged, my grief for him is normal and understandable. It takes a long time for a broken bone to heal and regain its former strength. How much longer must it take when one’s psyche has been broken.

And so, I still deal with the fracture his death caused in me, and I still deal with the bewilderment of his death. Perhaps when he died, he took a chunk of me with him, the same way bone still adheres to torn ligaments, and so part of me would be wherever he is, if he is. His death felt like an amputation, and I can no longer feel that part of me where we were attached. Some people still feel connected to those who are gone, but I never do. I merely feel his goneness, his absence, which seems as strong as his presence once did. And I still feel fractured. Still feel lost. Perhaps to a certain extent I will always feel this way, because the cause of this loss, his being dead, will always be a part of me. And that is one truth I wish I didn’t have to face.

Grief is a Gift

I did not choose grief. Grief was thrust on me. To be honest, I never expected to grieve. My life mate/soul mate had been sick for so long I thought I was used to the idea of continuing life alone. I thought we’d untwinned our lives and had set out on separate journeys, him to death, me to continued life. His death, however, opened a hole in the universe and the cold breath of eternity has seeped into my soul. I don’t know if the hole can ever be patched. I don’t know if I want it to be. I for sure don’t want to push thoughts of him out of my mind. Such thoughts, though they still bring sadness, help bridge the gap between his presence and his absence. (Absence is such a mild term to describe the unfathomable “goneness” of someone who is dead.)

I’ve come to view grief as a gift. Not many people agree with that, but for me, it is very much of a bequest, the last present he ever gave me. I’ve always been a truth-seeker, always wanted to see what was beyond the veil of everyday reality. (If you’ve read any of my books, you can see the pattern. Each of my novels seeks to reveal the lies that hold our culture together, from so-called conspiracy theories to biological warfare, from human experimentation to old time gangsters. Despite the disparate stories and themes, they are all united by my need for the truth.)

This hole that grief has opened, both into the universe and into the human psyche, might bring me to the truth I seek. And even if it doesn’t take me where I want/need to go, it’s still a gift. Not many people are privileged to find their cosmic twin, to be connected to another human, soul to soul, as we were, and grief is the price I have to pay. Sometimes the price seems too high and I’d like to fling the gift back where it came from, but other times, it almost makes sense, as if the universe is unfolding the way it should be.

From the beginning, even when the pain of his absence made it almost impossible to breathe, I’ve trusted my grief to guide me through the days, weeks, months. Despite the insanity of the feelings grief creates, I knew I was sane and well adjusted, and so I felt free to follow the wild and agonizing ride. I’ve learned much these past twenty months on how to survive, how to find sense in the senselessness, how to find peace within the sadness. I’ve found courage, patience, compassion, and a strength I didn’t know I had. I still don’t know where I am going — I can’t see the end of the road. For all I know, there might not be an end. The journey could be all there is.

My talk of grief gives people the wrong impression. I’m not sure that what I am feeling right now is strictly grief, at least not the way most people think of grief. But it’s not “not grief” either since I do still have upsurges of tears and sadness and loneliness. Most of the time I’m just . . . me. In fact, since I stopped watching the movies and television shows he taped for us, which caused horrendous upsurges in grief since we’d always watched the tapes together, I’ve been in sort of a limbo. Until we find another word than grief for the long-term effects of having lost someone important in our lives, I will continue to use the word “grief,” because whatever I do, whatever I feel is part of my grief journey.

And it’s all a gift.

I just hope I remember that during my next upsurge of grief.

Keeping Vigil

I’m continuing my anniversary vigil, reliving the days that led up to the death of my life mate, my soul mate. This vigil is not so much conscious as subconscious, a feeling that the events of a year ago are happening again. Part of me seems to think I really am there at his deathbed — when I was out walking in the desert today, I found myself wailing, “Don’t go! Please don’t leave me!”

This is so different from last year’s reality. Then, I was concentrating on him, on his suffering, on his need to let go of life, and I never once thought of asking him to stay for me. Would never have subjected him to more pain and suffering. Would never have wished him more days as a helpless invalid. And yet, here I am, today, begging him not to leave me.

Such is grief — a place where time goes backward and forward, stands still and zips ahead.

Perhaps when this first terrible year is finished, when I have experienced this reprise of his death from my point of view rather than his, I will be able to put a lot of my grief behind me and go forward with my life. Though I still don’t know what that life is, where it will take me, or if it will take me anywhere at all. Perhaps all that is necessary is to experience life, and if that is true, well, I have certainly lived this past year.

It’s strange looking back to the long years of his dying. I thought I was ready to leave the emotional burdens and the financial constraints of his illness behind. I thought I was ready to live out my life alone. I even looked forward to the challenges, especially since he told me that when he was gone, things would come together for me. He was a bit of a seer (though he mostly saw doom) so I believed him. But neither of us expected the toll grief would take. (Well, he might have suspected. He was very concerned about me.) I knew I’d be okay, and I am, but I didn’t understand what grief was. (I’d already lost a brother and my mother, but that was not the same as losing my cosmic twin, the person who shared my thoughts and dreams, who lived in the same world I did.) I never expected the sheer physicality of grief, the physical wrenching, the feeling of amputation, the feeling of psychic starvation, the feeling of imbalance in the world, the sheer goneness of him.

Nor did I expect to still be worrying about him. Is he okay? Is his suffering really over?

His death was not a silent one. He moaned for days, though the nurses assured me he was feeling no pain, that he was sighing, that it was a common reaction for those who were dying. I remember standing there, exactly one year ago tonight, listening to him, worrying that he was suffering, and then one of his “sighs” became lyrical, almost like a note from a song, and I knew he was telling me he was all right.

I keep listening for some sound, looking for some sign that he is okay, but today all I hear is silence.