Remembering

Our bodies remember trauma even if we don’t consciously remember, and for those of us grieving the loss of an intrinsic person in our lives, body memory accentuates the strong emotional impact of anniversaries.

Body memory is often associated with extreme stress. Body memory is not a flashback, where you are actually experiencing the trauma again. Nor is it simply a vivid memory. In fact, the body memory comes first, and only afterward do we remember why we felt such an upsurge of emotional and physical grief reactions.

People often tell us to try to put our deceased loved ones out of our minds. They have the erroneous idea that if we don’t think of our mates, then we won’t grieve.

At first, it’s impossible not to think of our loved ones all the time. Perhaps we feel as if by holding them in our minds, we can stave off their death, even though it’s already happened. Or maybe we want to continue to feel connected. Or it could be that the enormity of death is so overwhelming, we can’t think of anything else.

But eventually, we do learn not to hold as tightly to these thoughts, and sometimes we even forget to think of our loved ones. But our bodies still keep the faith.

I’ve been feeling downhearted lately, more than simply the dreary skies would account for. There is an echo of tears to the melancholy, which made me stop and wonder why now. The tenth anniversary of Jeff’s death isn’t for another few weeks. But ah, I remembered — this is the month where the end started. He bent down to pick something up, felt a terrible pain, and never had a pain-free moment again.

He resisted going to the doctor for as long as he could because he knew it would be the end of him as he knew himself to be. But finally, in the last week of February when he simply could not stand the excruciating pain any longer, he went to the doctor.

And he was right. He never was the same after that. Luckily, we only had six weeks to deal with the horror. (Even though the doctor had said he had six months.) I say “we” because those weeks were hell for both of us, but for different reasons.

Except for this melancholy (and my missing him, of course), there is no real angst, at least not today. He has, after all, been gone long enough for me to get used to the void he left behind. Instead, it seems as if I am keeping vigil as I did that February so many years ago.

The truth is, though, I wouldn’t mind an upsurge of grief. It’s good at times to feel the loss, to know in my bones we had shared our lives, to know that I once loved and once was loved. To remember that I was so connected to another human being, that when he died, it felt as if part of me was amputated.

I’ve been sitting here for the past few minutes trying to find an end to this article, but there is no end. He might be gone from this earth, but he will always be a part of me, a part of my life, if only in memory.

***

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.

Melancholy Lady

I was afraid that splitting my scalp during a potentially disastrous fall would make me more hesitant about living an adventurous life, but so far so good. Although I am being extra careful because of the Frankensteinian staples in my head, I still go exploring when the weather allows, which isn’t often. (I have seen more rain this past week than in all the years I lived in the desert.)

I’d heard that Mitchell River runs through St. Ansgar where I am staying for a couple of weeks, so I set out to look for the water. I peeked through trees, climbed over a fence, tramped across a grassy field, wandered down a rain-soaked road to catch glimpses of the river.

Though it wasn’t much as adventures go, it did satisfy my wanderlust for the day, and I did get a good look at the river.

I still have about ten days left here in St. Ansgar (I am babysitting the Blue Belle Inn while the owners are gallivanting around Scotland), but already I am looking forward to heading on down the road. I get melancholy if I stay in one place too long, remembering that I once had someone to settle down with, once had someone who cared about the trivialities of my life — once had someone to tell all the things that aren’t worth telling. Now I am alone and feeling not quite real.

Life is strange. It really shouldn’t matter after all these years that he is gone, but it does. One great irony about love is that while all the songs, poems, stories reinforce the idea that love is what makes life worth living, when you lose that love, people expect you to suddenly not care. It’s okay for them to still bask in the light of their own loves, but not okay for us bereft to lament the darkness.

See? I told you being in one place too long makes me melancholy. But in the end, it’s all part of this great adventure we call life.

***

(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.”)

***