The Difference Between Today and Some Future Tomorrow

I was talking to a woman about grief today, and I realized something. It doesn’t get better, it gets different, and in that difference, we can find happiness again.

Easter Sunday marked the sixth anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death, and except for a brief acknowledgement of the day, it passed without incident. No tears, no upsurge of sorrow. Just . . . difference. I’m different, I think. (It’s hard to know for sure — I can barely remember what I was like back then, barely know what I am like now.) But for sure my life is different.

At the moment, I am in Florida, staying a couple of blocks from the beach, visiting a woman I had never even heard of a week ago. (Oddly, because of my blog, she knows me very well.) It doesn’t even seem strange to me, this almost blase attitude when it comes to visiting strangers, though I am sure that in my more cautious days, such behavior would have appalled me. But I have learned that unlike other authors, I don’t have fans — I have friends. Most of those friends are as yet unmet, as yet unheard of, but friends nevertheless. It is our shared sorrow, our shared determination to find renewal after a devastating loss that connects us. Because of this, there has never been even a moment of discomfort when I do finally meet these friends.

The difference for me, the difference that allows me to find happiness despite my missing him, is a willingness to embrace life no matter what it brings. To accept myself without censure. To simply be wherever I am or who I am with.

As the years continue to pass, when the seventh, tenth, fifteenth anniversary comes, there will be more differences. More opportunities for happiness.

For those of you new to grief’s journey, I hope you will find comfort in knowing things will not always remain the same, that in the difference between today and some future tomorrow, you will find joy again.

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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.”)

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The Return of the Sad Saturday

My life mate/soul mate died on a Saturday, and for a couple of years, I had an upsurge of grief every Saturday even when I didn’t realize what day it was. (Somehow my body remembered.) It’s been a long time since I’ve had a grief upsurge and an even longer time since I’ve had a sad Saturday, but today I am tearful. I seldom dream about him, but early this morning I dreamt that someone we both knew had died. As we looked at the empty bed, he said, “It’s strange that she died right after I invited her to live with us.” I responded, “Maybe that’s what allowed her to die. Maybe the point of life is death.”

I woke then, and remembered that he was dead, and it made me sad. I haven’t been thinking about him much lately. I’ve been keeping myself busy, trying to build strength and rebuild my life, but this morning, my whole house-of-cards life came tumbling down.

I just now returned from a ramble in the desert, so the sadness has dissipated a bit, but all the pieces of my life are still in a heap at my feet. As the next few days progress, I’ll pick up the pieces one by one, and maybe this time the structure I build will have more permanence. Or not. No matter how good an attitude I have, no matter how much I become immersed in life-affirming activities, he is still dead and there isn’t anything I can do about it. I just have to continue on, realizing that my life has worth. I have worth.

At the beginning of my grief, I could not fathom ever being happy again, which was okay since somehow I didn’t think I had the right to be happy, but I no longer think that way. If our positions were reversed, I wouldn’t want him to spend his life mourning for me.

Still, it’s only natural to feel sad and to miss the person who meant more than anyone else, so I’ll remember him with sadness today, remember what he meant to me, remember his courage and his smile.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to go about the business of rebuilding my life and finding whatever happiness 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+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Today Is a Good Day and I Am Feeling Fine

On the advice of a friend, I have been doing a daily affirmation, telling myself I am happy, but it doesn’t work for me because I’m not sure I want to be happy. Un-unhappy, yes. Unsad, yes. Contented, of course. At peace, for sure. But happy? It’s not a state I’ve ever aspired to. I’ve always believed other things are much more important, things such as love, truth, purpose, freedom, kindness, integrity. Happiness means many different things to many people, but to me, happiness has an element of giddiness, of being glad to be alive, of effervescence, maybe. I prefer being centered, not tipping toward happiness or sadness, but unafraid of my tomorrows, satisfied with my yesterdays, at peace with my todays.

To that end, I have changed my daily affirmation to “This is a good day and I am feeling fine.” This affirmation was gift from my yoga instructor, a short meditation to help us get through the holidays. She suggested we sit quietly, breathe in thinking “This is a good day,” and exhale thinking “I am feeling fine.” And it works for me. Of course, it helps that my days now are good, no real traumas, no sock-to-the stomach bouts of grief, just a slow gentle roll into sadness now and again, and a slow gentle roll back to center. The few tears, when they come, seem more nostalgic than debilitating.

The past couple of days have been especially good — lovely weather, clear skies, warm sun, breezes no stronger than a breath. And I am feeling fine. No overwhelming aches and pains, no worry or stress to weigh down my shoulders. I’m standing tall, breathing deep, opening myself up the world and the future.

I’m still not sure where I am going, what I am looking for, what I expect to find. For now, it’s enough that I am continuing to open myself to possibilities, continuing to believe that today is a good day and I am feeling fine.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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+

Upsurges in Sadness Are Like Shortness of Breath After Exercise

I’m fine. Truly I am. For all of you who have expressed concern over my current upsurge in grief, I just want to tell you there is nothing to worry about. Upsurges in sadness do not in any way affect my life or my dealings with other people. They are just there, a fact of my life like shortness of breath after exercise. If I didn’t write about my feelings, no one would know about my times of sadness. There is so much bad advice given to people about grief, such as acceptable durations and ways of grieving, that I want to provide a counterpoint, and I wouldn’t do much good if I kept silent about what I happened to be feeling at any given moment.

Many people have told me that after the death of their husband, they never found happiness until they married again. People have told me that even after they got married, they still experienced upsurges in grief, sometimes years afterward. People tell me they never got over grief at the loss of a life mate, it just got different. The death of a cousin or even a brother doesn’t affect us the same way as the loss of a child or a soul mate, so the severity of the loss has to be taken into affect before you start wondering if someone is grieving inappropriately. Some people do fall in a pit of depression and cannot get out without help, but I am not one of them. Nor am I ruining my health by riding out the sadness. That’s what tears are for — to release the stress. Walking, exercising, and blogging also relieve the stress of trying to create a new life for myself out of the embers of the old one.

For me, an upsurge in grief usually comes right before or right after a new level of acceptance or a greater understanding. This latest upsurge began on Independence Day. It’s a day for families to get together, to have fun, to do whatever it is that families do when they get together, and I was alone. I understood that this could be the way holidays will be for the rest of my life, and I found it difficult dealing with the unwelcome understanding. Also, while walking in the desert recently, I’ve had several revelations that are helping me with my search to find a new focus for my life, and such forward motions bring on an upsurge of sadness because they take me further away from the past I shared with my deceased life mate/soul mate.

And anyway, even though I am no longer a child in the world of grief, I’ve not yet achieved full growth, either. Therapists who have studied grief and grievers admit that it takes three to five years to find your way back to life, and I am just past two years. I still have a long way to go. Besides, what’s a few tears among friends?

The truth is, though, I am more exhausted than sad. I’m tired of living in an alien world, tired of having to figure out where to go from here, tired of not feeling like me, but mostly, I’m tired of his being dead. Whether I continue to be sad or find happiness, whether I continue floundering of find new focus, he will still be dead. And absolutely nothing I do or say or feel will ever change that.