Fourth Anniversary of Grief

It’s very windy today, with gusts up to 40mph, but the sun is shining through the clouds.

And so begins my fifth year of grief.

Four years ago today, my life mate/soul mate died without a sound, not even so much as a whimper. His Adam’s apple bobbed once, twice, and then he was gone.

100_1807aThe world is poorer because of his absence. I am poorer. He was the best person I ever knew, kind and helpful to all, not just those who were close to him. (In fact, it was his unfailing kindness to others that cemented my love for him.) He was smart and wise and witty. He was exceedingly knowledgeable about many things — movies, music, mobsters, history, humans, health. It always seemed odd to people that someone so interested in health had physical problems, but his lack of good health is what made him interested in how the body worked and what could be done to make it work even better. He believed in self-discipline and, even at the end, despite pain and debility, he strived to learn, to be better, stronger, wiser.

I’ve gone through a couple of days of sorrow and tears as I neared this anniversary, and I’m glad I did. I seldom cry any more — in fact, I didn’t even know there were tears left in me — and oddly, I miss the tears. Tears kept me connected to him in a way nothing else has since he departed this earth. Besides, he deserves my sorrow now and again. I don’t want to live blithely without a thought for him and what he meant to me.

As always, once the time of his death passed (12:50a.m. MDT), I started to regain my equilibrium. I miss him, but the reality is that as much as I hate it, he isn’t here.

And I am.

Many of my grief mates (those who lost their mates within a few months of when I did) still have relationships with their deceased spouses. Their belief in the continued survival of their soul mates is so strong, they know without a doubt they are still connected; some people can even feel the connection. Others have moved into new relationships. While I . . . I do the best I can on my own, taking each step as it comes, trying not to cling to the past, trying not to fear the future.

And I strive to learn, to be better, stronger, wiser.

It’s what he always did, and I can do no less.

***

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.

Terrible Anniversaries of Grief

I always dread the terrible anniversaries of grief, and this up-coming fourth anniversary is no exception. I don’t dread the pain of the day — I have learned that the days of remembrance are easy; the hard part is the grief that visits us beforehand. What I dread even more now than grief’s presence is its absence because the lack of sorrow seems to diminish him from my life even more. Once I was loved. Once I loved greatly. But “once” isn’t much to build a life on.

And so it goes . . . this awful and awe-filled journey we call grief.

In a strange sort of way, I feel lucky that I don’t have to dread grief’s absence today. I was upset over a lost item yesterday, and to console myself, I reminded myself that it wasn’t much in the grand scheme of life and death. And that, of course, reminded me of the loss of my deceased life mate/soul mate, and I couldn’t stop crying.

speedBy now, I’m used to his being gone, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the enormity of death. He isn’t just gone from me, perhaps enjoying a new love or new life thousands of miles from here. He is gone from this earth, so far away I can’t even fathom the distance. The earth hurtles around the sun at 67,000 mph. The sun hurtles around the galaxy at 140 miles per second. The entire universe is also moving and expanding, so today we are a very long way from where we were when he died. (Considering only the speed of the earth, he died 2,349,221,000 miles ago.)

I too am a long way away from where I was when he died. In blog post after blog post during those first couple of years, I remarked that I hadn’t changed at all — it seemed to me that having gone through such a devastating loss, I should have grown stronger or kinder or wiser or changed in some fundamental way. I don’t know about wiser, but I do know I am vastly different from the woman who watched a man slowly die, who wanted the suffering to end, yet whose love was so ineffectual she couldn’t make him well or take away a single moment of his pain. That woman who still felt so broken months after his death. That woman who screamed the pain of her loss to the winds.

Oddly, I didn’t expect to feel any upsurge of sadness this anniversary. It has been four years, and I don’t think about him much any more. If thoughts of him come to me, I don’t hold tightly to them as I used to do, but let them drift away again. If the thoughts brought me closer to him, of course I’d hold on tightly, just as I’d hold him if he showed up on the doorstep.

But the sad truth is (or maybe it’s not a sad truth, maybe it’s a glorious truth), life does go on. The hole he left in my life is gradually closing, as is the hole he left here on earth. And when I am gone, there will be no one left alive who remembers him.

I bought a bottle of sparkling apple-cranberry juice to wash away my sorrows (hard drinker that I am!), but maybe I’ll use it instead to toast his life, and mine.

***

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.

 

You Don’t Get Over Grief

I called a friend today to offer support on the third anniversary of her husband’s death. She is a strong woman, shouldering the burdens of an unemployed middle-aged daughter and a lively granddaughter, which takes her mind off her loss, but still, there are times (such as this anniversary) when grief descends on her once more.

During the conversation, she said, “I wish I could get over it.” The truth is, you don’t get over grief. Grief gets over you. The uninitiated, those who have never lost the one person who connects them to life, think we have a choice when it comes to grief, but most of the time, grief chooses us. We can, of course, choose to ignore our grief, burying it so deeply that we never have to acknowledge it, but doing so is like stuffing an inflated air mattress in a small storage pouch. Eventually, the pressures of the mattress will burst the seams of the pouch, and that unruly mattress will explode out into the open, causing all sorts of unforeseen damage.

As it is, even with accepting the dubious gift of grief, sometimes sorrow bursts wildly into the open, taking us unaware. For the most part, grief is leaving me alone. In fact, I thought I had gotten over the death of my life mate/soul mate, but on March 1, as I began the countdown to my fourth anniversary, sadness returned. My few tears are not at all stormy, more like a gentle mist. Strangely, I miss the grief tempests — they made me feel connected to him because I could feel the enormity of my loss.

To a great extent I have let him go. Somewhere during this past year, I realized that no matter how connected we were when he was alive, we are two distinct people, each on a special journey. For a while, our paths entwined, but now our roads have swung into two different directions. No matter how much I miss him, miss the me I was when I was with him, miss our shared dreams and goals, there is no turning back. The future beckons, and I must go where it leads me.

And yet, despite this acceptance, I still sometimes feel lost. We were together for thirty-four years, were business partners as well as life partners, making joint decisions about every aspect of our lives. He was my support, my inspiration, my cheering section. I enjoy my newfound independence and growing spontaneity, but I cannot forget why we are estranged. He is not somewhere else on this earth, happy and fulfilled. He is dead. Gone. Deleted from my life. Erased, at times, even from memory. (Which makes him seem doubly dead.)

My friend will get to this place soon enough. Grief will be through with her for the most part, and what she will be left with is . . . I don’t know. Herself, I suppose. In the end, that’s all we have for as long as we are here. Ourselves.

***

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.

The Waning of Grief

020bGrief has taken a back seat in my life for now — so much else is going on, including getting used to my father’s increased dependency and having moments of panic about where I’m going to go when he’s gone. I’d just about decided to move to a lovely small town in Colorado, having developed a craving for familiar cool mountain climes (and cool mountain climbs) until I discovered that the town has a very cold humid climate. Eek. I don’t tolerate humidity well. And 87 inches of snow a year? Double eek. So I’m back to zero. I don’t really want to stay here in the desert because my life would be much the same as it is today, sort of like a real life treadmill. Staying is an option, though, and treadmill aside, I do know people here. But it doesn’t feel like home. And right now, I’d like to go home.

The trouble, of course, is that no place would feel like home. Home was with my life mate/soul mate, wherever we happened to be. Like so many women in my stage of grief’s journey — past the tsunami of raw grief and not yet arrived at a new life — I have an itch to be on the move. Being settled — settled alone, that is — seems so much like stagnation.

I crave challenges. Adventure. Travel. The irony is that I don’t particularly like to travel, I hate hotels and motels, and I don’t like being unsettled. But what else am I going to do? Sit alone in an apartment for the rest of my life? If I’m on the move, anything could happen, maybe even something that will revitalize my life.

Four years seems to be a magic number when it comes to grief. Often that fourth anniversary is the turning point where we feel some sort of disconnect to the past, when everything suddenly feels new again, and we feel free to leap toward whatever future awaits us. I am letting go of the past and I do want to experience life to the fullest, but I’ve not yet arrived at the turning point — the future still seems bleak to me. Still, I’m just counting down to the third anniversary of his death, so I have a long way to go before I’ll feel up to taking any sort of leap, but I am holding on to the belief that such a time will come.

And maybe then the problem of where to go and what to do will take care of itself.

***

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+