Grief Has No Timetable

It seems strange that after five and a half years of pouring my heart and my grief out onto this blog, I no longer feel comfortable talking about my upsurges of sadness. Grief has no timetable, of course, but still, it seems self-indulgent to continue writing about my sadness, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been saying much the past few days.

This should be a good time for me — after six months and four days of being without a car, I finally got my bug back, newly restored, and it looks wonderful. Now I’m planning a trip across the southernmost part of the country beginning in the middle of December, which will be a fabulous adventure. I even got an invitation from an old friend to spend Christmas with her.

And yet, here I sit, with tears clouding my vision.

I have no idea Broken-heartedwhat brought on this particular bout of sadness, though it might have something to do with my car.  When my Beetle was in the auto body shop, I didn’t have to worry about anything except getting the car back — it’s as if my life were on hiatus — and now unpalatable truths are descending on me once more. Without a way to get there, I didn’t have to accept that I’m not going home to Jeff, but now that my bug is back in my possession, here it is again, the awful truth of my life — that he is gone and I will never be going home to him.  It could be that after five years of living as if I were well off, another unpleasant truth is sinking in — I will have to go back to work one day. (I haven’t worked in many years. First I took care of Jeff, and then my dad.)  Since I’ve been sitting here lamenting to myself that “it’s not fair,” it’s possible the sadness has to do with being around so many women who have been married for four decades or more, which reminds me that I didn’t have that same opportunity.

More probably, it’s simply time. I go for longer and longer periods without thinking about Jeff, go for several weeks without any sort of grief flashback, but I can never fill the emptiness inside where half my life was amputated. And sometimes the pressure of his goneness builds, pushing sorrow to the surface of consciousness.

I do well on my own. After all, I managed to clear out our home and get here to this town 1000 miles from where he and I lived. I took care of my father, and cleared out his house in preparation for sale. I arranged to get my car restored, took trips even though I didn’t have personal transportation, and . . . well, you know all I’ve done. I’ve certainly made no secret of it.

But still, I have times where I yearn to see Jeff one more time. Yearn to talk with him. Yearn for his smile. (I find myself being greedy for compliments or thoughtfulness from acquaintances, and it’s not hard to figure out what that’s about. I can’t get a single word or smile of approbation from the one person from whom I would like a nod of approval, so I try to fill that lack however I can.)

I’m debating whether to keep this post to myself. It sounds too whiny and ungrateful, but it is also my truth — no matter how long he’s been gone, no matter how well I do on my own, I still miss him, and for as long as I am on this earth, I always will.

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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.”)

Grief, Adventure, Car Update

I never know when or why grief raises its grizzled head, but apparently today is one of those days. It could be I am so relentlessly living in the present that the effort wears me out or maybe my sad truth simply wears through.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life draping my psyche in moldy widow’s weeds, so I try to stay focused on what I have — friends, adventure, dance, writing — and not what I don’t have, but oh, that “don’t have” is so very hard to handle even all these years later.

In less than nine months, I’ll be marking the sixth anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. Can seven, ten, fifteen years be far behind?

It seems odd that though I seldom think of Jeff, can barely conjure up an image of him in my mind, can’t even remember the sound of his voice, his goneness rules my life. If he were still alive, would I be walking along deserted beaches, hiking in old growth forests, putting myself in dicey situations in the name of adventure? Of course not. I’d be home with him.

And that lack of “home,” I’m sure, continues to be the crux of my grief. He was home to me. Without him, there is no home, though I am learning to be at home wherever I am. Still, there are times when I desperately want to go home, and that’s when it hits me . . . again. He is gone and there is nothing I can do about it.

Even though I know the truth — if he hadn’t died, my life, and his, would have become truly horrific — it doesn’t help with my missing him, with my desire to go home to him.

To a certain extent, being without a car is exacerbating my feeling of homesickness and homelessness. I have a hunch this prolonged situation is as frustrating for the auto body guy as it is for me since there is way more work than he ever imagined — though I never did ask for or expect the full restoration he is doing. He also has me bugging him to get the car finished, which I don’t think he likes, but he is not the one without a car, without a mate, without a home. (I do have places to stay, for which I am eternally grateful, but the places are other people’s homes, not mine.)

The past few days I’ve mostly been walking around town or taking it easy hiking on the Pacific Coast Bike Route to give myself a chance to heal from the dog bite, sprained calf muscle, and myriad mosquito bites, but tomorrow I’ll attempt something more challenging to get back into the moment.

Jeff might be gone, but I am still here, and I have to do something.

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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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