Grief is Universal

I got an email from Germany today from someone I didn’t know. It was written in German, and one of the few words I recognized was “sex,” so I assumed it was some sort of spam. (The subject line in the email was: Trauer, Sex, Hauthunger und Minimierung.) I was scrolling down to find the “unsubscribe” link when I noticed a translation of the email, and realized it actually was a message to me, a response to my blog post: Grief, Sex, Skin Hunger, and Minimization. I wondered how he got my email, but when I checked that blog, there it was, posted for all to see. (It’s actually not an email address; it’s more of a forwarding service that WordPress offers.)

Until I saw my email address in the body of the post, I thought I got his comment via email in error, so I went ahead and posted his comment on the blog. I hope he’s okay with that, because he had done what I asked in the post — added to the discussion about sex and grief. I did respond to his email and told him what I did, so if he wants me to remove the comment, I will.

Two things came to mind when I read his comment.

First, that intense grief over the death of spouse seems to be universal. The lack of information not just about the realities of grief but also the various affects grief has on us and the additional losses (such as the loss of sex and the problem with skin hunger) also seems to be universal. We all tend to suffer in silence, thinking we are the only ones who are dealing with such pain. Although I mostly kept quiet in my offline life, here on this blog, I’ve been anything but silent, which turned out to be a good thing. Now people all over the world know my experience and my belief that grief is hard, grief takes a long time, and grief should not be suffered in silence.

Second, many men don’t remarry and aren’t interested in remarrying, despite the prevalent idea that men who lose a wife immediately remarry, not just to have someone to take care of them, but so they can have sex. Some bereaved men don’t miss sex in general, though they intensely miss sex with their wives. Some men do remarry, but often it’s to have someone to be emotionally intimate with because for many men, their spouse is the only emotional support they have, the only person they feel comfortable hugging or talking about personal issues with.

These are just generalities, of course. Although I have learned that despite the cliché, not everyone’s grief at the loss of a spouse is different from everyone else’s — grief for many of us followed the same pattern and timeline — when it comes to marriage and new relationships, the cliché is true: everyone is different. We will each of us find our way to a new relationship when we feel the need, when the time is right, or when we meet the right person.

In my case, it’s a done deal. I’m okay most of the time with the idea of growing old alone (the idea of it, you understand; not necessarily the reality of it). I certainly don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of caring for someone else in their old age, especially since I’d be old myself. Besides, there’s no room in my house for another person, and I won’t give up my house for anyone. But this sort of life isn’t for everyone, though it is forced on so many of us without our having a choice in the matter.


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.

What Everyone Should Know About Grief – Part 8

Marrying again after the loss of a life mate can be a tricky business because a new love does not negate previous loves. Nor does a new love negate grief.

I’ve met people who started dating quickly after the death of their spouse because they couldn’t stand the pain and loneliness of their grief any longer. To their shock, and to the shock of their new mate, grief did not abate. In at least one case, the new spouse felt betrayed by his wife’s continued grief, thinking his love should have made a difference to her grief, and she felt isolated — and unloved — because he didn’t have compassion for her bouts of sorrow.

Whether we remarry, embark on a long-term relationship without remarrying, or never find anyone else to love, the emotional attachment for the first partner remains a part of us. Despite continued grief for one partner, both men and women are able to form new attachments that can be just as strong as the previous one. The key is to understand the nature of grief and love and to let grief continue to happen, which is why the strongest remarriages are often between widows and widowers.

This concept — that remarrying does not negate grief — is important for both grievers and their friends and family to understand. Sometimes friends and family us urge us to “move on” (meaning to find someone else), and as well-meaning as this might be, it ignores the intrinsic nature of grief — that grief is how we move on after the death of our beloved mate. A new love will not change that. Occasionally, friends or family will feel conned if a widow or widower “moves on” too quickly, thinking that perhaps the grief was a sham or that the griever hadn’t really loved their first partner.

Many of us never find anyone else to love. This doesn’t mean we are holding on to our grief, are not “moving on,” or are refusing to accept a new love. We can’t control what happens to us, and love doesn’t always happen again. We do the best we can with what life (and death) deals us and all we can do is hope that our loved ones will support us even if they can’t understand what we are feeling.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

A Manual for the Loved Ones of a Person Who Has Lost a Loved One

A friend who’s been helping proof my new grief book has suggested my next project: a book geared to the family and friends of someone who has lost a life mate. She said as she read the book, she related it to me, and she seemed surprised by all that I’d gone through. We’d talked about Jeff, his dying, and my grief, but even though I’d tried to explain the immensity and horror of the loss and the rippling effects of grief, a casual conversation doesn’t come close to seeing the truth laid out as I did in the book.

She and I met a year ago, long after the pain of loss had dissipated, so it made sense she knew little of what I’d gone through. If we’d met shortly after Jeff died, though, she probably wouldn’t have known much more because I, like most people who have lost their mates, quickly went underground with my grief. The divide between being coupled and being widowed is too great for most of us to handle, no matter if we’re the one who experienced the loss or the one who has to see us suffering.

And yet, my friend is right — people who love us do need to know what we’re going through. Too often they tell us to move on without understanding that grief is how we’re moving on. They urge us to find someone new without realizing that a new love does not negate the old, and in fact, if the new love doesn’t understand about the long term effects and changes brought about by profound grief, the new relationship can’t hold up. They see what they think is us enshrining our lost mates without understanding that we need something to hold on to. The half of the bond held by the deceased is gone, but our half is still there, like a live wire trying to find a place to ground itself.

Although my new grief book is geared for those who have lost their life mate, it can (and should!) be read by anyone who is struggling to understand what their newly widowed family and friends are feeling. Still, I understand why she suggested a separate manual for the loved ones of a person who has lost a loved one. While the starkness of this current book is comforting to those who are undergoing the angst of loss, it could be a bit too strong and detailed for the as yet uninitiated.

Imagine, though, how comforting it would be for newly bereaved to be around those who try to understand. For example, in my new grief book I explain how the body remembers even when the mind doesn’t, and so when a particular time comes around, we re-experience the loss as if it were new. Ever since my brother died, I’ve been feeling out of sync with life and even myself. His death hit me much harder than I expected, and it reminded me (as if I needed a reminder) that Jeff too was gone. When I told my friend about this odd feeling, she asked me if it was my time. (Meaning one of the times of body memory.)

Although I don’t think this feeling of not quite connecting is part of my grief for Jeff, it made me feel good that she understood. And what a perfect thing for her to have said!

Ever since Jeff died, I’ve made it my mission to take grief out of the closet, to show there is no shame in profound grief, so a manual such as my friend suggested might be a good project for me. First, I need to get this current book published and in the hands of the people who need it, and then . . . who knows.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.