Going Home

It wasn’t until after my Jeff, life mate/soul mate, died that I understood what home meant to me. It turns out, he had been my home. Wherever we were, as long as I was with him, I was home.

And then Jeff died, and suddenly, just like that, I lost my “home.”

For me, home was definitely not a case of “home is where, when you go there, they have to let you in.” I left the house and state where Jeff and I had lived and moved 1000 miles to go look after my aged father. I’d visited my parents several times while my mother was dying, but I had never lived in that house, so it was not in any way a homecoming. And although I was there for four years with my father, it never felt like home. I was awash in too much grief, missing Jeff, feeling bereft and lost and adrift.

When my father died, the house had to be sold, so I lost that place of residence, too. And oh, I wanted desperately to go home. But my home was gone from this earth. Because he was gone, and because I felt lost and rootless wherever I was, there didn’t seem to be any reason to be one place rather than another, so I drifted.

I tried to find home within myself, and to a certain extent, I succeeded because wherever I am, there I am. I have lived on the road, babysat houses and a bed and breakfast, stayed with friends, rented rooms, camped out, spent more nights than I can count in motels. It worked because one place felt no different from any other. I was always myself, always doing my best to celebrate life despite missing my dead.

Recently, my homeless brother died, and I started thinking of a different kind of home — a house of my own I can turn into a home. A place where I can set down roots. A place where I can grow old in peace, maybe.

Such a strange feeling! I’ve never wanted to own a house. Never wanted the problems, the aggravation, the expense, the very fact of owning something so . . . big. Jeff and I were minimalists before minimalism became a fad — we didn’t even own much furniture — and yet, here I am, all these years later, suddenly wanting, needing, a house to turn into a home.

I daydreamed a house into existence — a very small, very old house in a very small, very old town. A house just big enough for one person, a house with a walk-in shower and a modern galley kitchen.

I’m now in the process of buying the house (closing is almost upon me — in thirteen days to be exact), and I am starting to feel as if I am going home despite never actually having seen the house, only pictures of it. And oh, yeah — I don’t know anyone in the area, either. I am going back to Colorado, but to a corner of the state where I’ve never lived.

I’m taking a leap into the unknown, into my future. An epic adventure!

It’s actually not as much of a risk as it sounds. An inspector and a contractor both assured me it was a cute little house, and solid. More than that, what do I need to know? I will have a refrigerator to myself!! A kitchen of my own. A yard.

If anything comes up, I will deal with it. If I don’t like something, I’ll change it. If it doesn’t feel like home, I’ll create a home within its walls. If neighbors are noisy, I’ve learned to live with earplugs.

But none of that is important. I’m going home, not to settle down (which still scares me because I am afraid of stagnating) but to settle in (which sounds comforting).

I truly have no qualms about any of this. I don’t understand it, but Jeff’s death shattered my life and my world, and now it feels as if my brother’s death is gluing my life back together. I feel as if this house is meant to be.

It’s hard leaving my dance teacher, who has become like a sister to me. It’s hard leaving dance class and my dance friends.

But . . . a house!

A home.


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.

I Am a Three-and-a-Half-Year Grief Survivor

Three and a half years ago today, my life mate/soul mate died of inoperable kidney cancer. It seems an impossibly long time ago, as if I knew him in another life. It also seems as if it’s only been a few months since I last saw him.

Yesripplesterday I watched his version of Fly Away Home (he edited out parts of movies he/we didn’t like, such as heavy drama and prolonged arguments, which makes what he did leave in very personal). When Jeff Daniels told Anna Paquin that she had to continue the flight by herself, that she had to leave him behind and follow her dream, it seemed as if were a message to me from my mate to just go on with my life, follow whatever dreams I can muster, and leave him behind. (In fact, he often told me I’d have to that very thing — just leave him behind. He was losing his sight, his hearing, his strength, and he didn’t want me to hang around if he became a lingering invalid.)

Well, now I do have to leave him behind. Or maybe he left me behind. (I still don’t have any firm belief about what actually happens when one dies.) Either way, I am becoming comfortable with being single in a coupled world. I don’t panic about growing old alone as I did at the beginning — it seems oddly inevitable, as if it had been written long ago.

During all these painful months and years, those who have lost their mates often told me that around the four-year mark, they found a renewed interest in life, and so it is with me. I find myself coming alive again. Feeling eager to do new things, meet new people. I’m becoming more active physically — taking exercise classes and walking with a group two or three nights a week in addition to my solitary desert walks.

It seems fitting, in a way, all this physical activity. During the first months after we met, I was often restless, going for long ambles around the city (Denver had an interconnecting system of parks and parkways, and I could walk for hours along greenbelts). And now I am again restless, needing more than a single walk to get me through the day.

I still don’t know where I am going with my life, don’t know what I want other than to be more than I am (though at the same time, I am more accepting of who I am and how I look than ever before). Lately I find myself wishing on the first star I see at night, but the only thing I can think of to wish for is to be spectacular. I’m leaving it up to the universe or fate or a future me to decide what “spectacular” means.

It seems strange that of all the grief updates I’ve posted during the past three and a half years, this one is more about me and less about him, and that too is how it should be since my life is now more about me and less about him. I still miss him, still feel his absence in my life the way I once felt his presence, but I no longer feel as if I am a remnant of a shattered couple. I am just me — a woman alone who one day might be spectacular.


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.