Do the Loneliness and Tears Ever Stop?

A friend who became a widow about a year ago asked me if the loneliness and tears ever stopped. I always hate to have to tell the truth that so many of us discovered — that it takes three to five years to find some sort of renewed interest in life, but even then, tears still come, though not as often or for as long as they once did, and the loneliness can continue to be a problem.

It took me ten years and a major life change — moving to a new town and buying a house — before I settled into a feeling of normalcy. I do still tear up at times, but that’s all it is — a momentary tearing up without enough moisture to escape my eyes, and I do still get lonely, though again, it’s more of a blip than a barrage of feelings because after all these years (it will be eleven years in seven weeks) I am used to being alone.

I still marvel that we can get to the point of feeling any sort of normalcy because the truth is, no matter what happens in our lives, they are still gone.

I remember having lunch with a woman who asked me how I was. This had to have been about four years after Jeff died, because I was mostly doing okay, which is what I told her. I would never even have mentioned him except that she asked, which is why her subsequent lecture on how I must really get over it and move on seemed so unfair. It’s not as if I brought up the subject or even bemoaned my fate. My response was just a simple, “I’m doing okay.” She eventually changed the subject back to herself, and this is where things really got bizarre. Her husband was gone for the weekend on a fishing trip, and she spent the rest of our time together talking about how much she missed him and how lonely she was.

I could only gape at her. Her husband had been gone but a day, would be home in another day or two, and their lives would continue as before. Jeff had been gone years, and would never return. It simply did not occur to her to correlate the two situations. Somehow it was okay for her to miss her husband, but not okay for me to miss Jeff. It was as if in her mind, death had erased him, not just in the present, but in the past, so that whatever we had shared was gone, eradicated from the record of my life, and for me even to think of him was an affront.

You’d think as the years pass, our loneliness and missing them would escalate because every new day is another day piled on the heap of days we’ve already spent missing them, but the miracle of grief is that although those feelings are still there, they become subsumed into the depths of our being, and so they don’t demand as much attention.

And so our lives continue.

But for most of us, getting to that point takes years.

If you are still in the midst of the hard years, I am truly sorry, but there is hope. Most of us who manage to claw our way out of the chaos of grief do find renewal of some sort. For me, first it was dance classes, and now it’s my house and home. For so long, Jeff was my home, but now I have an actual place I can call home. It’s not the same, of course, but considering the circumstances of my life, it’s pretty amazing that I got here.

This renewal isn’t unique to me. Many of us find ourselves, ten years after the death of a spouse, life mate, soul mate, in a completely different place, sometimes geographically, sometimes mentally or emotionally, sometimes spiritually, sometimes all three.

It doesn’t in any way make it okay that they are gone, doesn’t eradicate them from our lives, but it does make it easier for us to embrace life once more, to move away from the edge of the abyss where we teetered for so long.

Meantime, in your loneliness, know that at least one person understands, at least to some extent, what you are going through.

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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

Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home

When I was young, my favorite song was Joe South’s “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home.” Back then, the lyrics spoke to me of poignancy, change, and the way growth was destroying the special places in the world.

Now, I couldn’t bear to listen to the song. It would speak to me of grief, of loss, of my inability to ever go home again. And oh, I do so want to go home!

This is an especially hard time for me because I am nearing the eighth anniversary of Jeff’s death. I’ve been holding on to myself, not giving in to sadness, (or rather, not welcoming it), just trying to take life as it comes.

Well, today at dance class, life came hard. After we’d practiced the dance we’re learning for a performance, the others were standing around talking about the dance and how to do things or change things or something unimportant like that.  So I took the opportunity to step outside and scratch myself discreetly. As I left, one woman called after me as if I were doing something wrong, “Pat, don’t be like that.”

Well, I scratched, took a few deep cleansing breaths, and went back inside to where a couple of the women were talking about me. Then the teacher lectured us on how there is no animosity in dance class.

Huh? Animosity? The only animosity I felt today was against this itch that won’t go away. Through ballet class and then belly dance class, I’d barely said anything to anyone, just minded my own business, and for what?

I don’t know.

I don’t know what I’m doing here anymore, but I still don’t know where to go, still don’t know how to create a new life. Still don’t know how to earn a living. (I’ve always hoped I’d be able to make a living with my books, but I can’t even give them away.)

I just know I want to go home and there is no home to go home to. Jeff was my home. He’s gone, and I am just so damn tired of it. I’ve done very well with my meager resources all these years, finding renewal, finding a dream, even finding joy at times, but still, he’s dead.

I spend a lot of time counseling grief-stricken folks — sometimes just through this blog, sometimes through email or phone conversations, and I always tell people the truth. That it is almost impossibly hard. That they will always miss him/her. That they will find renewal, though it might take many years.

What I’ve never said is that the one thing you never get over is being tired of their being dead. How can you? Although your efforts through time do make things better, it’s the passing of time that continues to make things hard, because every year that goes by is another year they’ve been gone, another year you’ve had to live without them.

Luckily, this month is more than half over, and every day that brings me closer to the anniversary also brings me closer to my May trip. I can’t make changes until after the trip since I won’t know until then if any sort of epic hike is possible, so I’m sort of just hanging in there by the tips of my fingers. Holding myself together the best as I can.

But oh, I’m so tired of having to do any of this.

If I could just go home for a little while . . .

But I can’t.

Dammit.

***

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.