Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 165

During the first year after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I often wrote to him in an effort to bridge the gap between us. The only problem was, he never wrote back and told me how he felt about his dying and our separation. Did he feel as broken as I did? Did he feel as if part of him had been amputated? Or was he simply glad to be shucked of his body, and perhaps even of me?

It’s been three years now since the following letter was written. I still don’t understand the purpose of pain, loss, suffering. Still don’t understand the nature of life or death. Still don’t know how energy can have cognizance, if in fact, consciousness survives death. The main difference is that the wound where he was amputated from me has healed. I don’t worry about him — at least not much — but I still miss him and I probably always will. Most of all, I am learning to get on with my life.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 165, Dear Jeff,

People keep telling me that you’re in a better place, but that I have to get on with my life because life is a gift. Huh? If you’re in a better place, why aren’t I there? If life is a gift, why was it taken from you?

I still can’t figure out the point of it all. Is there anything universally important? Love, perhaps, but not everyone loves or is loved. Creativity? But not everyone is creative. Truth? But what is truth? If nothing is universally important, does anything matter? You’re probably tired of this constant questioning, but your death has posed such a conundrum for me that I’m totally lost. I need to find the bedrock of life, a foundation on which to rebuild my life.

I had no idea I had all these tears in me. The drops are huge, like a badly dripping faucet. I am still stunned by the depth and breadth of my grief. I grieve for the good times and the bad. I grieve for what I got from our relationship and what I didn’t. I grieve for me, what I’ve lost, and what I’ll never have. I grieve for you and all you lost, all you never had, all you never will have. I grieve for that young man, that radiant man I met so many years ago because I know the end of his story. And I grieve for the man whose life was cut short.

It can’t be normal, this protracted grief, but people in the grief business keep assuring me I’m doing well.

I hope you’re doing well, too. I love you. I always will.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

***

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.

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 159

I’ve come a long way in the three years since I wrote the following letter.  I still don’t understand the nature of life or death. Still don’t understand the point of it all, but I am embracing life, trying to create my own meaning out of small occurrences.  The main difference is that the wound where he was amputated from me has healed. I don’t worry about him — at least not much — but I’m still sad and l always miss him.

And oh, yes. I did finally get to the point where sometimes I make his chili when I need to feel the continuity of our shared life — too often now, our life together doesn’t seem real, as if it were but a story in a book. And in a way, it is a story in a book. Grief: The Great Yearning is not simply the story of my grief after his death, but the story of us, our connection, our love.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 159, Dear Jeff,

There is such a hole in me, such an inability to grasp the meaning of your absence, that I am totally lost and bewildered. I want—need—something I can never have. It’s like a hunger—a skin hunger, a mind hunger. I cannot comprehend what your death means except that I’m left alone to find my own way.

Damn it! I know we’re not the only people this ever happened to—I’ve heard so many sad tales these past months—but it happened to us.

You worked so hard to be healthy, you deserved to be healthy. You worked so hard to be strong, you deserved to be strong. Even with all the reality we had to face, I believed somewhere, somehow it would all work out for you, for me, for us. I know you were impatient with that belief—you wanted me to face the truth and to understand what was going to happen, but I was naïve in so many ways. I had no idea what death meant—the total end, the line that can never be recrossed, the sheer absence of the dead one. I still don’t know what it means, still can’t comprehend your goneness.

Does anything happen by our choice? In small matters, yes. But in big ones? I don’t see it. I look back at the past few years, trying to figure out what we could have done differently so that everything would have worked out for us, but all our efforts seemed to have led inexorably to your end.

What’s the point of it all? Why do we cling so much to life? In the eternal scheme of things, does it matter how long or short a life is? Does it matter that you only had sixty-three years? It sure matters to me! I want you in my life. I want you to have a life.

I read an article in the paper today that talked about stream-of-consciousness being the brain’s default mode. The journalist said that in depression, the default mode network appears to be overactive, that a depressive brain shows a pattern of balky transitions from introspective thought to work that requires conscious effort, and it frequently slips into the default mode during cognitive tasks. A depressive brain also shows especially weak links between the default mode network and a region of the brain involved in motivation and reward-seeking behavior.

Is this why I so seldom see the point in anything, why it’s hard to find a reason to do things? Is this why stream-of-consciousness writing is easy for me, but fiction is so difficult?

I’m surprised I’m not severely depressed with your being gone. I’m sad and in pain, but not in the black hole of despair. I can cry and be sad, but when the episode passes, I’ll be fine. Or I can be fine until something tilts me over the edge. Taking supplements does that occasionally. I cry as I swallow them, thinking of how you always cared enough for me to make sure I was getting the right nutrients. Other times, taking the supplements brings me comfort for the very same reason.

I still can’t eat the meals we ate together, so mostly I’m snacking. Just what I need, right? I usually have a salad though, so that’s good. I have a craving for your chili, but I’ll probably never eat it again. It won’t taste the same—I never could make it the way you did—and it would make me too sad.

It’s been nice visiting with you here—I wish it were for real and not just in memory. I think often of how brave you were. I need to be brave, too. I thought I’d just need courage to get through the final stages of your illness and the first months of grieving, but now I know I’m going to need courage to live the rest of my life without you.

I love you, Jeff. I hope you’re well. Adios, compadre.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

***

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.

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 115

I never actually set out to write a book about grief, never planned to make any of my writing public (except for blog posts, of course), but I was so lost, so lonely, so sick with grief and bewildered by all I was experiencing, that the only way I could try to make sense of it all was to put my feelings into words. Whether I was writing letters to Jeff (my deceased life mate/soul mate) or simply pouring out my feelings in a journal, it helped me feel close to him, as if, once again, I was talking things over with him. The only problem was, I only heard my side of the story.  He never told me how he felt about his dying and our separation. Did he feel as broken as I did? Did he feel amputated? Or was he simply glad to be shucked of his body, and perhaps even of me?

It’s been more than three years now since the following piece was written. I still don’t understand the purpose of pain, loss, suffering. Still don’t understand the nature of life or death. Still don’t know how energy can have cognizance, if in fact, consciousness survives death. The main difference is that the wound where he was amputated from me has healed. I don’t worry about him — at least not much — but I still miss him and I probably always will.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 115, Dear Jeff,

Did you use the phrase okie-doke one night at the end when you were saying all those jaunty things like “adios, compadre”? You must have. Every time I see or hear the expression, I start crying. Good thing it’s not in common usage any more.

I am hurtling away from you at incredible speeds. Maybe I’ll come full circle and meet with you again when my end arrives? I wish I believed that, but it makes no sense. How do sparks of energy have cognizance, character, memory? How would we know each other? At least I would no longer have to deal with your absence since I’d be absent too.

You came into my life so rapidly. One day you weren’t there, and the next you were. You went out the same way. One day you were there, the next you weren’t.

Yesterday someone told me that life on earth was an illusion and so you still existed. But if life is an illusion, why couldn’t it be a happy figment? A joyful one? What’s the point of pain? Of loss? Of suffering?

You’ve been gone one-hundred and fifteen days, and I still can’t make sense of it.

Adios, compadre. I hope you, at least, are at peace.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

***

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.

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 112

I never actually set out to write a book about grief, never planned to make any of my writing public (except for the blog posts, of course), but I was so lost, so lonely, so sick with grief and bewildered by all I was experiencing, that the only way I could try to make sense of it all was to put my feelings into words. Whether I was writing letters to Jeff (my deceased life mate/soul mate) or simply pouring out my feelings in a journal, it helped me feel close to him, as if, once again, I was talking things over with him. The only problem was, I only heard my side of the story.  He never told me how he felt about his dying and our separation. Did he feel as broken as I did? Did he feel amputated? Or was he simply glad to be shucked of his body, and perhaps even of me?

It’s been three years now since the following piece was written. The wound where he was amputated from me has healed. I don’t worry about him — at least not much — but I still miss him, still feel as if I’m waiting for my life to begin. And though I don’t feel as scattered,  I understand more than ever that wherever I am, there I am.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 112, Grief Journal

I’m going through a numb phase right now. I only cried briefly yesterday. That came after I finished watching the Paul Hogan/Michael Caton movie Jeff taped—Strange Bedfellows—and I realized I’d never watch movies with him again.

Cry, not cry. Feel, not feel. It’s all the same. Just different aspects of grief. One thing they’re right about. This is WORK! I’m tired, have little energy, don’t seem to be able to think or to do anything but the most basic chores. And I can’t make myself believe anything is important. I’m still waiting to get a grip on my grief. Still feeling as if I’m in a transitional stage, waiting for my life to start.

Except that I had a life. We had a life.

People talk about “healing” when it comes to surviving a death, and it’s as good a term as any. It does seem as if the wound where Jeff was amputated from me is still bloody and gaping, though it is “healing” somewhat. It’s not as constantly raw as it was at first.

I always felt scattered when we were apart, worried about something happening to one of us when the other wasn’t there. Well, something did happen. And I was there. Now it’s just me. Wherever I am, there I am, but I still feel scattered. Fragmented. As if parts of me are strewn all over the universe. There’s no reason to worry about him, but I still do.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

***

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.

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 23

So many people have told me lately that I should write a book about grief, that I realized somehow I’m not getting the point across — I did write a book about grief, and it’s been published now for over a year.

I never actually set out to write a book about grief, never planned to make any of my writing public (except for the blog posts, of course), but I was so lost, so lonely, so sick with grief and bewildered by all I was experiencing, that the only way I could try to make sense of it all was to put my feelings into words. Whether I was writing letters to Jeff (my deceased life mate/soul mate) or simply pouring out my feelings in a journal, it helped me feel close to him, as if, once again, I was talking things over with him. The only problem was, I only heard my side of the story.  He never told me how he felt about his dying and our separation. Did he feel as broken as I did? Did he feel amputated? Or was he simply glad to be shucked of his body, and perhaps even of me?

It’s been three years now since the following piece was written, and though I don’t have the physical trauma and emotional agony, I’m still lost, still miss him, still pinning my life mostly on “perhaps.” How did I get through three years of such great yearning? I honestly don’t know other than by taking life one step at a time.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 23, Grief Journal

I was lonely last year with Jeff spending so much time in bed, but now I am so lonely I feel bleak. And bereft. There seems to be little reason to live. No, I am not suicidal, but if I were to die today, I would not care.

I feel as if I am disappearing, fading from life, and all that is left is pain. How anyone gets through this, I do not know. And for what? Life didn’t seem foolish when Jeff was alive. I always knew we were meant for each other, but I never realized that he was my tie to life, to wanting to live. Finding that desire in myself right now is next to impossible. All I see are tenuous hopes and promises of pain. It’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

Do I need someone in order for my life to have meaning? Sounds weak. But isn’t love a major component of life? I know people survive quite nicely on their own, managing to find purpose, but I am so lost. So unhappy.

Perhaps the future holds something good for me, but that is such a silly word to pin my life on, yet that’s all I have—“perhaps”. Jeff no longer even has that. I’m trying to find comfort in knowing he is no longer suffering, and for a moment yesterday I even envied him. I wish my pain were over, too.

I’ve developed a terrible fear of dying. I could not handle dying the way Jeff did. It took him so long—years of getting sicker and weaker. Years of pain. I’m truly glad he isn’t suffering any more; I just wish he never had to suffer at all. Wish he were here, happy and healthy.

So many foolish wishes. Nothing I can say or do will change anything. The past is done. Finished. It scares me that I have no clear image of him in my mind, but my mind has never been a pictorial one—it’s more about feelings and impressions.

I miss him. Miss his fleeting sweet smiles. He had so little to smile about, yet he did smile at me. Did I return his smiles? I hope so. I loved him. Even when I could barely tolerate him (and there were such moments), I still loved him.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

***

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+

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 3

So many people have told me lately that I should write a book about grief, that I realized somehow I’m not getting the point across — I did write a book about grief, and it is now published.

I never actually set out to write a book, never planned to make any of my writing public (except for the blog posts, of course), but I was so lost, so lonely, so sick with grief and bewildered by all I was experiencing, that the only way I could try to make sense of it all was to put my feelings into words. Whether I was writing letters to my deceased life mate/soul mate or simply pouring out my feelings in a journal, it helped me feel close to him, as if, once again, I was talking things over with him. The only problem was, I only heard my side of the story.  He never told me how he felt about his dying and our separation. Did he feel as broken as I did? Did he feel amputated? Or was he simply glad to be shucked of his body, and perhaps even of me?

People always mention how my pain shines through my words, yet at the beginning, I was in such shock, I didn’t feel much. Two years later, I still miss him, still hate that he’s dead, though I don’t have the physical trauma that I did, and I have regained some of my energy. It truly shocked me how exhausting grief is, but then, most of what I experienced shocked me. I never expected to feel this sort of grief. Never knew it was possible.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 3, Grief Journal

This was a hard day, though I don’t suppose any of them will be easy for a while. It’s amazing how little energy I have. I can’t do much at all. Today I rewound some of Jeff’s video tapes, the ones we watched toward the end. Perhaps tomorrow I will find the strength to put them away.

The hospice nurse came and got rid of the drugs. (Dumped them in a plastic bag of kitty litter, which turned them into a solidified mess, and took them with her.) The medical supply people are supposed to come tomorrow to pick up the oxygen tank. It’s like I’m rewinding his life. I wish I could rewind it back to the good times. We did have good times. I know we did. But everything got so muddled at the end. All we were doing was struggling to survive.

I can’t believe there was ever a time I wished the struggle were over so I could start my new life. How could I not have known I’d feel such pain? I heard today that losing a long-time mate was like an amputation, and that’s exactly what this feels like.

Good, bad, indifferent—it was all the same. We were together. We took care of each other. And now he’s been amputated from me and my life.

I got furious on his account today. It’s so unfair that he had such ill health, that his life ended too soon and too terribly. It seems unreal, now, that we took for granted he would die young. Shouldn’t we have railed against it more? But he was so disciplined, focusing his energies on trying to prolong his life and be productive.

I don’t know which is worse, the times I miss him dreadfully or the times I concentrate on doing something and he drifts from my thoughts. It seems such a betrayal. If he only exists in my memory and I don’t think about him, it’s as if he’s dying again. And once was hard enough. It takes my breath away when I realize I will never talk to him again. Well, I will talk to him, and I do, but we will never converse. I will never hear his voice.

I thought I was through telling people our sad little tale, but I’ve remembered a few others I have to notify about his being dead. I hope I don’t start crying when I talk to them. I’m tired of crying, tired of feeling sick to my stomach, tired of the hole in my chest. How do people endure such grief for months on end? I truly hate that he’s gone. Hate it!!

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Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning