Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 359

GTGYthmbI’ve come a long way in the three years since I wrote the following journal entry.  I still don’t understand the point of it all, but the questions don’t haunt me quite as much as they did during the first years after Jeff’s death.  I’m learning to live without him, learning even to want to live without him. Sometimes I see his death as freeing us — me — from the horrors of his dying, and I don’t want to waste the sacrifice he made.

I no longer feel as if I am squandering time when I am doing trivial things because I have come to realize there are no trivialities. Everything we do is living, taking part in the great panoply of life. Whatever we do adds to the Eternal Everything.

I still yearn to talk to Jeff, of course. I miss talking to him, miss his insights, miss the conversation that began the day we met and continued for decades until he got too sick to hold up his end of the dialogue. I was truly blessed. He never misunderstood what I said. I could make a simple comment to him, and he understood it was a simple comment. He didn’t make a big issue out of it, just answered back appropriately. It seems now every remark I make to anyone becomes a major deal as I try to explain over and over again what I meant by the first remark. It’s exhausting.

I’m  grateful we met and had so many years together. Grateful for all the words we spoke to each other. Grateful I once had someone to love. Grateful that when my time comes to die, he won’t be here to see me suffer. Grateful he won’t have to grieve for me or be tormented by unaswerable questions.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 359, Dear Jeff,

I never felt as if I were wasting time no matter what you and I did—even something trivial like playing a game or watching a movie — so why do I feel I’m wasting time if I do those things alone? Don’t I have just as much worth now that I’m alone as I did when I was with you?

When I was out walking in the desert yesterday, I talked to you. You didn’t answer, of course, or if you did, I didn’t hear. We talked about meaninglessness. If you still exist somewhere, if you still have being, if life doesn’t end with death, then life has an inherent meaning — whatever I do or think or feel, no matter how trivial, has meaning because it adds to the Eternal Everything. If death brings nothing but oblivion, then there is no intrinsic meaning to life. So a search for meaning is meaningless (except on a practical level. We all need to feel we are doing something meaningful so we can get through our days and even thrive). Life either has meaning or it doesn’t. Meaning isn’t something to find but to be. So, I’m going to search for meaninglessness, or at least accept it.

Such thoughts seem as meaningless and as trivial as the rest of life. They get me knowhere. (I’m leaving that error, because . . . wow! So perfect!)

I’ve been watching your Boston Legal tapes again. Nicely meaningless since they put me to sleep. But they make me feel connected to you because we watched them a year ago during your last days at home.

This first year of your being dead is coming to an end, and I still don’t know how to survive the pain of your being gone, but I am surviving. Not thriving, not yet, but I will. There’s still so much to work through — all those years of your being ill, our unhappiness, our shattered dreams. Despite all the bad, we did have a good life, a fulfilling one. We journeyed together as long as we could, now it’s up to me to continue our journey alone. Will it continue to be “our” journey or will it become mine alone? I know who I was when I was with you. Now I need to find out who I am without you. To find worth in being alone.

Adios, compadre. I love you.

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

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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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Loosening Spiral of Grief

Yesterday I wrote about The Unchanging Face of Grief, and how a journal entry I wrote exactly three years ago mirrored what I was feeling — Just drifting. Marking time. Hoping . . .

But the truth is, there is a vast difference between yesterday’s feelings and those of three years ago. Three years ago, when I wrote that entry, I had accomplished most of what I needed to do immediately after the death of my life mate/soul mate. I had him cremated as he wished, opened a new checking account, disposed of most of his effects and a lot of “our” things that weren’t desert knollsworth storing, got myself to my father’s house to look after him since he could no longer live alone. There was nothing I needed to do, that day three years ago, and the great pain of grief provided insulation from the normal irritations and aggravations of life, offering me the illusion of freedom. I just drifted in a fog of pain, spending hours in the desert, thinking not much of anything. Just wandering. Marking time. Hoping my life was actually going somewhere and wouldn’t always feel so stagnant.

People often talk about the “stages” of grief, as if grief were a staircase you ascend, step by agonizing step, until you climb out of the pit, but grief is more like a spiral that slowly unrolls, returning you over and over to the same places, each time with a bit less pain and emotion. At the beginning, these changes from vast pain to numbness, from despair to hope, from determination to helplessness come so quickly, it’s as if you’re inside a slinky that some over-active child keeps tossing around. You don’t even have time to acknowledge one state of mind before you’re in a different state.

My spiral of grief is still unrolling, but now, after more than three years, the changes come slowly and have little power. And the upsurges of angst are over quickly. But this feeling of waiting, of stagnation, seems to be ever present.

I don’t seem to be going anywhere with my life. I remember at the beginning, I was anxious to be done with my grief so I could embrace my new life with arms outstretched. I expected wonderful things to happen, and why shouldn’t they? Doesn’t it make sense that great happiness should come to balance out such great pain? But here I am, long past the worst of my pain, and I still seem to be running in place.

Admittedly, I am stuck in place geographically, unable to make plans except for a few days in advance since my father’s health takes precedence, but my life has more often been a life of the mind instead of action, and that mental life seems stuck too. Even worse, the waning pain of grief no longer protects me from the aggravations of life. (And right now there seem to be more aggravations than normal.)

I have had a couple of revelations out walking in the desert though, so perhaps I am not stagnating as much as I think I am. A few days ago, I was talking to my deceased mate, complaining about all the aggravations I have to deal with, and telling him that when I was free to live my own life, I still wouldn’t be free since I have other commitments to consider. A few minutes after I shut up and the walking lulled my mind, the thought entered my head, “Don’t consider other people. Do what you want.”

(I’m pretending this thought came from him in response to my complaints, but more probably it came from my subconscious.) Doing what I want is easy. Figuring out what I want is hard, but maybe someday it will come to me as I wander.

Another revelation, that I’m not sure I understand, is that life is a tool that we write with, much as we write with a pen. I’m still thinking about that one.

Despite the feelings of going nowhere, I am still trying to keep open to “somewhere.” Still trying to embrace life. Still trying . . .

***

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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Unchanging Face of Grief

Sometimes it amazes me how little things have changed over the course of the three years of grief since the death of my life mate/soul mate. The pain, of course, has dissipated significantly, and I seldom have the falling-elevator feeling of panic at the thought that he is gone. Even the thought of his being dead at the moment isn’t making my stomach churn (though I still don’t like it and never will).

In fact, right now, I’m not feeling much of anything — no great sadness, no inclination to tears, no inclination to anything, if the truth be told. Because of this, I’ve been procrastinating about writing today’s blogpost: upgrading a defunct blog, learning a bit more about some of the widgets wordpress offers. I finally procrastinated so much that I ran out of time and decided to do an excerpt from my grief book as a fill in. And guess what? Exactly three years ago today, I felt the same way as I do now. Just drifting. Marking time. Wandering in the desert. Hoping . . .

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 83, Grief Journal

I’m not doing much. Just drifting. Getting through the days. Pretending to be real. I hope the rest of my life isn’t going to be just marking time like this. It sounds . . . feeble. Mostly I’m babying myself, as if I’m recovering from a long illness. And I am—a soul sickness.

I spend hours every day wandering in the desert. I’m as restless as Jeff was at the end, and walking seems to be the only thing that keeps me pacified. The past couple of weeks have felt like a perfect summer from childhood that was always warm and sunny, at least in memory. It’s been hot here, of course, and windy, but I’ve been roaming like a child newly freed from restrictions.

I hope I am going somewhere. I hope I’m growing, developing, doing something besides stagnating, which is how I feel.

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

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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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Three Years and 68 days of Grief

Today is the three-year anniversary of the day I left our home behind to come look after my then 93-year-old father. I still yearn to go home at times, but not back to the house — back to Jeff, my life mate/soul mate. He was my home. Still, leaving that house was a physical wrench. It was where we had spend two decades together. It is where we were living when he died. It’s where I endured the worst day of my life.

Although I no longer have the gut-wrenching, breath-taking, soul-shattering pain of those first terrible months after Jeff’s dath, I am still amazed how many of the feelings are the same as at the beginning.

Exactly three years ago today, I wrote in my grief journal:

Sometimes I think I’m dramatizing this whole situation, making a big deal out of a natural occurrence, then grief swallows me and I know Jeff’s death and my reaction to it is real.

I’m almost ready to leave, to start the next phase of my life. Will I be happy as my sister suggested? Will things come together for me as Jeff said? Will I stagnate during this transitional phase or will I find a new creativity, a new focus?

I feel like a fledgling being pushed from the nest with no idea of how to use my wings. Whether I look forward to the change or look back in longing, whether I drag my feet or wing it, I’m leaving here. Alone.

I have many doubts and fears, but despite them, I hope I will run to meet my destiny. And if there is no destiny? If there is no happiness for me? Well, I’ll accept whatever comes, both good and bad, with courage.

Today, I still am dealing with doubts and fears, still wondering if there is a destiny to run to meet, still wondering if I will ever be happy, or if this is the way I will always feel. So far, I have not yet found a new focus, though I am trying to fish for life, trying to do new things, to go new places, to be spontaneous.

My life is bound by death, it seems. First my brother’s death, then my mother’s, then Jeff’s, and now . . . Well, my father isn’t near death, but he is declining. Death is not a good way to live. At least not for me. I don’t know how people deal with all this loss. Well, yes, I do — with courage.

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

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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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 43

Someone asked me today if I had any tips for writing a book about grief, but I have no such tips. 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 43, Grief Journal

On Wednesday I took my car to the mechanic to get it ready for the trip, on Thursday, I took Jeff’s car to get the brakes fixed, then yesterday I had the first day of the yard sale. Spent most of last evening crying and screaming. “Grief work” they call it. It’s sickening (literally) to be dismantling our lives. Sickening to think of leaving here, leaving Jeff behind.

My time with Jeff wasn’t always “quality” time in that we were out of sync the past couple of years (no wonder, what with his dying) but I have learned one thing. ALL time with a loved one is quality time. Time is the currency of love. It’s not so much what you feel as what you do. It’s having time for someone, being present for him.

I do okay while writing in this journal. I can write rationally about Jeff, our past and my future, but when I’m in the throes of anguish, I’m anything but rational. This whole experience makes me feel unbalanced. Well, I am un-balanced. When Jeff stepped off the world, he unbalanced it, unbalanced me. I have to find balance and do it on my own—I can’t expect anyone else to balance me and my world.

Well, gotta go get ready for another yard sale day. The worst part comes not from selling our stuff for pocket change, but from seeing all the couples picking over the shards of our life. If I’d known that the only ones stopping would be older couples, I might not have put myself through this. It’s too difficult. Reminds me that I am no longer half of a couple. That I have no one to grow old with. No one to be with.

I won’t cry.

At least not until I’m alone tonight.

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+