Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning”

GTGYwpDuring the first horrendous months after the death of my life mate/soul mate/best friend, I was so incredibly lost that sometimes the only way I could deal with my confusion was to write a letter to him in an effort to feel connected. I’ve come a long way in the four 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. I’ve learned to live without him, but I still miss him, and sometimes I still wish I were going home to him when my current responsibilities end.

 I’m grateful we met and had so many years together. 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.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning:

Day 197, Dear Jeff,

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve been thinking about you. Are you glad you’re dead? You said you were ready to die, to be done with your suffering, yet at the very end you seemed reluctant to go.

Despite all the problems with your restlessness and the disorientation from the drugs, I wasn’t ready for you to leave me. I still am not. Nor do I want to go back to where we were that last year, waiting for you to die. We were both so miserable, but honestly, this is even worse. I can live without you. The problem is, I don’t want to, and I don’t see why I have to.

I want to come home. Please, can I come home? I have a good place to stay, but without you, I feel homeless. Sometimes I watch movies from your collection and imagine you’re watching with me, but that makes me cry because I know you’re not here. Your ashes are, but you’re not.

I broke a cup today, one more thing gone out of the life we shared. Our stuff is going to break, wear out, get used up. I’ll replace some of it, add new things, write new books, and it will dilute what we shared. Is there going to be anything left of “us”? I feel uncomfortable in this new skin, this new life, as if it’s not mine. As if I’m wearing clothes too big and too small all at the same time.

There’s so much I hate about your being gone — hate it for me and hate it for you. It might be easier if I knew you were glad to be dead, but so far you’ve been mum about your situation. Just one more thing to hate — the silence of the grave. (Well, the silence of the funerary urn.)

Adios, compadre. If you get a chance, let me know you’re okay.

***

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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 197

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.  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 still wish I could go home to him when my current responsibilities come to an end, but even that desire is waning. It took me a long time to feel the truth — that he is gone from this earth, and I am here. I still miss him, and I probably always will, but I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin again. When one of “our” things disappears from my life through attrition, it no longer pains me — they are merely things, not “us”.

I’m  grateful we met and had so many years together. 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.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 197, Dear Jeff,

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve been thinking about you. Are you glad you’re dead? You said you were ready to die, to be done with your suffering, yet at the very end you seemed reluctant to go.

I didn’t want to throw you away. Despite all the problems with your restlessness and the disorientation from the drugs, I wasn’t ready for you to leave me. I still am not. Nor do I want to go back to where we were that last year, waiting for you to die. We were both so miserable, but honestly, this is even worse. I can live without you. The problem is, I don’t want to, and I don’t see why I have to.

I want to come home. Please, can I come home? I have a good place to stay, but without you, I feel homeless. Sometimes I watch movies from your collection and imagine you’re watching with me, but that makes me cry because I know you’re not here. Your ashes are, but you’re not.

I broke a cup today, one more thing gone out of the life we shared. Our stuff is going to break, wear out, get used up. I’ll replace some of it, add new things, write new books, and it will dilute what we shared. Is there going to be anything left of “us”? I feel uncomfortable in this new skin, this new life, as if it’s not mine. As if I’m wearing clothes too big and too small all at the same time.

There’s so much I hate about your being gone—hate it for me and hate it for you. It might be easier if I knew you were glad to be dead, but so far you’ve been mum about your situation. Just one more thing to hate—the silence of the grave. (Well, the silence of the funerary urn.)

Adios, compadre. If you get a chance, let me know you’re okay.

***
Click here to find Grief: The Great Yearning in print or on Kindle from Amazon.


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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 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

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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 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

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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.

A New and Embarrassing Stage of Grief

I’ve gone through so many stages of grief since the death of my life mate/soul mate that I’ve lost track. To be honest, I’m not sure there really are such things as “stages.” There simply seem to be varying states of mind that come around repeatedly in an ever-loosening spiral. Still, “stage” is an understandable term for an incomprehensible process, so I use it to describe each new phase of my grief, such as this latest manifestation.

A couple of things have happened lately to catapult me into a new and embarrassing stage of grief.

The first thing that happened was I finished watching the movies my deceased mate had taped. Viewing the movies was the final task of my Grief Work, and it exacted an emotional toll I hadn’t expected. As I watched each of tapes, I was aware that the last time I saw the movie, he was by my side. I remember the things we said, the looks we gave each other, the connection we felt. These once-loved movies now seem dull and bland as if a vital spark is missing. And it is missing. He is missing. Watching wasn’t hard at the beginning, when I started my self-imposed grief task, but it took more than two years to go through all the tapes, and the sadness built up, sort of like a cinematic water torture.

But that is finished. In the future, whatever feelings the movies instill in me when I watch them won’t be so achingly raw. Time, life, and new experiences will pad the movies, and separate me from him just a bit more. Once that thought of increased separation would have brought me pain, but now I know it’s necessary if I ever hope to live a full life.

The second thing that happened is that I do not have as many mixed feelings about his death as I once did. Many people insist that grief is for us, not for the deceased, but I’ve been greatly troubled by his death — for him. He didn’t seem to have much of a life. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain that he was often housebound and couldn’t do much. He was also relatively young. Hadn’t reached retirement age. Even worse, too many of his dreams never came true. It seemed to me that he got cheated out of so much, which was hard for me to bear. On the other hand, I was glad his suffering was over. Sometimes I even thought he got the better part of the deal since he didn’t have to hang around as I do to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. But when those pieces are roughly pasted together, I will get a chance to start over, and he won’t. Conflicts such as these complicate grief. But the other day while walking in the desert, I had a revelation — well, two revelations — that helped alleviate these particular conflicts.

First, I realized that when I was dead, I’d no longer care that he died before me, so if it is inevitable that someday it won’t matter that he died so soon, perhaps it doesn’t matter as much now. Second, I realized that if somehow we are eternal, existing before this life as well as afterward, then his death and mine would happen simultaneously in a cosmic sense. (If life is eternal, then there is no time, right? It all exists now. And so right now we are both alive/dead, though he is . . . perhaps . . . more dead than I am. Or thinking of it a different way: my potential extra decades of life will happen in an eye blink of eternal time, so from his current point of view, I will follow immediately after him.)

Finishing my final grief task and resolving my mixed feelings has more or less ended my sorrow. (At least for now. Sorrow at the death of the person who connected you to this earth never completely disappears.)

And after the sorrow? Well, this is the part I am embarrassed to admit. I am disgruntled and dissatisfied. It seems as if such profound grief, great yearnings, and impenetrable sadness should dwindle into something more noble than discontent. Besides, disgruntlement should be something I can control, but as with every other stage of grief, it seems to be outside of me. Or inside of me. Either way, it’s not of me. It’s just a stage to pass through on my way to whatever lies on the other side of grief.

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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.

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.

Grief Work

Grief work after the death of a spouse or anyone who makes your life worth living encompasses many tasks, from the simple task of getting out of bed in the morning to the complicated tasks of arranging for funeral services and dealing with financial matters.

As time goes on, the tasks of grief seem to increase, especially the emotional, mental, and spiritual tasks. We need to work through the pain, adjust to the absence of our loved one, find ways and reasons to continue living despite the absence, realize we each have our own path in life, remember them with joy not just sadness. (These might not be tasks so much as the natural progression of grief, but they all fall under the category of “grief work.”)

There are the horrendous tasks of dealing with the loved one’s effects, clearing out the things they no longer have any use for. Sometimes this particular bit of grief work can take years. Although I disposed of most of my life mate/soul mate’s things, I still have items I cannot get rid of, either because he asked me to keep them or because getting rid of them is still unthinkable after Untitledmore than three years. For example, I can’t get rid of his keys, eyeglasses, and wallet. Something in me balks at that, as if he still has use of such things. Especially ridiculous are his car keys. I donated his car to hospice, but kept a set of keys. I just can’t get rid of them.

And then there are the self-imposed tasks, the ways each of us find to honor the end of our shared life. For me, this self-imposed task is watching movies. Think it’s easy? No way!

Long ago, when we realized that we were renting the same movies over and over again because we couldn’t find anything better, he started taping movies for us. Started out with movies for us to watch together, and then expanded into movies he liked but I didn’t. As he got sicker and more housebound, he occupied his time by taping TV movies and television shows by hand so he could cut out the commercials.

There were more than a thousand tapes, some of them with a full six hours of movies or shows. Many of these tapes I had never watched, but during the past two-and-a-half years, I have been watching these tapes, sorting out the ones I have no interest in, keeping the ones that I like or that remind me of special occasions. I started with the tapes he made at the end, the ones I had never seen, and they were painful to watch — so many of them dealt with people who were dying or people who had to find a new way of living after the death of a spouse. It’s almost as if he were leaving me a message telling me to get on with my life.

Even more painful is when I reached the tapes that we always watched together. As I watch each of them, I am aware that the last time I saw the movie, he was by my side. I remember the things we said, the looks we gave each other, the connection we felt. These once-loved movies now seem dull and bland as if a vital spark is missing. And it is missing. He is missing.

I’ve almost worked my way through all the tapes, and I have a hunch that this particular self-imposed task is prolonging my grief since they connect me to the past and at the same time make me aware that the past is gone forever.

Despite all this grief work, there are two things I will never be able to deal with. I will always hate that he is dead. And I will always miss him.

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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.

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+

Grief: Denying Denial

I never really had a choice about feeling my grief. It wasn’t so much that I embraced it, but that it embraced me. It took hold of my life and didn’t let go, though it is easing enough so that I am able to see the process for what it is.

People talk about denial as if it’s a bad thing. If I’d been able to deny grief and just go on living as if my mate of thirty-four years hadn’t died, I’d probably have done so. Grief is debilitating, disorienting, causes innumerable physical and emotional reactions, makes one susceptible to cancer, accidents, and other closer-to-death encounters and on top of that, it’s just downright painful.

So why deny denial? Because in the end, it’s better to embrace grief, to learn to live with the pain (which does diminish, though according to comments left on this blog from others who have also lost their mates, it never goes away completely. It can resurface even years later). By embracing grief, by learning how to cope with it, you can learn how to feel deeply again, look forward to the future, and embrace life. This in no way negates your loss, but allows you to honor his death with your life.

Another reason to deny denial is that grief will affect you whether you embrace it or not, but the effects of denied grief are not overt ones such as crying, eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, feeling as if you’ve been kicked in the gut, feeling as if half your heart is missing. Instead, grief that goes underground can create in you long-term problems, including the symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder. Two friends — both of whom lost their husbands a few month ago, both of whom are deluged with family and family obligations that give them no time to grieve  — were diagnosed with PTSD after days of internal quivering that only responded to drugs. They do not have time to spare for grief, but grief is not sparing them.

Grief is stressful, which is why crying, screaming, beating up on defenseless sofas are necessary — they help relieve that pent-up stress. You can go into denial and hold grief in, but it’s like holding in your stomach for years on end — you can never think of anything else but your stomach. If you hold yourself tightly against memories, dreams, unexpected encounters with photos, you have no time for living. Perhaps you don’t see a purpose for living now, but if you do your grief work (and grief is work, there’s no doubt about that) chances are you will regain your desire to live. You might even be able to love fully again, and that means risking more pain, but after dealing with your grief, you will be strong enough to accept the risk.

At least, that’s the way I’ve interpreted the grief process. You might see different reasons for either denying grief or denying denial.