Grieving For Grief

A woman who lost her life mate/soul mate around the same time as I lost mine told me about an insignificant event that briefly stirred up her low-lying grief, and then she said, “I wonder if I were grieving for grief.”

It sounds strange, but the truth is, we do grieve for grief. Grief for a spouse or a soul mate is so all-consuming, that it fills, in a strange sort of way, the hole they left in our life. Grief, as hard as it is, makes us feel, which makes us feel alive. Grief keeps us connected, if only by pain, to our mates. Grief reminds us that we once loved, and perhaps were loved in return. Grief gives us a glimpse of the vastness of life and the void of death and makes our existence feel important, makes us feel important. When grief passes, we have none of those things, just an emotional and spiritual emptiness. And so we grieve for the loss of our grief. Eventually, I hope, we will find something to replace grief, as grief replaced our love, but who knows what that will be and when or if it will come.

One of the tasks of grief is to help disconnect us from the past so that we can embrace the future while living as fully in the present as possible without being stuck forever in the half-life of loving someone who is dead. Then, of course, we have the problem of disconnecting ourselves from the grief. Disconnecting from grief is a much easier task, of course, since we don’t bridgereally thrive on pain (I don’t, anyway. Never have been much of a masochist), but still, whether we welcomed it or not, grief does become our life. It’s how we connect to the world and ourselves. It’s how we move past the trauma of losing the one person we loved more than anyone else in the world. It’s how we bridge the gap between the meaninglessness of death and finding new meaning in life.

I can see that as my grief is waning, I am disconnecting from my life mate/soul mate. Or maybe it’s the other way around, as I’m disconnecting from him, my grief is waning.  Either way, I’ve come to the realization that although it seemed we were connected soul to soul, my mate and I are/were two separate people. For a while we traveled the same road, but now we are on separate journeys. After he was gone, I had grief as a constant companion, urging me forward, but now, with the waning of grief, I see the bleakness of myself alone, fading, dying.

But that’s not all there will be, nor is it necessarily the truth. I have years, maybe decades of life in me still. It’s just a matter of finishing the tasks of grief, of grieving briefly for the loss of grief, then heading out on the highway of life and seeing what comes my way. Sounds easy and life-affirming, doesn’t it? I wonder if the coming leg of the journey will be as hard as all the rest.


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 Half-Life of Grief

SRecently I’ve been coming across a lot of articles and books touting the idea that people don’t need to grieve — it’s detrimental to their happiness and it doesn’t really gain them anything. These writers believe that when sad thoughts enter your mind, you should simply observe them and let them go. They are only thoughts, nothing real, nothing that can hurt you. The same goes for feelings of sadness. Examine them and let them go. In themselves, the feelings have no power. The only power is what you give them.

Sounds good, right? And to a certain extent this method works. But . . .

First of all, thoughts are real. When you study particle/wave physics and even quantum physics, it’s hard not to believe that at rock bottom, we are all just thoughts. Together, we think our current world into existence. Maybe we even think ourselves into existence. Or perhaps we are thoughts of the eternal Thinker. Who knows, certainly not me. But the point is, thoughts may not be something that can be touched with your fingers, but they are still tangible.

Second of all, grief is important. It’s a way of honoring those who have died, a way of pulling our world around us to accommodate the void they left behind, a way of learning to live with their absence and without their presence, a way of developing into our own person and renewing our reasons for living. Of course, we can develop and renew without grief, but being so familiar with death brings an urgency to the process.

Third of all, not all grief is emotional and mental. Sometimes grief is visceral. Physical. If you have lost a child or a soul mate, you literally lose a part of your physical self. Your child is connected to you by shared genes, and in the case of mothers, a shared body. With soul mates, you are connected by your very being. A lifetime of living together also connects you physically by the air you breathe, the foods you eat, the cellular materials that are exchanged via viruses and microbes, the energy fields that overlap.

One of the reasons such grievous losses as that of a child or a mate are so devastating is that not only do we grieve, so does our body. There were many times I could keep from feeling the loss emotionally or mentally, but I could still feel it in the marrow of my bones, in my cells.

People tell me that it takes three to five years to get past the worst of such a loss. Most people I know woke on their fourth anniversary to find a sense of renewal, and it makes sense that four years would be the half-life of grief. Our cells are continuously dying and being renewed. If it takes seven years for all the cells in one’s body to be renewed, then at my current stage of grief — 2 and 2/3 years — most of my cells still bear his imprint. By four years, less than half my cells will bear his imprint. And so gradually, the physical grief fades.

From the beginning, I was determined to get through my grief as quickly as possible so that I wouldn’t dishonor him (and me) by mourning his death for the rest of my life. I thought I was so strong and emotionally stable that I’d whiz through the process, but that did not happen, partly because I never took physical grief into consideration. I never even knew such grief existed, and neither, apparently, do writers who say that all you have to do to be happy is to let the feelings of sadness pass without feeding them.


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+