Grief: New Year’s Day and Beyond

eternityThis past New Year’s Day was the third one I have lived through since the death of my life mate/soul mate. That first New Year’s Day was one of relief. I’d managed to live through the worst year of my life, and I greeted the day with acceptance and looking toward the future, building hopes and creating dreams.

The second New Year’s Day was a day of dread. The last week of that year was one of waiting. No grief, no strong emotion. Just . . . waiting. But with the dawning of the new calendar year came the dread. I still don’t know why (to be honest, I’ve never totally understood the whys and ways of grief), though perhaps the dread came from an awareness of moving further away from our shared life. I could no longer say, “Last year, we . . .” “Last year, he . . .” There was just me, balanced precariously on the precipice of a life alone.

This third New Year’s Day inexplicably began with tears. Grief had been leaving me alone, and I hadn’t had a strong upsurge for a long time — I thought I was through with grief, to be honest — but when the calendar rolled over from 2012 to 2013, grief came calling once again. And once again, I do not know why.

A new calendar year has never meant much to me — it’s such an arbitrary date, beginning at staggered times around the world, and even celebrated on different dates in various countries and religions. Now that I am alone, however, I try to make a ritual of such things, to note the passing of the days. I need to know that I am still here and I am still alive. And despite the arbitrariness of the date, apparently something in me senses a change from one year to the next and reacts to it.

People tell me that it takes three to five years to find joy in life again, or at least to find a new beginning, and three months into this year will be my third anniversary of grief. It feels like a milestone, though I can’t even begin to guess what it will mean to me besides one more year further away from “us” and one more year closer to . . . I don’t know what.

But I can’t think of that now. If I’ve learned anything during these past two years and nine months, it’s the importance of taking life one step at a time. I’ve already taken three steps into this new calendar year. Tomorrow will be another step. Beyond that, the future will just have to take care of itself.

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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+

Trying to Fill The Void Of His Absence With Remembered Joy

All of a sudden, it seems, there have been changes in my life pertaining to my grief for my life mate/soul mate. For about a week after the Fourth of July, I endured a heavy upsurge in sorrow, but in its wake, I have found a semblance of peace midst the sadness.

Saturday was his birthday, and I started out the day feeling almost upbeat, gladder that he’d spent so many years with me than sadder that he is gone from my life. I’d never sung Happy Birthday to him when he was alive, so I sang to him out in the desert, where no one could hear. (Believe me, you do not want to hear me sing!) I planned to get a cake, too, but sometime that afternoon, the sadness returned. Next year, perhaps, I’ll bake a cake to celebrate his life.

I’ve also had some stray thoughts that indicate a shift in my perspective. A couple of days before his birthday, I found myself thinking, “He beat the system. He’s out of it now.” I don’t know where that idea came from because he didn’t beat the system. He didn’t have to grow elderly, but he was sick for so long it seemed as if he’d skipped a couple of decades of middle age and went straight to old age. But still, he is out of this life. He won’t have to worry about the coming changes in medical insurance or any other such foolishness, won’t have to watch himself age further, won’t have to continue suffering. Wherever he is (if he is) he is safe. And free.

To a great extent, our life together now seems unreal. I’ve been trying to live in the moment, and in the moment, he is not here. I’m still sad, still want to go home to him, still yearn to talk to him, but wanting such things seems to speak more of longing than of recollection, as if somewhere in the back of my mind I had conjured up a mate and a life and time of togetherness. But the truth is, if I had conjured up such a fantasy out of nothing but loneliness, I would have created happier memories. Too much of our life together was steeped in sickness and failure. Still, there were joys. The astonishing beginning of our relationship when he was radiant with youth and strength and health, the electricity of our long-lasting discussions, the sweetness of our final hug, the beauty of his smile, his wonderful gift of appreciation, his vast courage, and his determination to accomplish something each day despite his waning health.

I came across these words today from “Remembered Joy,” an Irish prayer:

I could not stay another day,
To love, to laugh, to work or play;
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
And if my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.

He stayed as long as he could, and it would pain him to know that his death brought me so much sorrow. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fill the void of his absence with only remembered joy, but I’m continuing with my life, filling it with new experiences, and for now that’s the best I can do.