Continuing My Lonely March Into the Future

An older article Resuming My Lonely March Into the Future was inexplicably posted to Facebook yesterday as a new blog post. People have been responding with care and support, and at first I felt guilty that I was gathering sympathy for something that was long past, but when I re-read that five-year-old post, I realized that most of it reflected current feelings. I was particularly sad this Christmas season, more than I have been for a long time. I did shed a few tears, though to be honest they came more from self-pity than raw grief. I simply could not bear another minute of trying to move on with my life. The void of his absence is still there, though of course nowhere near as strong as it was five years ago, and I am tired of his being dead. It remains true that sometimes the hardest thing we have to do is keep marching into the future, especially when the person who connected us to the world lives in our past

More than that, though, the past year was a hard one. I often felt unwell (nothing serious, colds and allergies and the lethargy that results from them). I stopped going to dance class for a while because it was no longer a haven. I delved back into the depths of my sorrow so I could write an honest book about grief. (Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One) Despite all my efforts to fulfill my dreams, this year I finally had to let go of my two-decade-old dream of finding a major publisher, my three-decade-old dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, my forever dream of getting youthfully fit, and oh, so many things. I also had to deal with my older brother’s recent death, which has shaken up my life and made me realize I need to start finding ways to prepare for taking care of myself when I get old. (Like finding a place to settle down, perhaps.)

But, as I did five years ago, I let myself wallow in sadness and indolence, and now I’m steadfastly (and optimistically) resuming my solitary march into the future.

Wishing us all a year filled with wonderful new dreams and good surprises.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Resuming My Lonely March Into the Future

Sometimes the hardest thing we have to do is keep marching into the future, especially when the person who connected us to the world lives in our past.

My life mate/soul mate meant more to me than anything or anyone else for almost thirty-four years. His death forty-five months ago brought me more pain than I could ever have imagined, and it still brings me pain, particularly when
I remember the reason he’s out of my life — that he’s dead. Death is incomprehensible to me, and maybe always will be. Even more incomprehensibly, he died relatively young. 63. That’s hardly any age at all in a time when so many live into their nineties.

I do well most of the time. I know I can’t live in the past, especially not the past where we were happy. (A lot of the time during the last decade or so as his health declined, we weren’t happy, but it didn’t matter as long as we were together.) I try to concentrate on today, make what plans I can for the future, add new people to my life in an attempt to combat my loneliness. Mostly, I try to become a person who can survive such a tragic loss, maybe even one who can thrive.

And yet, on Christmas afternoon, I couldn’t stop crying.

It’s odd — Christmas didn’t mean much to us. We weren’t big on celebrations or traditions, but by default, we created our own traditions. Since we couldn’t work or run errands or do any of our other usual tasks when the world was shut down, we spent the day watching movies and nibbling on finger foods — cheese, meats, crackers, fruit, vegetables.

I spent a quiet day this Christmas. I fixed a festive meal for my father, went for a walk, then watched a movie with a plate of food in my lap. And that’s when my forward thinking collapsed, and all I could think of was the past.

I’ve signed up for an online dating service, and even have been trying to connect with people, but today I remembered why I’m trying to move on with my life, and something inside of me rebelled. I don’t want to move on. I want what I had. I want to go home to him, ask his forgiveness for whatever I did that made him leave me, see if we can reconnect. But he didn’t leave me, at least not voluntarily. He died.

I’m tired. I’m tired of his being dead. I’m tired of trying to move forward alone. Tired of trying to fill a void that seems endlessly deep.

But what other choice do I have? I allowed myself that time of sadness on Christmas, but now that it has run its course, I’ll steadfastly resume my lonely march into the future.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Wise Women of Cyberspace

I’ve met many wise and wonderful women online while struggling to find my way through grief, women who gave me the courage to do what was necessary — accept the pain, feel each emotion as it arose, and somehow find a way to live with it. One such woman and I would talk on Facebook about grief now and again — she was three years ahead of me in the process, and had found a new direction in her life, which gave me hope that someday, I too, would manage to find peace and even renewed life.

She posted one of her comments from our conversation on her blog today, Patience, Wallowing and Defragmentation, and explained how the lessons she learned while dealing with grief have helped her in dealing with health issues.

The conversation she referred to in her blog took place two years ago, but that wasn’t the end of our discussions. Just a couple of months ago I wrote: “It is sinking in that I couldn’t make him well when he was alive, and I can’t keep him with me now that he’s dead. As much as I hate his being dead, in a way, it has nothing to do with me.”

She responded:”That’s the toughest part — realizing that their death has nothing to do with us and that we are all, while connected through a web of energy, uniquely created beings following our own individual path. Regardless of how connected we are to some people in some ways, their path is theirs and ours is ours.”

It’s this knowledge that his death belongs to him and my life belongs to me that has helped me move beyond my mourning. My grief for him cannot make him alive once more, cannot change one facet of his life or his death. Of course, I had little choice in my grief — it came from somewhere so deep inside that I’d never know such a place existed. Grief still wells up on its own now and again, but I don’t try to hold on to it, don’t try to hold on to the past, don’t try to hold on to him. And perhaps, that takes the most courage of all — letting him go.

Lucky for me, I had such a wise woman giving me counsel.

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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 Child of Grief

My life mate/soul mate died thirty-three months ago today, and I found myself hesitating before writing this post. I worried it might seem as if I am trying to keep myself in the center of a drama, a drama that has long since lost its power and poignancy. But the truth is, even though I am not actively mourning — at least not often, and not much — grief still shades every moment of my life.

untitledvWhen people fall in love, when they are giddy with hormones, when they get caught up in the emotion of their love and the dream of a wonderful new life together, their friends and family never tell them,  “Okay. Enough. It’s time to get over your love and move on.” The whole world celebrates their love (or so it seems to the new couple), and everything they say and do for the rest of their lives is shaded by this focus on each other.

Grief reflects this process, though through a dark mirror. The newly bereft are buffeted by hormones, caught up in the emotion and pain of their loss, tormented by a future that no longer has any meaning, focused on someone who is no longer there. The loved one might be dead, but the love doesn’t die. (What do you do with love when it is no longer needed? I never have figured that one out.) And the bereft are told, “Okay. Enough. It’s time to get over your grief and move on.”

Other people get tired of our drama, but for us, it is always there — a blankness in our lives. An absence.

I am doing well, trying new things, preparing myself for a future alone. I have hermit tendencies, so to make sure that I don’t stagnate, I am planning adventures — simple excursions and experiences for today and complicated journeys for another time. From the beginning, I embraced my grief, wanting to process the guilts and regrets, the anger and fears as quickly as possible so I could charge into whatever the future held for me. I am now more determined than ever to celebrate life, and yet . . .and yet . . .

I am aware that if it weren’t for his death, I wouldn’t need to worry about my hermit tendencies. We were hermits together, friends in our solitude. Until those last years when he could barely drag himself out of bed, we did everything together, so there was no reason to plan solitary experiences or excursions. Every day with him brought the possibility of something exciting, even if only a long rambling conversation through history, science, philosophy and back to history, so there was no need to find a way to keep from stagnating. But now there is.

Grief has shaped my life in other ways. I am here in the desert because he is dead. I am taking care of my father because I am not needed elsewhere now that my life mate/soul mate is gone. I made new friends through my attendance at a grief support group, and those friendships have long outlasted the group. I am taking yoga classes, learning to find a new way to open to the universe because he is no longer here keeping me connected to the world.

His absence is still a very real presence in my life. I don’t feel his total goneness as much as I did at the beginning, but I am aware of his absence. My yearning to see him once more doesn’t claw at me the way it once did, but I am aware that I will never again hear his voice or be warmed by his smile. I am far beyond the days where I curled up, cradling my new pain and sorrow as if it were some sort of new born creature, but what those days did to me — stealing away the last of my naiveté, lightheartedness, and innocence — will remain with me forever.

I am a child of grief. No matter how adventurous or fulfilling my life might end up being, no matter who or what I grow to be, something deep inside of me will always be aware of the death that made these changes necessary, the absence that made them possible.

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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+