Grief Eve

Today is the eve of the eleventh anniversary of Jeff’s death. For several years after the first year, the day before the anniversary was painful, but the anniversary itself was not as much of a problem. I don’t know why that was except that perhaps I’d been focused on the anniversary itself and so was prepared for that, but I wasn’t prepared for what I felt in the days leading up to the anniversary.

So far, today isn’t any different from any other day, which kind of surprises me. The calendar this year is exactly the same as the year he died, so I expected to feel something . . . extra. Apparently, he’s been gone so long that I no longer feel the “calendar” of his absence. During the first years, even when I didn’t actually check to see what day it was, I could feel the various anniversaries (his diagnosis, signing up for hospice, his dying) in the marrow of bones, in the depths of my soul.

Body memory such as I experienced is often associated with extreme stress, and the death of a spouse/life mate/soul mate is about as stressful as everyday life gets. Body memory is not a flashback, where you are actually experiencing the trauma again, though that re-experience did happen often during the early years. Nor is it simply a vivid memory. In fact, the body memory comes first, and only afterward do we remember why we felt such an upsurge of emotional and physical grief reactions.

I’ve always felt that my internal clock was reset on the day he died, so that ever after I talk about that day as “the beginning.” Back then, I meant it as the beginning of my grief, but learned to see it as the beginning of a new stage in my life, one that was dictated by his absence, my grief, my struggles to find a new way of living. Now that clock, or at least the internal memory of him and his dying days, has wound down. As you can see, I still count my years from that day, but it is a conscious count, not a body memory.

Many memories of my life before that delineation, that beginning, have faded with the years. It annoys my sister when she asks me about things that happened in our childhood and I don’t remember. (And it annoys me that she still asks, knowing that I don’t remember.) It’s as if those years belonged to someone else’s life in the same way the characters I have read or written weren’t actually my life. Truthfully, I don’t want to remember my younger years. Nor do I have any particular desire to try to remember my years with Jeff — I feel those memories in the void of his absence even if I don’t recall a specific incident.

For many years, every Saturday, the day of the week he died, was a sadder day for me. I could always tell when it was Saturday even when I didn’t know. (I’m one of those people who, if they were in an accident and a medical professional would test my cognizance by asking me the date or the day of the week, I’d fail.) But back then, I did know Saturdays. It’s been a long time since I “felt” a Saturday. All my days, at least as they pertain to Jeff and his absence and my grief, are pretty much the same now. There is a deep running current of sadness that will never leave me, but it doesn’t affect me the way it once did. I can still be happy, can still find joy in the little things of my life, such as the flowers poking their pretty little heads above ground.

But this is how I feel today. Tomorrow is the first time since he died that the anniversary falls on Saturday, so who knows what I will feel, what my body will feel, what I will remember.


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

No More Saturday my Sadder Day

During the past three and a third years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, the date and the day he died have brought an upsurge of grief. Every 27th of the month and every Saturday I felt an increased sadness even when I wasn’t aware of the date and day. And when the 27th fell on a Saturday, I got a double dose of grief.

Last Saturday was the 27th, but there was no sadness. I simply noted the date and day, and went on with my life. Not that there was much to go on with — a walk in the desert, a movie (one of the movies he taped for us), some online activity.

Part of me wanted to feel sadness just out of habit — habits are comfortable even when they aren’t particularly productive. Part of me wanted to feel sadness because it was a link to him and to a life that is rapidly receding from me. Mostly it didn’t matter. I’d come to see that being sad or unsad didn’t make much of a difference — it was just a part of my life in the same way the sun rises and sets or the moon grows full and wanes.

It’s been several days since Saturday the 27th, and I still don’t know what to think about the lack of sadness. Three and a third years ago, I was in such pain, I couldn’t have believed this time would ever come. Some people who have lost their spouses still feel connected, but I don’t. I talk to him, of course, but never feel as if he’s listening, let alone responding. Whatever we once meant to each other, whatever we shared, I now know he’s on his own journey, just as I am.

The main problem continues to be emptiness. I don’t feel anything as dramatic as the bleakness I once felt, don’t feel much at all, to tell the truth. I do feel lonely, of course, but I’m getting used to that. I even think it might be my destiny—to be alone so I can . . . and that’s where the thought always ends. So I can do or become . . . what?

I don’t much believe in destiny, and yet it’s hard to completely disbelieve when two such inexplicable and awe-full events helped define my world: the day he came into my life and the day he left.

From somewhere deep inside, “want” is starting to seep up into my consciousness. It’s an indefinable want, perhaps a desire for life, whatever that might be. I’ve been steeped in death and aging for too long (still am — I’m currently looking out for my mostly independent 96-year-old father), and something in me is crying out for more.

Despite a growing restlessness, I need to be patient since my life is not yet entirely my own. But someday, when I am free, I hope I have the courage to run to meet my destiny, whatever that might be. I hope I have the courage for “more.”


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.

Double Whammy of Grief

For more two and a half years, Saturday was a sadder day for me. My life mate/soul mate died late Friday night or early Saturday morning, depending on how you look at it, and often my mind/body saw it both ways, with an upswing of grief on Friday that grew to a crescendo on Saturday and didn’t dissipate until dawn on Sunday. Even if I paid no attention to the calendar, grief surged, which always mystified me — how could my body know when I didn’t?

Today is a double whammy — not only is it Saturday, but it is the 27th, the date of his death — but there doesn’t seem to be a great upsurge of sorrow on these days and dates anymore. My sadness is like an underground river running beneath my consciousness, and it doesn’t profoundly affect the hard-won peace of my days, though it does ripple and churn at times, most notably when I remember why he is out of my life. Death is too big for me to understand, and the thought of his being dead always brings tears to my eyes. Even now, after thirty-one months, I cannot bear that he is dead. Perhaps he doesn’t mind, but since he has yet to communicate with me in any way that I can comprehend, I don’t know how he is doing or even if he “is.” (Many people see butterflies or experience things that seem out of place or out of time, but I never have.)

Lately I’ve been posting articles about looking forward, about being me, about trying to open myself to surprises and the power of the universe, and sometimes I wonder if I’m just fooling myself (and you) with this pretense of being okay with my current state of affairs. I’m not okay with it, but I can’t undo death — not just his, but death in general — and so I try to act as if the universe is unfolding the way it should. And perhaps, in the final analysis, that’s all any of us can do — fake it until we make it. (Whatever “it” is.)

Maybe there is a special destiny waiting for me and that is why I am still here, even though I somehow always assumed death would pull me out of this world when it took him. Maybe my being here is nothing but a trick of genetics or a roll of destiny’s dice, but whatever the reason, I am still here. And he is not. It doesn’t seem fair, though I still don’t know which of us got the worst of the deal and which of us got the best. Could it be there is no worst or best? I don’t know, and probably will never know while I’m here on this earth. I can only act as if this is the best for me and go from here to wherever life might lead me.


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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+

Yet Another Saturday, My Sadder Day

Yesterday was Saturday, my sadder day. The love of my life died one Saturday almost two and a half years ago, and I have not yet managed to get completely over it. You don’t ever get over such a grievous loss, of course, but you can come to an accommodation with the absence, develop a new focus, perhaps even find happiness. It just takes a very long time — three to five years, or so I’ve been told. I’m doing well, all things considered, but I still struggle to find my way.

I loved him with all my being, and I continue to love him. My love for him has no outlet — I can no longer do anything for him or with him — so his share of my love fills my heart like a pool of unshed tears. I try to use that love to propel me into my future, knowing he wouldn’t want me to be sad for him, but the truth is, he has no say in the matter. (I don’t always a have a say, either — grief comes and goes as it pleases, following a timetable I seldom understand.) He’s gone, and that goneness continues to shadow my life. I feel his absence like an itch deep in my soul. I feel it in the world around me, in the very air I breathe. I’m practicing being part of the world, planting my feet on the ground, feeling connected to my self and my surroundings. Still, the world feels alien with him not in it.

I’ve come a long way from the shattered woman who screamed her pain to the uncaring winds. I’ve made new friends, seen amazing sites, tried different activities, sampled exotic foods, wrote hundreds of blogs, walked more than a thousand miles. I’ve done the best I can to life fully, but the truth is, I’m tired. I’m tired of his being dead, tired of having to put a positive slant on a situation that has no upside, tired of trying to live whole-heartedly with half a heart. Just . . . tired.

I’m not young anymore, but I’m not old, either. Sometimes the future yawns before me like a bleak and empty landscape. Most times, of course, I can look to the future with hope, though I probably will always be saddened and bewildered by his goneness, especially on Saturday, my sadder day.