Grief: Being Ripped in Two

One of the truly bizarre aspects of having lost a life mate/soul mate is that his death rips you in two. It’s as if the person you were with him still exists, always bereft, always lost and lonely and amputated from him. At the same time, a new person comes to life: the person you are to become without him.

In the beginning, the person-becoming is so new you’re barely aware of her birth. You’re only aware of being the person-bereft, someone so awash in grief she sees no reason to live. Gradually, the person-becoming gains strength as you learn to live without your mate. You do new things, eat new foods, have new experiences. And all of these take you further away from the person you once were.

For a while — perhaps for several years after the first horrors of new grief have passed — you toggle between the person-bereft and the person-becoming. Eventually, you remain mostly the person-becoming, though the person-bereft is always there, shadowing you. Certain events, such as anniversaries, or new milestones, such as the birth of a grandchild, catapult you right back into person-bereft, and your loss feels fresh and raw and real.

If you’ve lost your mate, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t lost such a significant person, this splitting apart sounds bizarre, and it is. How can you be two people, both a person who looks forward to continued life and a person who wants only to be with their mate?

I had a terrible realization while walking in the desert the other day: he died so I can live. Perhaps his death wasn’t as purposeful as that sounds, but our shared life had become a hell. As the cancer spread, the metastases in his brain grew larger and the drugs dosages became stronger. He kept getting weaker and more disoriented, and he turned into a stranger. There were moments that last year when I feared he would last for a very long time, slowly draining my life away. (Not an admirable admission, perhaps, but an understandable one considering the circumstances.)

Twenty-two months and two days ago, he died. And now I have the gift of life. His death gave me that. As much as the person-bereft wishes the whole thing were over with, the person-becoming sees glimmers of . . . not hope exactly, but possibility. I don’t know what I will do with this gift, but someday, somehow, I need to find a way to live so that I don’t waste his death.