My Recycled Year

A few years ago, someone gave me an expired but unused calendar still in its original packaging. I’m sure it was more for the origami aspect than any sort of nostalgia, but the interesting thing to me is that the calendar was for 2010, the year Jeff died. I never did the origami, just set it aside, and lo and behold, the calendar is current again. 2010 has been recycled and has now become 2021.

There are many differences of course. Not in the days — everything lines up between the years 2010 and 2021, including non-date-specific days such as Easter — but in the events of the year.

Eleven years ago, Jeff and I were dealing with the stress of his dying, he was dealing with excruciating pain, and then later after he died, I had to deal with the incredible angst of grief.

This year, instead of being assaulted by my grievous loss, I am tending more toward gratitude. I am grateful he is no longer suffering. I am grateful I was able to be there at his end. But most of all, I am grateful he spent more than half his life with me. I got the benefit of his kindness, his intelligence, his gift for appreciation. He brought so much to my life, taught me so much, and even his dying and the gift of grief he left behind taught me much more.

I’m sure it seems odd to people who are still dealing with the daily grief of a deceased loved one that I would call grief a gift, but it is. All that turmoil brought me to the place I am today, both geographically and mentally. More than that, it showed me that there is so much more to us — to me, specifically — than we can ever imagine. I had no idea such a profound experience as grief for a soul mate existed. I had no idea the human heart could hurt so much. I had no idea that given that hurt — and the void he left behind — the heart could heal.

It reminds me of an Edwin Markham quote I’ve always loved:

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”

In this case, my grief took in the void, and made it a part of me.

For that, I am also grateful. Even in his absence, he is a part of me.

It makes me wonder if gratitude is the final aspect of grief — for in gratitude, we find the grace to continue living, to embrace all the joys the new year (and all the new years) hold.

If, as the day of my eleventh anniversary of grief approaches, and I get sad and don’t want to relive that year for real, I won’t have the daily reminder (other than the reminders that are in my heart, mind, and soul) because the calendar doesn’t specify a year. Only the day. And that will quite to deal with — one day at a time — during this recycled year.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and harmonious New Year.


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