Grief and Lingering Feelings of Resentment

Desert CactusDuring the past three years, I have chronicled my journey through grief, trying to make sense of the myriad emotional and physical stresses one has to deal with after a major loss, such as the death of one’s child or life mate/soul mate. I’ve explained that grief is not the simple and almost clinical state that Kübler-Ross’s five (or seven) stages of grief seems to indicate. Instead, there seems to be an infinite shading of emotion in the process we call grief.

Some of us do feel shock, denial, anger, guilt, sadness, depression, and acceptance, but most of us also feel anxiety, frustration, loneliness, confusion, despair, helplessness, panic, questioning (both as a need to know why and as a cry of pain), loss or gain of faith, loss of identity, loss of self-esteem, resentment, bitterness, isolation, inability to focus, suspended animation, waiting for we know not what, envy of those who are still coupled or who have yet to suffer a loss. And we suffer myriad physical symptoms such as queasiness, dizziness, sleep problems (too much or too little), eating problems (too much or too little), bone-deep pain, inability at times to breath or swallow, exhaustion, lack of energy, restlessness, and seemingly endless bouts of tears.

Except for sadness, I thought I’d pretty much dealt with most of grief’s effects, but recently I’ve become aware of lingering feelings of resentment. I’m mostly over the resentment of those who are still coupled, with only an occasional twinge of self-pity when I see couples out walking together, and I thought I’d come to terms with my resentment of his long illness and his leaving me here to deal with grief alone, but apparently a pool of resentment still lies deep within.

I am thin-skinned, taking offense at things that were not meant to be offensive, feeling hard done by when things do not turn out my way, railing against real or imagined unfairness. Of course, we all feel this way at times, but grief seems to take minor faults and magnifies them into major stumbling blocks. The death of the one person who connected us to life also makes us (well, me anyway) feel as if life should be granting us special privileges to make up for that great loss, but life doesn’t work that way.

I’m not proud of this resentment, but there it is. The good thing is that grief’s effects are now mostly making themselves known one at a time rather than all at once in a horrifying and cloudy kaleidoscope of feelings so that I can pay attention to the resentment, and perhaps get beyond this stage to a more even-tempered state.

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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+

The Waning of Grief

020bGrief has taken a back seat in my life for now — so much else is going on, including getting used to my father’s increased dependency and having moments of panic about where I’m going to go when he’s gone. I’d just about decided to move to a lovely small town in Colorado, having developed a craving for familiar cool mountain climes (and cool mountain climbs) until I discovered that the town has a very cold humid climate. Eek. I don’t tolerate humidity well. And 87 inches of snow a year? Double eek. So I’m back to zero. I don’t really want to stay here in the desert because my life would be much the same as it is today, sort of like a real life treadmill. Staying is an option, though, and treadmill aside, I do know people here. But it doesn’t feel like home. And right now, I’d like to go home.

The trouble, of course, is that no place would feel like home. Home was with my life mate/soul mate, wherever we happened to be. Like so many women in my stage of grief’s journey — past the tsunami of raw grief and not yet arrived at a new life — I have an itch to be on the move. Being settled — settled alone, that is — seems so much like stagnation.

I crave challenges. Adventure. Travel. The irony is that I don’t particularly like to travel, I hate hotels and motels, and I don’t like being unsettled. But what else am I going to do? Sit alone in an apartment for the rest of my life? If I’m on the move, anything could happen, maybe even something that will revitalize my life.

Four years seems to be a magic number when it comes to grief. Often that fourth anniversary is the turning point where we feel some sort of disconnect to the past, when everything suddenly feels new again, and we feel free to leap toward whatever future awaits us. I am letting go of the past and I do want to experience life to the fullest, but I’ve not yet arrived at the turning point — the future still seems bleak to me. Still, I’m just counting down to the third anniversary of his death, so I have a long way to go before I’ll feel up to taking any sort of leap, but I am holding on to the belief that such a time will come.

And maybe then the problem of where to go and what to do will 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+