I Am a Six-Month Grief Survivor

Six months ago my life mate — my soul mate — died of kidney cancer, and my life changed forever. I survived the first excruciating weeks, and now I am learning to live with his absence and finding ways of going on by myself, but it’s lonely. So few people know how to act around the bereft, and they end up offering us maxims that bring no comfort because the adages are simply not true.

People tell us that time heals. Time does not heal. We heal. Grief helps us heal. Time does nothing. Time doesn’t even pass — we pass through time like persons passing through an endless desert.

People tell us that we’ll get over our loss, but when you have suffered a soul-quaking loss, you never totally get over it. Nor do you want to. Getting over it seems like a betrayal, a negation of the life you shared. The best you can do is eventually accept the person’s absence as a part of your life.

People tell us to on with life. They don’t understand that this is our life. Grief is how we get on with it.

Grief is not the problem. The problem is that our loved one died. Grief is the way we deal with that loss, the way we process it, the way we heal the wound of amputation. By experiencing the pain, by allowing ourselves to feel the loss, we honor our loved one and our relationship, and gradually we move through the pain to . . . to what? I’m not sure what lies on the other side of grief. I’ve passed the worst of the pain but not yet arrived at a new way of living.

During these past six months, I’ve been inundated with information about how to deal with grief. I purposely refrained from reading the material, which is strange for me — I’ve always been one who researches everything — but I didn’t want to know the accepted way to grieve. I wanted to experience my own grief without the current fad getting in the way. It used to be that grief was a regimented experience — one wore black and mourned for a year. More recently, the “stages of grief’ became the accepted way of grieving, though now there are various new ways of thinking about grief. The truth is, grief is personal, and except for the extremes of not allowing oneself to feel anything and trying to find ways of dying so you can join your loved one, however you grieve, that is the right way to grieve.

Grief makes even friends and family uncomfortable, so eventually the bereft learn to hide what they feel. They stop talking about their loved one, but they never forget.

I will never forget.

He will always live in my memory.