Time Warp

I went to the grocery store today, and for a second, I felt dizzy, as if I had stepped through a time warp. I could have sworn Christmas was just a few days ago, that the new year hadn’t even started, but this is what I saw:

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Valentine’s Day? Already? Tell me it isn’t so!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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+. Like Pat on Facebook.

I Am So Romantic!

sleeping bearNichole Bennett, author of Ghost Mountain and Sleeping Bear, wrote a blog post in honor of Valentine’s Day next month, entitled Are you romantic? Or romantic? She admits that she’s not romantic, “at least not in the “wine me, dine me, we live happily ever after” way. Then again, if you mean “romantic” in the Edgar Allen Poe, basing your writing on the Supernatural, I’m so romantic it’s not even funny.”

I can relate to that. I used to enjoy a bit of traditionally defined romance in movies, books, and in my own writing, but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve become something of a romance-phobe. I think it has to do with dealing with my loneliness, getting on with my single life, and accepting aloneness as my current normal.

I first noticed a change about a year ago. I could no longer handle books with a happy ending for the romance subplot (I don’t read romances per se; the romance always has to come as an adjunct to a more compelling story.) I didn’t like that the character got to have a romance when I no longer could. (It made me cry, if you must know.) On the other hand, if there was no happy ending to the romantic subplot, well, that made me cry too, and quite frankly, I’m sick of crying. So . . . no more reading.

Lately I’ve noticed that the romantic subplot in movies makes me itchy. Not only does secondhand romance seem pathetic, it makes me feel lonely, and I certainly don’t need anything to a) remind me that I don’t have a romantic relationship and b) make me feel lonelier than I already am.

Which brings me to writing. I’ve been thinking about writing fiction again. I want to find time and space (mental space, that is) to write the dance murder mystery that was once suggested to me, but beyond that, I haven’t a clue what to write. My work-in-progress features a necessary romance (necessary because they have to have a baby. Although that baby doesn’t show up until the very end of the book, he is the crux of the story). But I begrudge those poor characters their romance and so the book remains a work-in-pause. In two other WIPs, the poor girl goes off into the sunset by herself, which at one time fit my idea of romance, but now just seems . . . lonely.

So . . . no books, no movies, no writing. No coupling of any kind. If that’s romance, then yes, like Nichole, I am so romantic it’s not even funny.

Click here to read Nichole’s post: Are you romantic? Or romantic?

Click here to read an interview with Nichole R. Bennett, Author of “Ghost Mountain”

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Wishing You Life and Love

Mahatma Ghandi said, “Where there is love, there is life.” On this day set aside for celebrating love, I wish you a life filled with love.

I love you

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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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Day for the Broken-Hearted

February 14th. A day to celebrate love with flowers, chocolate, romance. Sounds wonderful if you have someone to love, or even the hope of finding your true love, but if you are one of the many bereft whose beloved has died, the day brings not romance but tears. You remember that once you were loved, that once you loved. Of course, you still do love — love doesn’t die — but loving the eternal essence of someone who is dead is not exactly the same thing as loving someone who is present in body and mind and heart and voice.

We bereft are no longer whole-hearted. Our poor hearts still beat the same, but not with the same intensity they once did. Where once joy (or at least contentment) coursed through our veins, sorrow now flows. Sorrow doesn’t always flow, of course. We do heal . . . sort of. We piece our hearts together the best we can and go on living. But then comes Valentine’s Day, reminding us once again that we are broken-hearted.

My life mate/soul mate and I did nothing on Valentine’s Day. For us, it was just another meaningless day given significance only because we were together. Most of my fellow bereft are dreading tomorrow, knowing it will bring an upsurge in grief. They are planning lunches with friends and special outings to keep from thinking of what they have lost. I too am planning to go to lunch with friends, and this very effort underlines my problem. I can find people to do things with, but I no longer have someone to do nothing with.

My mate and I did nothing on Valentine’s Day, but we did it together. And now tomorrow I will have one more irreplaceable thing to mourn — nothing.

The First Terrible Anniversaries of Grief

The first anniversaries, holidays, and special days after a loved one’s death are difficult because we are so intensely aware that the person is no longer here to share in the joyous occasions. This is especially true if that person is a spouse, a life mate, a soul mate. Whatever traditions we developed together become obsolete when only one of us remains to carry on. The pain, the yearning to be together once more can be devastating on these days.

If those first anniversaries do not mark joyous occasions and celebrations but days of horror, the pain is oh, so much worse.

This has been a particularly difficult month for many who lost their mates because Valentine’s Day is shoved down our throats. Wherever we go, we see images of happy couples. We remember we once were loved, once were part of a couple, and now we are not. Oddly enough, my upsurge in grief this month has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. We were not a romantic couple, did not see the point of following the crowd and celebrating a day just because someone once decided we should. We ignored the day, hence it has no baggage to bring me pain. In fact, today was a good day for me — I had lunch with a couple of friends from my grief group. We have graduated from the need for the group but still need the companionship of those who have experienced the same losses, so today we initiated our own little social group. There was no maudlin talk, just the normal pleasantries of friends sharing a meal.

Still, this has been a dreadful month for me, a month of painful anniversaries. A year ago last week, my life mate — my soul mate — bent down to pick up something off the floor and pain hit him so severely, it sent him to bed for the rest of his life. A year ago next week we got the diagnosis. At the beginning of March, when he saw a doctor for the last time, the oncologist told him he had three to six months to live. Two days after that, we signed up for hospice. Three weeks later, he died.

I hadn’t thought of these days as anniversaries, so I did not steal myself for the onrush of grief. But grief has a schedule all its own, and it came for me. Again. How can his descent into these final stages of dying have begun a year ago? Those days seem so close that if my arms were long enough, I could reach behind me and touch him. Hug him. Keep him safe.

Today, thinking about his last weeks of unendurable pain, I feel self-indulgent for all my yearning to have him back. How could I ever subject him to that again? And yet, like a child, I weep for what I cannot have. I wonder what, in my youth or childhood, I did that was so terrible to deserve such punishment. I listen for the phone, hoping he’ll call me and tell me he forgives me and I can come home.

Grief is irrational. It stems from a part of us that has no logic. I know I did nothing to send him away. I know he is never going to call me again. I know I am not being punished for some long ago transgression.

And yet the grief keeps pounding at me during this time of terrible anniversaries.