Grief: Losing Your Grip

There are so many facets and phases to profound grief that even now — three and a half years after the death of my life mate/soul mate — I am still bewildered by some of the symptoms I experienced.

I always assumed “losing your grip” was merely a euphemism for losing your ability to deal with life, but shortly after the onset of grief, I lost my grip. My real grip, not my euphemistic grip. (Well, I lost both, but the second went with the territory.)

I dropped silverware, glasses, cups, plates — just about everything slipped through my fingers. I didn’t particularly notice it at first — I have been known to drop things — but after I moved to a house with hard tile floors, the loss of my grip became explosively apparent. My first night here, I dropped a glass, and it shattered on the hard floor. It sounded like a shot, scaring both me and my 96-year-old father. When the same thing happened a few days later — a mug this time — I realized I had to be careful or I’d give him (and me!) a heart attack. For over a year, I had to make sure of my grip before I lifted something so that it wouldn’t slip from my fingers. My grip gradually tightened, and after two years, I noticed I no longer had to pay attention to how I held something — I was automatically getting a grip.

Obviously, the phrase “lost my grip,” meaning losing your ability to handle a situation, had to come from somewhere, and I have a hunch that it came from the very thing I experienced.

I spent the past couple of hours researching this subject but never found a clinical reason for losing my grip. The weak hands didn’t come from any sort of illness. Not lupus, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis or any of the other 57 medical conditions where people can lose their grip. Nor was it an effect of aging or poor muscle control since the loss of grip came on so rapidly and gradually disappeared without any change of circumstances except the onset and gradual waning of grief.

It’s possible low blood sugar caused the loss of grip in the beginning because I wasn’t eating much, but as the year progressed, I ate more normally and the symptom persisted. Or maybe losing one’s grip is a symptom of emotional shock (rather than physical shock). Or maybe it represented a general enervation from from all the stress. The loss of a mate ranks as one of the most stressful conditions a person can suffer, which is why the death rate for those in the first year of profound grief is so high. Or it could be a physical manifestation of the metaphoric state — grief certainly makes you feel as if you’re losing your grip. In my case, It also seemed to be a reflection of my ability to connect, as if when I lost the connection with him, I lost the ability to connect with anything.

Well, now that I’m nearing what I call the half-life of grief, I’ve regained both my grip (my ability to grasp things) and my grip (my ability to handle life). I’ve also regained my ability to connect — with things and people.

And so grief continues to wane.


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+. Like Pat on Facebook.