Grief: Haunted by the Hard Questions

One of the more confusing aspects of grief after the loss of a life mate, a child, or someone we were deeply connected to is that we are haunted by the hard questions. Who are we? Why are here? Is this all there is? Where did our loved ones go? Will we see them again? What is the meaning of life, and probably most haunting of all, what is the meaning of death?

Many of my fellow bereft read everything they can find about such matters of the spirit, but I didn’t — I’d spent years on a quest for truth and reality, and I’d come to believe that God is the spirit of creativity that fuels the universe, and we are each a part of that creativity. I was content believing that our spirit/energy returned to the whole . . . until my life mate/soul mate died. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t want that to be the truth. I wanted him to continue existing as him, as the man he was.

I do think there is a deeper reality, I’m just not sure our conscious selves are a part of it. We are a product of our genetics, our hormones, our brains (anyone who has had to cope with an Alzheimer’s sufferer or a loved one who had cancer in their brains, and found a stranger in that familiar body, knows how much the brain controls who we are). So what  survives, if anything? The part of us we never knew — the un-sub-conscious? If so, how would we know who we were after we were dead? Is it just the energy in our bodies that is released? If so, for sure we would not know who we were.

On the other hand, without some sort of afterlife, life simply does not make sense. What’s the point of it all? To survive? For what — more survival until there is no more survival? To help others? Why? So they can survive? For what?

If there is life after death, what do you do with eternity? You have no ears to hear music, no eyes to read or watch a movie, no legs to walk, no hands to caress another, no mouth to talk, no brain to think. Sounds like a horror movie to me. And what will we do if we meet again? Bask in each other’s light? That would get boring after a minute or two.

When we met — my soul mate and I — I still believed in a cosmic plan, and I had the feeling that he was a higher being come to help me on my quest to the truth. But now? I no longer believe there is a universal truth, and I don’t think he’s waiting for me, though I act as if he is. It’s better than believing that he is gone forever.

And perhaps he does still exist in some form. What do I know? One thing I have learned from my grief is that a human life is a spectrum. You don’t notice it so much when you are both alive, because you are both in the moment, both always the people you have become and not yet the people you are becoming. But when one of you dies, his becoming ceases, and you see his life as a whole. The person he was when you met is every bit as alive in memory as the person he was the minute before he died. The youthful man, the middle-aged one, the healthy one, the sick one are all merely spaces on the spectrum of his life.

It’s possible the spectrum of a human life is the same sort of spectrum as light — beginning long before the visible part appears and ending long after the visible part disappears. Of course, the non-visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum aren’t light but sound and radiation and other invisible waves, so whatever exists outside of the visible human spectrum might be something completely different from we can ever imagine.

It’s also possible that our bodies are like television channels, receptors for certain wavelengths, so that our “souls” actually reside outside our bodies, but still, the selves that we know are defined by life in our bodies. So, again, we come back to the same question, what of us survives?

Grief is an isolating experience, made more so by our spiritual quest. While our family and friends continue on their same daily path, we find ourselves going in a completely different direction. There are no answers to our questions, but still, they haunt us, and we try to figure out a way for it all to make sense.

But life will never make sense because we are still here and our loved ones are gone. Where is the sense in that?

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3 Responses to “Grief: Haunted by the Hard Questions”

  1. leesis Says:

    These hard questions to me at least Pat are THE questions of life and questions which I have been studying/thinking/feeling for my whole adult life. You are absolutely right that without some expanded knowledge about what its all about there is only a profound meaninglessness. But I do think there are answers…actually I know there are but there are two massive problems that constantly get in the way (besides the simple fact that we avoid them like the plague until they smack us in the face through death etc).

    Firstly any scientist with their salt will confirm that we know so very little about consciousness. Yes, we know some of the automatic processes of the brain. But it is clear that the brain is only one part of what we call the Mind, or Psyche as I call it and for all the professed knowledge we claim we have, we are still absolutely unable in any circle of academia to define this Mind or to understand its capabilities and interconnections with anything outside of it. That there is a interrelationship is undeniable…the what/how/why though is not yet known.

    More frustrating, to me at least, is the problem of trying to converse with others. So many insist upon early conclusions be they religious or scientific. Conclusions that stop exploration despite their glaring inadequacies and more create such defensiveness in the believer that conversation becomes unpleasant, personal and useless. Thinking needs to go outside these boxes.

    “If there is life after death, what do you do with eternity? You have no ears to hear music, no eyes to read or watch a movie, no legs to walk, no hands to caress another, no mouth to talk, no brain to think. Sounds like a horror movie to me. And what will we do if we meet again? Bask in each other’s light? That would get boring after a minute or two.”

    To me this paragraph of yours is classic. I mean this with all respect and love but the presumption that we need our physical body; our ears to hear, our legs to mobilize etc shows just how trapped we can become by the boxes our current knowledge construct.

    Each day I explore these questions the more I appreciate Einstein’s comment that imagination is much more important than knowledge. Keep exploring Pat :). (sorry its such a long response)

  2. Carol Says:

    Pat, you’re getting to know me, so you probably realize that I can’t read this post and not ache with the desire to sooth your confusion, or at least say something reassuring. But as much I claim to be a writer, I can’t find the words to express what I think. My heart tells me you’re looking in the wrong place for your answers. Faith and belief in God aren’t academic things so trying to reason your way through to answers for such questions doesn’t work very well. Leesis is on the right track suggesting that we can’t know these things from our current perspective. It is beyond our finite brains to comprehend the infinite.

    I don’t want to use your blog as a soapbox for what I believe. I just keep praying that you will discover truths that will bring you peace from your agonizing search for answers.

    Sending you a cyber hug!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Carol, I don’t mind your soapbox. You have been nothing but kind to me and supportive of this blog and my grief journey.

      Faith is a gift and, as you say, you can’t find it by reasoning it out. On the other hand, our brains are meant to be used. Even if there is no way we can know the meaning of life, asking questions still has worth because we are using our brains. And perhaps, just perhaps, the questions expand consciousness enough to give us a glimpse of the truth.


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