I never expected to feel so sad two years and two months after the death of my life mate/soul mate, and I never expected to still be so easily brought to tears. But then, I never expected most of what I’ve experienced with grief, especially since I tend to be more contemplative and stoic than emotional. As I’ve learned, though, grief might manifest as emotion, but it is so much more than that — it’s a restructuring of the world as we know it, a reconfiguring of reality. And that takes a lot of energy, both mental and physical. And it takes time. A person who was a major part of our life is gone, ripping a hole in our reality, and our brains are struggling to patch the hole (or at least to figure a way around it), which causes an incredible amount of stress.
Part of that restructuring is a new consciousness of death. We all know we are going to die, but after the death of someone we are profoundly connected with, we KNOW deep within our psyches. This knowledge makes life on Earth seem at once more significant and less vital (or do I mean more vital and less significant?), which is why so many of us bereft struggle for meaning. Some of us will eventually settle back into every day life, but for the rest of us, life will always seem a bit off, as if a part of us knows we are aliens in an alien land.
Mostly, I’m doing okay. If we were to meet, you’d have no idea of my ongoing sadness. I don’t try to hide it, it’s just that the sadness has become such a part of me that it doesn’t impede my living. I can smile and laugh and chat as if everything were fine, and it is, for that moment. But when I am alone and not focused on a task, sorrow percolates to the surface. Sometimes our life together seems very far away, as if it were only a dream born of loneliness, but this ongoing sadness reminds me of the truth — I once was with someone I loved deeply, and now I’m not.
I never feel his presence, but his absence hovers beside me as if it were a living thing. When I make a salad, I am aware that he is not washing the vegetables for me. When I am at the grocery store, I am aware that he is not helping pick out what we need. When I am exercising, I am aware he is not in the room. When I need someone to talk to, I am aware he cannot respond. When I watch one of his many video tapes, I am aware he is not sitting next to me. Every time I use something of ours, even something as inconsequential as a spoon, I am aware that he has no need of the article.
I don’t purposely think of such things. In fact, the awareness is not a thought. It’s just that everything I do and everything I own echoes with his absence. Maybe someday even the echo will die away and all I’ll have of our shared life are fading memories. But no matter how I feel or what I forget, I’ll always be grateful that an extraordinary man shared his life with me.
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.