Life As A Matter Of Punctuated Equilibrium

I’m still cleaning out my past — spent a few hours this afternoon going through boxes after dance class and lunch with friends.

It’s amazing that in the presence of another person (in this case my sister), it’s harder to justify keeping things that have lain unused for decades, so I got rid of more than I might have done if I were alone.

In my misspent youth, I managed a fabric store for a national chain, and I still had boxes of fabric left over from that time. Those are the boxes we went through today. Luckily, a friend agreed to take the fabric off my hands, so now even more of my past is gone. It feels good. Things are a responsibility and that responsibility weighs heavily on me. It will be nice to journey into my unknown future feeling so much lighter.

Odd about that future. I’ve been assuming it will be wonderful since I’ve been paying karmic debts or dues or some such with all the epic traumas I’ve dealt with the past four and a half years, yet someone made a comment today that makes me wonder if perhaps I’m being uncharacteristically optimistic.

He said, “There’s a dramatic tension in your journey, Pat. I’m not sure if the universe will eventually smile on you, and I have this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, but we’re rooting for you to achieve a harmonic convergence. You may have a destiny as our guru and guide. You’re certainly paying a price for the upcoming payoff. Is it a bloody hammer of God or a bouquet?”

Eek.

Perhaps the courage to deal with traumas makes them possible. Perhaps ever-increasing traumas prepare the way for even greater traumas, and I am in for a “bloody hammer of God” sort of future. It seems impossible there could be more traumas waiting for me, but then, I couldn’t have imagined the soul-deep traumas I’ve had to deal with during the past few years, such as grieving the death of my life mate/soul mate, dealing with my dysfunctional brother, and taking care of my father during his final years. Nor could I have ever imagined my reaction to such traumas — the shocking and breath-stealing agony of my grief, the horrific journey taking my brother back to Colorado and the 1000 miles of tears afterward, the continued frustrations over my father’s struggle to maintain his parental authority while expecting me to baby him.

sunflowerI suppose it’s just as well we can’t envision our futures. It would probably be terrifying to know what was in store for us. Even knowing that blazing joy rather than epic sorrow is waiting would be terrifying because it would be so alien. And even if we weren’t terrified of awesome bliss, there would be the fear of it never happening or if it did occur, that we wouldn’t believe we deserved it.

Besides, the person who has to deal with that future is not the person of today. Life is a matter of punctuated equilibrium. Nothing happens, and then everything happens. We change little by little, and then something big happens, and we change a lot, though sometimes — maybe most times — we don’t feel the changes. But they are there. (I doubt the subjects of evolution feel the changes, either. Species go about their daily business until the equilibrium of their lives and ecosystems are punctuated by change, and then you find alterations in the fossil record showing what seems to be the truth.) It’s that changed person (as well as the changed species) who has deal with what will come.

Whatever happens in the future — a bloody hammer of God or bouquets — I had a good day today. No one can ask for more than that.

Can you tell I’m smiling as I write this?  It really was good day, but then, any day that includes dancing and friends is good.

***

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.

Spending Too Much Time in Shuttered Rooms

After my life mate/soul mate died, it was all I could do to get through the day. I couldn’t imagine a future without him in the world. Didn’t want to imagine it. When my grief started to wane and I could again contemplate the future, I would wonder where I should go to settle down, but my mind always rebelled at the thought. Settle down? Alone? How? He was my home. Without him, there was no home, just a place, and one place seemed the same as another.

Although I am gradually coming to terms with both my loneliness and my aloneness, I still rebel at the thought of finding somewhere to settle when I leave here. (I am currently staying with and looking out for my 97-year-old father.) For a person with hermit tendencies, such as I, settling down alone sounds like stagnation. At the beginning, I would do things, of course, but then as time passed, I would become entrenched in my habits, would get tired of the same sights, the same errands, the same . . . everything. And my world would shrink and continue shrinking until I became the crazy cat lady sans cats.

Most people have not been able to identify with this scenario. They see me now, embracing new ways of living, and say that it will always be so. Perhaps they are right, but still I do fear the stagnation that would come from being too long entrenched in one place alone.

The truth is, whether we are aware of it or not, some form of stagnation happens to all of us. In “It’s a Nomad, Nomad World,” Bruce Chatwin spoke of our heritage as nomads and explained the necessity for keeping on the move, especially by foot. Chatwin wrote:

Some American brain specialists took encephalogram readings of travellers. They found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well being and an active purpose in life. Monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produce fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self disgust and violent reactions. Hardly surprising, then, than a generation cushioned from the cold by central heating, from the heat by air conditioning, carted in aseptic transports from one identical house or hotel to the another, should feel the need for journeys of mind and body, for pep pills or tranquillisers, or for the cathartic journeys of sex, music and dance. We spend far too much time in shuttered rooms. . . . 

The best thing is to walk. We should follow the chinese poet Li Po in “the hardships of travel and the many branchings of the way”. For life is a journey trough wilderness. This concept, universal to the point of banality, could not have survived unless it was biologically true. None of our revolutionary heroes is worth a thing until he has been on a good walk. Che Guevara spoke of the “nomadic phase” of the Cuban Revolution. Look what the Long March did for Mao Tse Tung, or Exodus for Moses.

I have no interest in being a revolutionary hero or even a spiritual leader who wanders in the wilderness until fate thrusts me into a new role. But somehow, I instinctively knew the truth — that settling down means mental stagnation. When you live with someone, you don’t stagnate quite as much because there is someone to help disrupt the rhythms of your life. But who disrupts the rhythms of your life when you are alone? (Cats, I suppose, which could be why so many old women alone end up tending  a houseful of cats, but that’s not for me.)

I do not know if I am physically capable of a life on foot — I’ve never been athletic. Even if my capabilities weren’t an issue, the problem of getting enough water seems insurmounatble. The sheer volume of water a person needs is staggering. Some areas in the west, you can go up to hundred miles between towns, and in the wilderness sometimes it’s almost as far between watering holes. Considering that a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds (just the water, not the container), and considering that a someone on foot needs to drink almost that much a day, and considering that at the most I could walk 10 miles a day (and that is being optimistic),  I’d need to drag along almost 84 pounds of water. (I read about a college student who dragged that much water with him on a cross-country trip. Actually, he didn’t drag it, he pushed it. Used some sort of cart.)

I don’t know what the answer to my conundrum is, but I have a hunch it will take care of itself. I’d probably start out in my ancient vehicle, and if it broke down or fell apart . . . well, then I’d have to finish the trip on foot.

It’s also possible that I end up doing what everyone does in the end — spend my life in shuttered rooms.

As a matter of fact, right at this moment, I am in a shuttered room. It’s not so bad.

***

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.

Talking to a Facebook Friend in Real Time

I’ve met a lot of wonderful people because of opening up and blogging about the loss of my life mate/soul mate. One woman, Shannon Fisher, has become a good friend of the Facebook variety, and tonight I will have a chance to talk to her in real time. I am going to be the premier guest on her new radio show, “The Authentic Woman”. I hope you can turn in at 8:00 pm ET.

Although we won’t we talking about grief (or not much, anyway) that is something we have in common, losing our soul mates. Shannon’s wisdom helped me get through many lonely nights. One night when we were messaging each other about the realization that although we felt connected to our soul mates, an important step in grief (sometime during the third year) is the realization that we are not our mates, Shannon wrote:

That’s the toughest part – realizing that their death has nothing to do with us and that we are all, while connected through a web of energy, uniquely created beings following our own individual path. Regardless of how connected we are to some people in some ways, their path is theirs and ours is ours.

When I felt that disconnect, I was suddenly okay. He was gone. I was here. And it was okay. The fear of letting go is what keeps us in the mire. We let go when we are ready to do so, and not a moment sooner.  Our partners are gone.  We can either live in this world without them, experiencing a full, active life…or half-live a life while we are still connected to our dead great loves through the ether, which we can’t navigate or understand this side of death.

It isn’t a choice; you can’t “just get there.” But you will get there. And everything will suddenly feel new again. You will see possibilities as something toward which you want to leap, and you will suddenly feel untethered and able to make that leap.

Well, I’ve made many leaps during these years of grief, and this radio show interview is just one more leap into the untethered future.

The live show begins at 8:00pm EST here at this link: http://tobtr.com/s/6078195. If you miss it live, then use the same link for the podcast, available immediately after the live interview.

Call ins are welcome. 347-884-8266

AW

***

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.

Dreaming of Adventure

I’ve been spending way too much time lately thinking/talking/writing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, especially since I doubt I will ever travel more than small pieces of it. There are many problems to deal with when hiking the length of the trail — food (two pounds a day is recommended), water (either too much in the high sierras, with swollen rivers and icy trails, or too little in the deserts), heavy packs, wind, ticks and other unfriendly insects — and I would prefer a trouble-free life.

Still, just thinking and researching the logistics of such an adventure are an escape from my life. In looking after my 97-year-old father and dealing with a dysfunctional brother, I amcamping always aware of others, either listening for signs of distress from my father or listening to my brother’s moans and cries without knowing if these sounds come from pain or are a way of manipulating me. When one is hiking alone, away from civilization, away from other hikers, even, one only has to listen to oneself, only has to fulfill one’s own needs. That idea is restful to me. One foot in front of another, nothing to think about, no one to worry about.

Even more that that, thinking about such an adventure is like working a puzzle, helping to keep my mind active and alert despite too much loss of sleep. I’ve even gone so far as to join a few Facebook groups, including a couple just for woman hikers. Lots of good information in those groups, lots of things to consider. Planning such a trip gives me a new way of looking at ways of life we take for granted. Modern plumbing, for example, has made basic body functions easy for us. But what if there isn’t a restroom for hundreds of miles? How does one keep clean? How does one remain infection-free?

Thinking about living an adventurous life (simply thinking about it, not living it) has also helped me past the last hurdle of grief, giving me something to concentrate on besides what I have lost. It’s been almost four years since the death of my life mate/soul mate, and I have adjusted to life without him. In fact, sometimes I forget that I once had a different life, that once someone loved me. I don’t want to forget — I loved him deeply — but I can’t spend the rest of my life yearning for him, can’t be always looking to the past. Thinking about a life on foot makes me realize that, whether my life will be on my feet or on my behind, I do still have a life.

Throughout all these years of grief, I have been afraid of the future alone, afraid of becoming the crazy cat lady (sans cats, of course), afraid of settling somewhere and waiting for entropy to take its course. Thinking about other possibilities — hiking the PCT, walking to Seattle, car camping, going abroad and just winging it, taking a freighter to New Zealand — helps me realize that I don’t have to moulder. I can live. I can be adventurous. I can take chances. I can try new things. I can learn new things. I can become the sort of person who could hike the PCT if she so desires.

I don’t know what I want to do, and there’s no reason to make any plans since my stay here at my father’s house could continue for many more years. But I can prepare. In fact, tonight I will take a backpack on my Sierra Club walk (I walk with the club three nights a week) and fill it with a five pound weight. Five pounds is heavy! I cannot imagine trying to carry thirty pounds for any distance, but at least, this will be a start.

But a start of what? Maybe someday I’ll find out.

***

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.

And So Grief Goes . . .

When you lose a soul mate or any person who connects you to the world in a significant way, you are born into the world of grief. At first, like any infant, you count your age in days, then weeks, and finally months and years.

I am long past counting the days and weeks since the death of my life mate/soul mate, though I can figure it out. (In case you’re curious, I calculated that it’s been 1,310 days or 187 weeks.) I’m even past counting the months. Today is an anniversary of his death, but without stopping to figure it out, all I know is that it’s been more than three and a half years but less than four.

numbersThis is a significant development. People who have never had to deal with the death of such an important person in their lives were spooked by my counting the days for so long, thinking I was unhealthily obsessed with the past, but that wasn’t the case at all. The days were milestones, ways of proving to myself that I could get through my grief one day at a time. And I have mostly gone through it. The horrendous pain, angst, and confusion of those first months isn’t even a memory. I can’t imagine anymore what I went through, can’t imagine how anyone could go through such a series of losses and come out the other end stronger and able to face whatever traumas life has in store. (In my case, not only did I lose my life mate/soul mate, I lost shared hopes and dreams, my most devoted fan, my best friend, and my home.)

When I talk about my grief, people assume I mean I still mourn him. To me, grief is the process, the whole spectrum of grief-related advancements including healing and rebuilding one’s life. The spectrum flows from the deepest black of despair to the brightest white of joy. Mourning is the sadness, the tears, the screams, the soul-deep pain — the physical manifestation of grief. I am long past the soul-deep pain, but I am still a long way from joy, so although I seldom mourn him any more, I still consider myself a child of grief.

Someday, that too will pass. Grief has taught me what we already know: things change. I never thought I’d laugh again, never thought I could live again. And yet here I am, all these months later, laughing and enjoying myself on occasion. I never thought I could forget him, and yet he is not always on my mind. For so long, I couldn’t bear the thought of settling down anywhere when I leave here (I am temporarily staying with my 96-year-old father, looking after him so he can be as independent as possible). All I wanted was to keep on the move. Travel See what life has to offer. I still think of leading such a spontaneous and unsettled life, but I am also weighing the possibility of settling down. I used to fear stagnation, but I am surer of myself and my solitary place in the world, and I doubt I would stagnate. I would do . . . something.

And so grief goes . . .

***

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.

It Is What It Is

I talked to a friend today about the various problems we are facing in this, our fourth year of grief, and she said, “It is what it is.”

Robert Hartwell Fiske calls such sayings “quack expressions,” saying they “readily explain behavior that the dimwitted otherwise find inexplicable, and justify attributes that they otherwise find unjustifiable.”

He’s right to a certain extent, and yet . . .

My friend is anything but dimwitted. She, like me, is struggling with life, death, grief, change, and other life experiences that are inexplicable to everyone, dimwitted, brightwitted, or somewhere in between. Sometimes it truly is what it is, quack expression or not.

Desp077cite what the positive thinkers and those who believe we create our own reality profess, much of life is beyond our control. We don’t decide who lives and dies. We can’t choose who we love or despise (though we can choose what we do with those feelings). We can’t always help people who need to be helped. We can’t hurry along or slow down natural processes, such as childbirth or old age. Nor can we recreate the world to suit our desires. The sun always rises in the eastern sky and sets in a westerly direction. The moon always affects our world, though  myths tell of a time before the moon came to stay. And, as they say, time and tide wait for no man. (Though I suppose, being a woman and not a man, I should be able to sway such natural phenomena.)

It is what it is.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a couple of situations that are not of my making, that I have no control over, that don’t affect me in a primary way (besides tearing me apart by conflicted loyalties). I can’t solve any of the problems that have arisen, can’t walk away from them, can’t change anything. All I can do is realize each situation is what it is, and let it go as best as I can. (It helps to realize that in a case of divided loyalties, my loyalties belong to myself.)

In my writing, of course, I stay away from such expressions since I like my writing to have a tinge of elegance, but life is not always elegant.

It is what it is.

***

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.

Figuring Things Out

For the past two months, I’ve been dealing with a situation I can’t write about. It’s outside the scope of this blog, and the people involved would be terribly hurt if I were to make the drama public. It’s a sadly inevitable predicament, with roots dating back to my childhood, and without being able to write about it, I haven’t had any way to deal with my grief over the situation except walking. And tears.

I’ve foundDesert paths myself crying at odd moments, and it’s been comforting, being in the embrace of this old friend. Like most people, I used to think tears were a sign of weakness, but now I know they are a way of getting rid of the hormones that build up with stress. They are also a way of connecting to one’s inner self, as if that self is saying, “There, there. Everything is going to be okay.”

And maybe things will be okay. Eventually. I’ll figure out my dilemma, if only how to deal with the fallout of the situation.

Today I went out walking earlier than normal to try to beat the heat, and apparently that’s what many others did because I saw a lot of people out and about. I don’t like meeting other people when I walk. Walking is my private time, a means of getting in touch with myself and my surroundings, a place to open myself to inspiration and mystical thoughts, a way to deal with my problems, and people disrupt all that. Since the foot traffic kept me away from my usual route to the desert, I took a different direction to get to the back trail I prefer — the trail is a demanding walk with lots of ups and downs and in certain areas a cool wind comes drifting down the hills. Also, for some reason, it’s where I talk to my deceased life mate/soul mate. (I’ve never been able to figure out why I associate him with that particular area. He never liked the desert, he hated the heat, and he’d never been within a thousand miles of the place.)

When I found my way to that back trail, I said aloud to him, “See? I figured it out.” And then I realized how true the words were. During all these years of dealing with the dying of my life mate/soul mate and my ensuing grief, I’ve had a lot of trauma thrown at me, but I figured out each step. I had to deal with funeral services people, get rid of his things, clear out the twenty-year accumulation in our home, store what I wanted to keep, get myself to my father’s house so I could look after him, learn to live with grief and all its torments, deal with the challenges of the book world and of the world in general.

Although I worry too much (I call it weighing my options), and don’t always know where I am headed, when it comes time to take action, I do manage to figure things out. And I have no doubt I’ll continue doing so, which is a good thing. Life isn’t finished throwing challenges at me — besides my current dilemma, there’s still my father’s decline, my need to restart my life when he’s gone, the vicissitudes of aging to deal with alone, and a host of other difficulties that will be sure to taunt me — but I will figure things out when I get there.

***

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.

Was a Horoscope Ever More Wrong?

On a jaunt around the internet, I happened on my horoscope for 2012.

The year 2012 is going to be favorable for you. You will surprise your partner and add some spice to your relationship. Harmony will be there, but you will have to put in more effort on your life partner to keep him satisfied.

An explosion of emotions is most likely to happen in the second half of the year. Neither you nor your life partner will be ready to compromise. If the relationship is already dead, it is no use giving any advice. You will be more inclined to retreat and you will feel more comfortable with some distance between you and the outside world. It is your way of regaining your strength. Your partner might be surprised by your wish for solitude if you refuse to share certain moments with him — that’s why it is essential you talk to him to avoid any misunderstanding.

Well, they got one thing right — the relationship couldn’t be deader. It’s hard to add spice to a relationship when only one of the people in the relationship is still alive, or to satisfy someone who has been dead for two years. There isn’t much space for compromise between the living and the dead. Nor is there any need to avoid misunderstandings.

(I thought I could write an amusing rebuttal to this horoscope, but apparently I’ve run out of “amusing.” I don’t seem to have the knack of black humor, and I see nothing to laugh at when it comes to death. Perhaps death is too important not to joke about, but I can’t make light of it. Death devastates the living, and grief for sure is no joking matter.)

Still Confounded by Grief

For two years, my reaction to the death of my life mate/soul mate has bewildered me. I knew he was dying and I’d spent over a decade preparing myself for that eventuality. I thought I’d accepted the inevitable, but now I see I was merely resigned (and perhaps exhausted). Still, I am independent-minded, always have been. I know how to do things on my own, know how to entertain myself, know how to take care of myself. I’ve never been afraid of being alone, never been one to hide behind pretty lies or protective fantasies. And yet his death devastated me as much as it confounded me. In fact, after almost two years (two years minus two days, to be exact; 729 days) I still feel lost, still feel broken.

Not all deaths affect people the same. My mother died three years before my mate, and my brother died a year before that. My grief for them was what I used to consider “normal.” I missed them and felt bad that they were gone, but my life went on without any major upheavals. But when my mate died, it was a cataclysm, affecting every part of my life. And the strong connection we always had, a cosmic-twin sort of connection, was broken.

The day before my mother’s funeral, I broke my ankle, so I spent her viewing at the emergency room and I spent her funeral at the bone specialist. It turns out that what I had was a very bad sprain, so bad that when the ligaments tore away, they cracked the bone.

I realize now this same sort of thing happened when my mate died. Whatever connection we had was so strong that when he was torn away from me and our life, it fractured me. This fracture had nothing to do with my being weak or too dependent on him or unwilling to face the truth or any of the other snide rationalities people have made about my sorrow. However deep and prolonged, my grief for him is normal and understandable. It takes a long time for a broken bone to heal and regain its former strength. How much longer must it take when one’s psyche has been broken.

And so, I still deal with the fracture his death caused in me, and I still deal with the bewilderment of his death. Perhaps when he died, he took a chunk of me with him, the same way bone still adheres to torn ligaments, and so part of me would be wherever he is, if he is. His death felt like an amputation, and I can no longer feel that part of me where we were attached. Some people still feel connected to those who are gone, but I never do. I merely feel his goneness, his absence, which seems as strong as his presence once did. And I still feel fractured. Still feel lost. Perhaps to a certain extent I will always feel this way, because the cause of this loss, his being dead, will always be a part of me. And that is one truth I wish I didn’t have to face.

Falling into Grief

I wonder how much of grief is hormonal. I often think of the young women who have their lives mapped out, want to accomplish so much, are on the fast track to success and then . . . whap. They meet the love of their life, and all of a sudden, their lives, their plans, their dreams all change. Those sex/nesting/procreating hormones are so powerful, they can derail your life, make you see things in a different light, make you do things you would never do. Women who never wanted kids start dreaming of cradling sweet-smelling bundles, look for houses in neighborhoods with good schools, invest in SUVs. People call this maturity, but basically, it’s just hormones and preprogrammed DNA kicking in. After all, in terms of genetics and evolution, we are just DNA machines, and everything works together to make sure we do our duty.

Grief does the same thing. It makes us see things in a different light, makes us want things we’d never thought about, derails all our plans, makes us do and feel things we never thought possible. Changes us. People think grief is a choice, but it isn’t — it’s something that’s thrust on us. There is no way we can choose to feel things we never imagined possible. I thought grief was a quiet melancholy, a sweet nostalgia, a pervasive sadness. Grief, for me was none of those things. (Well, that’s not strictly true — it’s how I felt when my brother and my mother died, but did not at all resemble how I felt after my life mate/soul mate died.)

A friend of mine wrote me: I have done therapy for 40 years. I have worked with people who have lost kids, spouses, parents, dogs everyone and every kind of pet. I had NO clue what it was really like in spite of losing my best friends and parents. I think a therapist who counsels someone in grief should have gone through a loss like you and I have before she/he tries to help someone. God knows there are enough of us out here who REALLY know grief. NOW I am one of them. (I hope she doesn’t mind I passed this on, but it is too important to keep to myself.)

Before people fall in love, they haven’t a clue of its true power, and then it washes over them in a life-changing moment. Before you fall into grief, you haven’t a clue of its true power,  but it too washes over you in a life-changing moment, and all but drowns you. Even though I’ve experienced so much of what grief does to a person, I still can’t believe its power. The way grief reflects falling in love as in a very dark mirror, there has to be a hormonal component. I know stress releases hormones, as does shock. Adrenaline courses through your body, and there are changes in brain chemistry that produce hormones. Your immune system goes on hold.

Do our bodies know we are no longer mated and ratchet back the DNA machine? I do know there is some effect on the limbic system. The lizard brain, which has been slumbering peacefully beneath our consciousness, wakes up and screams, “What?? I could die?? Say it isn’t so!” That’s a bit fanciful, so many of us feel it deep inside, the hurt of an animal who suddenly realizes there is an end. (As if there isn’t enough to contend with when if comes to grief.)

I don’t suppose it really matters what causes the physiological changes of grief — hormones, stress, agony, lizard brains. The primary cause is what matters. Someone we were deeply connected to died, and we fell into grief.

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