I Am an Eight-Month Grief Survivor

When you love someone deeply, their well-being is as important to you as your own, but what do you do with that feeling when your someone is gone? Eight months ago, my life mate died, and now he has no need for stories to amuse or outrage him, no need for tasty meals to tempt his appetite, no need for comfort or caring or kindness, and yet my habit of thinking of him remains. Eventually, I imagine, the habit will wear itself out, but for now I still find myself thinking of ways to make his life a bit easier or a bit more enjoyable.

After eight months, I am still in . . . not shock, exactly, but a state of non-comprehension. I can’t comprehend his death, his sheer goneness. I can’t comprehend his life, though perhaps that is not for me to bother about. Most of all, I can’t comprehend my sorrow. I never saw much reason for grief. Someone died, you moved on. Period. I thought I was too stoic, too practical to mourn, and yet, here I am, still grieving for someone who has no need for my sorrow.

Despite my continued grief, I am moving on. My sporadic tears do not stop me from accomplishing the goals I set myself, such as NaNoWriMo and daily walks. My sorrow doesn’t keep me from taking care of myself — or mostly taking care of myself. (I don’t always eat right, and I don’t always sleep well.) Moving on, as I have learned, is not about abandoning one’s grief, but moving on despite the grief.

Grief is much gentler on me now, and I can sidestep it by turning my mind to other things, but I don’t always want to. I have not yet reached the point where thoughts of him bring me only happiness, and I need to remember him. If tears and pain are still part of that remembrance, so be it.

We shared our lives, our thoughts, our words — we talked about everything, often from morning to night — yet even before he died, we started going separate ways, he toward his death, me toward continued life. I often wonder what he would think of my grief, but just as his life is not for me to try to comprehend, my grief does not belong to him. It is mine alone.

And so the months pass, eight now. Soon it will be a year. Sometimes it feels as if he died only days ago, and I expect him to call and tell me I can come home — I’ve proven that I can live without him, so I don’t have to continue to do so. Sometimes it feels as if he’s been gone forever, that our life together wasn’t real, perhaps something I conjured up out of the depths of my loneliness. Sometimes my grief doesn’t even feel real, and I worry that I’ve created it out of a misguided need for self-importance. Such are the ways of grief, this strange and magical thinking. This could be magical thinking, too, but it seems to me that having survived eight months of grief, I can survive anything.

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12 Responses to “I Am an Eight-Month Grief Survivor”

  1. Richard Mabry Says:

    Pat, It was the death of my wife, Cynthia, that led me into writing, with my book The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, so I’ve walked where you’re walking now. It’s been eleven years now, and yet there are occasional times and triggers that still touch me. Our journey doesn’t take us back to where we started, but rather we travel to a new normal. May God bless your steps.

  2. joylene Says:

    December 30th will be four years since we lost Jody. The hole feels as raw as it did the first month. I find your attitude and approach to time passing as healthy and encouraging. Your words are like a warm blanket on a chilly night. Thanks, Pat.

  3. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    Your words bring up memories. Yes, grief is not really about the one missed. It’s about the one left with a huge hole in his/her heart, mind, gut. Moving on is not easy when healing must happen at the same time. You are healing and moving and coping. I like your recognition of the separation beginning while his departure was approaching: “yet even before he died, we started going separate ways, he toward his death, me toward continued life”…

    At the beginning of grief, I thought of my deceased husband only in his four-year death march of suffering, but as a few years passed, the memories of his struggles diminished and the good memories of our lives together emerged. When I think of him now, it is with fondness. We have both left our pain behind.

  4. Mike Says:

    Hi pat. I am seven months grieving the loss of my wife. I have moved from constant disbelief and shock to more of a low burning emptiness and realization that I have to move on alone. We were successfully married for 22 years ( lots of it good, some of it irritating for both of us!) and now I’m just going day by day with no real blueprint for the future. In some ways is don’t want it to get any easier because I don’t want to disrespect my memory of debbie and what a great person she was by not feeling her loss deeply and constantly. The more days that pass mean that it is further and further away from a time when things were normal and our family was intact. But every so often, I just can’t believe it happened.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Even at seven months, it’s still so new. We have this idea we should be “over it” in six months, a year, two years, whatever, but although it does get easier, we are never completely “over it.” Our lives were changed first when we fell into love and second when we fell into grief. I still can’t fathom the loss or the change in my life, still don’t have a blueprint.

      Wishing you peace in the coming months.

  5. Susan Chafe Says:

    Thank you Pat, for sharing your story, I have just read through it, my husband died whilst I was out, when I came back in I discovered his body……. I didn’t say goodbye! I didn’t know he was going to die. It somehow feels that he’s walked away from 47 years of marriage without an explanation….. It hurts…. It hurts so much, I like you have been very stoic not wanting to worry my children, I to have learned to ” get on with the day to day things ” but. Deep inside I don’t know what to do.. I feel totally lost. It’s nine months now. Does it really get easier people keep telling me it does ……..

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I know it hurts. Sometimes it’s probably so bad you cannot even breathe. It will get easier, I promise you, but not for a very long time — maybe three years. Nine months might seem like a very long time, but in the world of grief, it’s not much time at all.

      It’s now five years for me. I still have times of pain and sorrow, but I also have times of happiness. I have new interests in life, so that helps. To be honest, though, I still feel lost sometimes, still miss him, but in a way, I’m glad I do. As I move further away from our shared life, it feels good to have the reminder that once he lived.

      I wish I could say something to make it easier, but even after all this time, I have no real words of wisdom. It’s just a matter of living, I guess. Waking up every morning and facing the day however you can. And one day you will remember him with gladness.

      If you need to talk, I’m here. You can tell the truth here.

      • Susan Chafe Says:

        Bless you Thank you so much, I know it’s different for everyone, And we all have to deal with our grief in our own way. but some days it’s just so hard. X

  6. Hettie Barnard Says:

    Pat, your book has helped me such a great deal – I lost my husband suddenly after 56 years of marriage – went to work that morning nothing wrong and found him dead on my return. I long for just one hour with him to say goodbye properly just to have that last kiss and loving arms around me – instead I had to just carry on without him and the earth feels so miserably empty without him. Now after eight months with such a heavy load of grief behind me I am at least not wailing and weeping every night and somehow paradoxically I am missing that grief laden moments – for every day that I don’t cry I feel guilty and somehow I feel that he is slipping away and that bothers me so deeply. Can I be so shallow?? has our love not been strong enough for me to continue to feel so absolutely grief laden that I can hardly function and thinking that I am the greatest fraud with everyone telling and praising me on how strong I am !!! Little do they know the liquid grief laden me hiding in the night. Now that I can function better and can cope with the sudden waves that can overcome you , now I feel guilt?? and even miss it???

    Thank you again you have made the path easier and more acceptable.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, Hettie, I am so very sorry for all you are going through. I am glad telling of my own pain made a difference. Know that you are not shallow and that your love was strong. Grief goes through many permutations, and many of us did grieve the loss of grief. Grief is still a link to the emotional life we shared with our loved one, and the loss of that grief severs one more link. I missed my grief. It was real and immediate and made me feel connected to him because it continually reminded me that he was once a major part of my life. I still miss him, and I still miss that feeling of straddling eternity that grief gave me, as if he took part of me with him when he left. If I have any advice to give it’s to accept however you feel because however you feel is right. Wishing you peace.


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