I’ve gone through so many stages of grief since the death of my life mate/soul mate that I’ve lost track. To be honest, I’m not sure there really are such things as “stages.” There simply seem to be varying states of mind that come around repeatedly in an ever-loosening spiral. Still, “stage” is an understandable term for an incomprehensible process, so I use it to describe each new phase of my grief, such as this latest manifestation.
A couple of things have happened lately to catapult me into a new and embarrassing stage of grief.
The first thing that happened was I finished watching the movies my deceased mate had taped. Viewing the movies was the final task of my Grief Work, and it exacted an emotional toll I hadn’t expected. As I watched each of tapes, I was aware that the last time I saw the movie, he was by my side. I remember the things we said, the looks we gave each other, the connection we felt. These once-loved movies now seem dull and bland as if a vital spark is missing. And it is missing. He is missing. Watching wasn’t hard at the beginning, when I started my self-imposed grief task, but it took more than two years to go through all the tapes, and the sadness built up, sort of like a cinematic water torture.
But that is finished. In the future, whatever feelings the movies instill in me when I watch them won’t be so achingly raw. Time, life, and new experiences will pad the movies, and separate me from him just a bit more. Once that thought of increased separation would have brought me pain, but now I know it’s necessary if I ever hope to live a full life.
The second thing that happened is that I do not have as many mixed feelings about his death as I once did. Many people insist that grief is for us, not for the deceased, but I’ve been greatly troubled by his death — for him. He didn’t seem to have much of a life. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain that he was often housebound and couldn’t do much. He was also relatively young. Hadn’t reached retirement age. Even worse, too many of his dreams never came true. It seemed to me that he got cheated out of so much, which was hard for me to bear. On the other hand, I was glad his suffering was over. Sometimes I even thought he got the better part of the deal since he didn’t have to hang around as I do to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. But when those pieces are roughly pasted together, I will get a chance to start over, and he won’t. Conflicts such as these complicate grief. But the other day while walking in the desert, I had a revelation — well, two revelations — that helped alleviate these particular conflicts.
First, I realized that when I was dead, I’d no longer care that he died before me, so if it is inevitable that someday it won’t matter that he died so soon, perhaps it doesn’t matter as much now. Second, I realized that if somehow we are eternal, existing before this life as well as afterward, then his death and mine would happen simultaneously in a cosmic sense. (If life is eternal, then there is no time, right? It all exists now. And so right now we are both alive/dead, though he is . . . perhaps . . . more dead than I am. Or thinking of it a different way: my potential extra decades of life will happen in an eye blink of eternal time, so from his current point of view, I will follow immediately after him.)
Finishing my final grief task and resolving my mixed feelings has more or less ended my sorrow. (At least for now. Sorrow at the death of the person who connected you to this earth never completely disappears.)
And after the sorrow? Well, this is the part I am embarrassed to admit. I am disgruntled and dissatisfied. It seems as if such profound grief, great yearnings, and impenetrable sadness should dwindle into something more noble than discontent. Besides, disgruntlement should be something I can control, but as with every other stage of grief, it seems to be outside of me. Or inside of me. Either way, it’s not of me. It’s just a stage to pass through on my way to whatever lies on the other side of grief.
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.