A woman whose husband died six months ago contacted me to say she’s reading Grief: The Great Yearning and is finding comfort from knowing that what she is feeling, others have felt. She mentioned that some things I wrote were identical to things she wrote in her journal, which goes to show that grief is individual, and yet much is the same when it comes to losing a husband or a soul mate. The pain goes down so deep, it hits places in our psyches we didn’t even know existed.
The woman asked how I was doing, then posed the question that haunted me for years: “Is there hope for me?”
It’s hard to believe, when you are lost in the cyclone called grief, that there will ever come a time of peace. Since I had no such belief, I held tight to the belief of others that the pain will ebb, that I will find renewal. They kept telling me to be patient, that it takes three to five years, but around four years most people find a renewed interest in life. And so it is with me. I feel alive again. I still have an underlying sadness. I miss him, of course, and always will — I even cry for him occasionally, though the tears pass easily without lingering pain.
I am finding that certain songs, movies, days, memories, bring about an upsurge of grief, and apparently, from what others have experienced, this will be true for the rest of my life, but at least I feel as if I am alive. I felt disconnected from life for a long time, as if I too had died. And partly, that is true — the person I was when I was with him did die. But now I need to be the person I am when I am with me. I can no longer take him into the equation of my life. My being alive does not make his being dead any less significant, though oddly, his being dead does make my being alive more significant. I once loved deeply. I once was so connected to another human being that his death sent me reeling for years.
But now, I am me. Just me. Not a bad thing to be.
This change in me is obvious. I met someone on my walk today, someone I’d talked to sporadically over the past three and a half years. He stopped me, asked me how I became such a star. (Radiant, he meant.) He barely recognized me, even though I was wearing the same sort of comfortable and inelegant clothes I always wear when walking. In fact, he said at first he thought I was young enough to be my daughter. He hunched his shoulders forward to show me how I used to walk — like an old woman.
So yes, there is hope. If you’re still grieving or feeling unalive after suffering a significant loss, take heart. If I can find my way back to life, so can you. Just grieve, find comfort where you can, try new things, and be patient with yourself. The pain does ebb, and chances are, around the fourth or fifth-year anniversary, you will find a renewed interest in life. Until then, wishing you peace.
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.