Grief Has No Timetable

It seems strange that after five and a half years of pouring my heart and my grief out onto this blog, I no longer feel comfortable talking about my upsurges of sadness. Grief has no timetable, of course, but still, it seems self-indulgent to continue writing about my sadness, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been saying much the past few days.

This should be a good time for me — after six months and four days of being without a car, I finally got my bug back, newly restored, and it looks wonderful. Now I’m planning a trip across the southernmost part of the country beginning in the middle of December, which will be a fabulous adventure. I even got an invitation from an old friend to spend Christmas with her.

And yet, here I sit, with tears clouding my vision.

I have no idea Broken-heartedwhat brought on this particular bout of sadness, though it might have something to do with my car.  When my Beetle was in the auto body shop, I didn’t have to worry about anything except getting the car back — it’s as if my life were on hiatus — and now unpalatable truths are descending on me once more. Without a way to get there, I didn’t have to accept that I’m not going home to Jeff, but now that my bug is back in my possession, here it is again, the awful truth of my life — that he is gone and I will never be going home to him.  It could be that after five years of living as if I were well off, another unpleasant truth is sinking in — I will have to go back to work one day. (I haven’t worked in many years. First I took care of Jeff, and then my dad.)  Since I’ve been sitting here lamenting to myself that “it’s not fair,” it’s possible the sadness has to do with being around so many women who have been married for four decades or more, which reminds me that I didn’t have that same opportunity.

More probably, it’s simply time. I go for longer and longer periods without thinking about Jeff, go for several weeks without any sort of grief flashback, but I can never fill the emptiness inside where half my life was amputated. And sometimes the pressure of his goneness builds, pushing sorrow to the surface of consciousness.

I do well on my own. After all, I managed to clear out our home and get here to this town 1000 miles from where he and I lived. I took care of my father, and cleared out his house in preparation for sale. I arranged to get my car restored, took trips even though I didn’t have personal transportation, and . . . well, you know all I’ve done. I’ve certainly made no secret of it.

But still, I have times where I yearn to see Jeff one more time. Yearn to talk with him. Yearn for his smile. (I find myself being greedy for compliments or thoughtfulness from acquaintances, and it’s not hard to figure out what that’s about. I can’t get a single word or smile of approbation from the one person from whom I would like a nod of approval, so I try to fill that lack however I can.)

I’m debating whether to keep this post to myself. It sounds too whiny and ungrateful, but it is also my truth — no matter how long he’s been gone, no matter how well I do on my own, I still miss him, and for as long as I am on this earth, I always will.

***

(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.”)

Advertisements

Living Small

I just realized today that I live small. I leave a small footprint on the earth — driving as little as possible, walking wherever I can; buying little, recycling what I can; getting rid of what possessions I can, scaling back on what I can’t. I am also a small thinker. Though I like to think I think big thoughts, I actually get bogged down in minutiae and overthinking. When I listen to music (which is almost never), I keep the sound turned down. I would like to write expansively, but I write small, dredging each word and each idea out of the depths of my mind. My non-writing creative projects are all small — literally, not metaphorically since I tend toward tiny things such as dollhouse doll’s dolls and miniature plants. (The pot of roses illustrating this article is standing on quarter to give you an idea of how small it is.)

Evehandmade miniature rosesn my everyday life is small. Temporarily, I find myself living alone in what seems to me a mansion, and yet, I live in the same two small rooms I used when I was looking after my father. (To be 100% accurate, as my minutiae-driven mind dictates I must be, only the bedroom is small. The living room of my suite is 16’x18’.)

I’m not one of those people who take a mile when given an inch. In fact, when given an inch, I generally only take a centimeter. (2.54 centimeters per inch according to Google.) In this case, I am aware of my tenuous situation. The house belongs to my father’s estate, not me, so I’ve been hesitant to take advantage of living here, even though according to local law, this is my home. Besides, I am performing valuable services, not just house sitting, but clearing out my father’s things.

Still, I’ve never danced around the house in my underwear like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Never slept in another of the bedrooms or used the main living room except when I had my pre-probate party. Never even used my father’s Jacuzzi. (He never used it either, come to think of it, so I can’t really say it was “his” Jacuzzi.)

This not taking advantage of the situation reminded me of an Emo Philip joke I heard a very long time ago. He talked about taking a girl home from a date, and how she passed out half naked, and so, as he said, “I took advantage of her . . . I called Guam.” I wanted to use the joke in his inimitable way to illustrate this post, and to that end, I’ve spent the past two hours searching online for the exact words. I didn’t find the joke, but I got my example anyway — my spending so much time searching for what was a trivial part of this bloggery illustrated my living small. (But I did come across some of his wonderful one liners that I remember, including this one: Some mornings, it’s just not worth chewing through the leather straps. And two liners like this one: When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.)

My sister-in-law was here this weekend, helping get the house ready for sale, and she asked why I didn’t take the curtain off the glass door separating my rooms from the rest of the house. I explained that everyone else tells me it would scare them to live alone in such a big place, so just in case I’d have such a problem, I’ve kept the curtain. It made the place small and familiar enough that being alone here didn’t bother me. (Loneliness does bother me, but that’s something completely different.) My sister-in-law commented on how full of contradictions I was, talking about living out in the open on some sort of epic adventure, but living behind a curtain here in this house.

She has a point.

So today I took down the curtain. Not exactly living large, but it’s a start.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Grief: The Great Learning, Day 432

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons gleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no sequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Although this letter was written three and a half years ago, it reflects so much of what I am feeling now. My father recently died, and I am packing in preparation for . . . I know not what.  I wish I could talk to Jeff, see how he is doing, feel his hug, bask in his smile. I don’t think I will ever lose that desire, ever stop yearning for what I cannot have. His goneness shapes my days somewhat the same way his presence used to. Everything I do is because he is no longer here.

I am more used to the idea of living alone than I was when I wrote this letter, though sometimes it still scares me. But one of the lessons grief taught me is that I can get used to anything, even loneliness and aloneness. I’m now going to lunch with women I like, so that helps.

Coincidentally, just a couple of days ago, I tossed that route beer bottle into the recycle bin, but as you can see, I still have the photo. Unfortunately, dealing with his ashes isn’t quite so easy. I still don’t know what to do with them. I’m thinking of waiting for a windstorm, opening the box, and letting Jeff take care of them himself.

###

Day 432, Hi, Jeff.

Just in case you really are somewhere, I wanted you to know I haven’t forgotten you, still miss you, still wish there could have been a better resolution to your health problems than death. But what do I know? Maybe death was the best resolution. I’m not sure I see much hope of things working out for me, but I am trying. I’m getting out and doing things. It still seems as if the only way I can make sense of your death (from my perspective) is to do things I wouldn’t have done if you were alive.

I took a trip along Route 66 with some friends, which was fun. I kept a soda bottle for a souvenir. “Route Beer.” Tasted like plain old root beer, but I thought the name was cute. I’ve been going to lunch about once a week, sometimes after the grief group, sometimes with a couple of women I met there. I’m not sure I like the women, but for now, it’s enough that they like me. Yep. I’m that starved for affection.

In a couple of days, I’ll have been here a year looking after my dad. Who knows how much longer it will be. Maybe years. And then after? I truly don’t know.

I feel so hypocritical with all this grief — I wanted the horror of our life to be over, but I didn’t want you dead. Ironically, if you hadn’t been dying, I wouldn’t have wanted our life to be over, but the truth is, I wanted your dying done with. The stress was incredible for me, so I can only imagine how much worse it was for you.

My dying is still to come. It scares me to think of having to deal with infirmities alone, though I think it will be easier knowing that my death will not grieve anyone the way yours did me.

Did I tell you? I finally and forever understand what you mean by the pilot light of anger. I don’t want to be consumed by anger, but a quiet pilot light to keep me going, that is important. I can’t simply accept what life did to us — it’s not right. Maybe the universe is unfolding as it should, as people tell me, but from my standpoint, here and now, I need that pilot light. Maybe it will be a “pilot” taking me where I need to go, though I don’t know where that would be.

Part of me wants to find someone so I don’t feel so alone, but I’m not ready for that. It’s a matter of learning to deal with the loneliness. I lived with it before I met you, and I imagine I’ll learn to live with it now that you’re gone. I hope wherever you are that you aren’t lonely. I hope you’re not in pain. I hope you’re delighting in being free of that diseased body. I still have your ashes. I wish we could talk about what I should do with them. I wish we could talk about what I should do with my life. I wish . . . oh, so many impossible things.

I love you. Take care of yourself. I’ll try to take better care of 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.

Being Important

I’m feeling restless tonight as if I should be doing something important, but here I am at the computer, playing games of solitaire. (Well, I was playing games. Now I’m playing a different kind of solitaire called “What will I blog about tonight?”)

When life is all about family, spouses, soul mates — creating a shared life — everything you do seems important, but when you are alone, importance is hard to feign because the isolation of being the only one in the room makes even breathing seem unimportant.

Despite the way it might sound, I’m not depressed or sad today. I’m feeling good, actually (probably leftover endorphins or adrenaline from dancing). I’m not lonely, either, just alone, and sometimes aloneness echoes in empty rooms, making it seem like some sort of lack. It is a lack, of course, but it isn’t a lack of life or . . . importance. It’s a lack of companionship and maybe a lack of “other energy.”

fireThere are some things I don’t necessarily understand when it comes to dancing. I call myself tone deaf, but I’m not — I just hear a single track of melodic (and not so melodic) noise and find it hard to separate out one particular sound or thread or beat from all the rest, which is why barbershop quartets hurt my ears and simple tunes are soothing. (I can count, though, and as my dance teacher says, if you can count, you can dance. Or something like that.) One woman I particularly enjoy dancing with (she’s so very elegant and graceful she makes me look good!) hears sounds and beats that pass me by  even when she points them out, but I pick up on something she doesn’t — the energy of the group. When we are all dancing as one, I can sense the energy we generate, as if we are tied together with invisible strings, moving arms and legs, heads and torsos in perfect rhythm. There’s nothing quite like that feeling, at least not in my experience.

Even when we are not all in harmony, as often happens, there is an air of connectedness in the studio, with all of us focused singlemindedly on the steps. One woman came with her husband last month, and though he didn’t bother anyone, it gave those classes an uneasy feel because it disrupted the flow of electricity of connectedness among the dancers. (This isn’t as mystical as it sounds. The energy I sense is more of a focus rather than waves of electricity, though I know we all respond to the electricity we generate.)

That energy from another person or a group — that “other energy” — is missing in a solitary room.

Some people spew energy even when they are alone, so rooms don’t seem as empty to them. I don’t spew energy, which makes my presence in a room even smaller and quieter than it would normally seem. And makes whatever I do seem unimportant, as if I am just passing time.

But the truth is, “being” is important, so even when we are alone, regardless of how it feels, we are being important.

***

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.

Grief: The Great Learning, Day 423

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons gleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no sequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Please note that this particular letter reflected what I was feeling three and a half years ago. I am not feeling sorry for myself now — at least, not much. I’ve found a new love (dancing). Although I have largely moved beyond my grief, I still wish I could talk to him, see how he is doing, feel his hug, bask in his smile. I don’t think I will ever lose that desire, ever stop yearning for what I cannot have. His goneness shapes my days somewhat the same way his presence used to. Everything I do is because he is no longer here.

I am more used to the idea of living alone than I was when I wrote this letter, though sometimes it still scares me. But one of the lessons grief taught me is that I can get used to anything, even loneliness and aloneness.

###

Day 423, Hi, Jeff.

I went to St. Simons Island where I gave a speech on creating characters. My talk went well — I dazzled. I could see it in their eyes. I met soLighthouseme authors, toured the town, climbed the lighthouse, steeped myself in island culture, even ate fried green tomatoes, though I didn’t like them — too much rosemary. Then, on the last day, I got sick. Might be a cold, might be an allergy flare-up, might be psychological (I couldn’t bear the idea of coming back here rather than to you, and it was a way of keeping me isolated.)

I refused to think about you this past week — didn’t want to suffocate. The stuffiness of tears on top of the stuffiness from being sick would have made it impossible to breathe, but Saturday, my sadder day, I did cry. Just kept crying, crying, crying.

I’m doing okay mostly, but I miss you. I hate that you’re gone, both on your behalf (though I doubt you care) and on my behalf. I still panic at the thought of dealing with life alone. Growing old alone. Dying alone. Living alone. I never expected to be so lonely, but I am. I’m lonely for someone generically and for you specifically. You’re so far out of reach! It seems pathetic that I need you — needed you — to give my life shape, form, focus, but it seems even more pathetic to be alone.

What’s to become of me? How can I go on alone? I know I’m strong enough, but shouldn’t there be more to life than simply endurance?

I miss you. I yearn for you. Just one more word. One more smile. Doesn’t seem too much to ask, but it kills me they are things I can never have again. How can it be over? And how can it still be painful after all these months?

I love you. Take care of yourself.

***

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.

Grief: The Great Learning, Day 409

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons gleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no sequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Please note that this particular letter reflected what I was feeling three and a half years ago. I am not feeling sorry for myself now — at least, not much. I’ve found a new love (dancing). Although I will always miss him, always feel a void in my soul where he once was, I have largely moved beyond my grief, which is a mixed blessing because I no longer feel connected to him in any way except for the place inside of me that echoes with his absence. And oh, how I wish I could go home to him! Or at least go talk to him, see how he is doing, feel his hug, bask in his smile. Luckily, because of my dance classes, I don’t have to spend so much energy trying to be upbeat. Dancing makes me smile, brings me joy and friendship, puts life into my life. I wonder what he would think of my dancing. Probably would be glad to know I found happiness.

###

Day 409, Hi, Jeff.

It’s been a while since I wrote or talked to you. I’ve been trying to let you go, trying to get on with my life, but I’m tired of being upbeat. I just want to be me, however I feel at the moment. I’m tired of trying not to think of you just so I won’t be sad. I’m tired of not having anyone to talk to, which is strange because I now have more people to talk to than I have had in years, but we don’t say much of anything, just talk St. Simons Islandabout the minutiae of our lives. I’m tired of not having anyone who understands. For example, if I tell anyone of my small infirmities, they just tell me to go to doctors, and we know that’s not much of an answer. You often had an answer, and if you didn’t, you simply listened to my worries, which made me feel better.

I miss you, not just because I’m tired you’re gone, but because of you. I’m going to St. Simons Island to give a speech at a writers’ conference, and you’re not here to send me off, to see my new clothes, to wish me well. Odd to think I’m taking only a couple of garments you have ever seen. Most of my clothes are new since you’ve been gone.

I wish I knew why things worked out the way they did. Or maybe I don’t. I just wish . . . I wish . . . that you were here, happy, rich, and loving me. I guess that’s what I wish. But perhaps you’re better of where you are. If so, where does that leave me?

I know it doesn’t sound that way, but I really do try to be upbeat and not to be sad all the time, but it’s wearying. It’s going to be worse when I get back from St. Simons. I won’t be coming home to you and a hug and a smile. I’ll be coming back here to my father’s house.

Funny, I wasn’t going to write to you again, but it does make me feel close to you, if only for a minute.

I miss you, Jeff. I love you. I want to go home. Please?

Damn it! I hate this. Are you okay? Are you taking care of yourself? Do you miss me? I guess I’m glad for the upsurges of grief. At least I know I still remember.

***

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.

Grief: The Great Learning, Day 386

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons gleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no rainsequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Please note that this particular letter reflected what I was feeling three and a half years ago. I am not feeling sorry for myself now — at least, not much. I’ve found a new love (dancing). And although I will always miss him, always feel a void in my soul where he once was, I have largely moved beyond my grief. I’m at the point, however, where I will have to make a decision about where to go when I leave this house, and I still don’t have a clue. I’ll probably stay in the vicinity for a while longer so I can continue taking dance classes, but afterward, oh, how I wish he and I would be starting over together.

###

Day 386, Hi, Jeff.

I’m lying here in bed thinking of you. I’m tired and don’t want to get up so I thought I’d write you. I’m trying to focus on the good things, but it’s hard. My books aren’t selling. I’m living somewhere I don’t want to be, being someone I don’t want to be. I have a pilot light of anger to keep me going, otherwise I probably never would get out of bed.

And yet, looked at from a different direction — forgetting the past, forgetting what I want — my life isn’t so bad. I don’t have to worry about paying bills. I’m warm, comfortable, fed. And I have new clothes. A couple of women from my grief group took me shopping (a belated birthday present). They bought me pants and tops. I detected a hint of something not totally altruistic, as if they thought I was clueless when it came to clothes. One woman said she was sick of the blouse I was wearing. Who says something like that? What difference does it make to her how I dress? Still, it was nice. And I don’t look like me, which is even nicer. I go to lunch with those women a couple of times a month and a couple of times a month I go to lunch with a few others from my grief group. So see? Things aren’t totally terrible, but no matter how I look at it, it’s a lonely life.

I miss you. I want to come home. Or start over with you somewhere else. It’s a good thing I don’t have to make a decision where to go because I haven’t a clue. Maybe I’ll know when the time comes to leave here. I just wish, with all my heart, you were well and I was going to go home to you.

Adios, compadre,. I love you.

***

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.

Grief: The Great Learning, Day 383

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons blocksgleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no sequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Please note that this particular letter reflected what I was feeling three and a half years ago. I am not feeling sorry for myself now — at least, not much. I’ve found a new love (dancing). And although I will always miss him, always feel a void in my soul where he once was, I have largely moved beyond my grief. At the moment, the future doesn’t seem bleak the way it did on the 383rd day after his death, though I still don’t know what to build my life on, and I’m still waiting for something to happen.

###

Day 383, Dear Jeff,

I’m having a hard time coping, but maybe it isn’t necessary to be stoic in order to cope. Maybe tears and tantrums are my way of coping for now. If nothing else, those tears and tantrums help get rid of the terrible stress of grief.

I feel as if I’ve been abandoned by you. You were the only one who ever truly cared for me, and I don’t know how to be alone. I don’t mean physically alone — that I can do. I mean that mental, spiritual, emotional aloneness when there is no one in the world who cares on a daily basis. I know there are some people who care sporadically when they get a few minutes, but it sure isn’t something for me to build a life on.

I’m feeling sorry for myself. I keep hoping something good will happen. I need something to offset this pervasive sadness. The years stretch bleakly before me. It’s just too sad.

Adios, compadre. I love you.

***

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.

Three Years, Three Months, Three Weeks, and Three Days of Grief

It’s been three years, three months, three weeks, and three days since the death of my life mate/soul mate. With all those threes, this should be a mystical day, but it’s a day like any other. I’m not especially grieving, though I’m not ungrieving, either. It’s just me and my normal underlying sadness, my missing him, my wondering about the future.

I’m to the point where I need something more, something beyond the bleakness of my daily life, but that “something more” comes in small doses and is not enough to sustain me. I take quick trips, go out to lunch occasionally, write a little, go walking in the desert. Although my 96-year-old father is doing well and is still quite independent, I am on a short leash (or at least it feels that way) since he likes having someone around in case of emergency.

But, that is just an excuse. The truth is, I don’t know what to do and wouldn’t know what to do even if I weren’t here looking Low tideafter my father. I’d travel, of course, but it seems to me that taking an extended trip by myself would be terribly lonely and perhaps even feel pointless. I drove by the ocean the other day and couldn’t think of a single reason to stop. I’ve been to the ocean, so it wasn’t anything new. Just a lot of water. (In my defense, it was very late and I was very tired.)

I try to be upbeat, try to believe in endless possibilities (because of course, that is the nature of the universe), but I don’t yet see those possibilities in my daily life. I try to think differently, to feel differently, to open myself up to change, but I’m always just me. Alone. Waiting.

Maybe things will be different when I’m totally alone, when I am free of responsibilities, but I no longer know if that will make a difference. I feel self-indulgent at times even mentioning any of this, considering what terrible lives some people are forced to live, but I can’t live any life but my own. And my own feels empty.

If it sounds as if I’m feeling sorry for myself, there’s perfectly good explanation for that. Today I do feel sorry for myself. I have managed to get through three years, three months, three weeks, and three days since his death, and I will continue managing, but I wish I wanted something, was in love with something, felt something besides ever-fading sorrow.

***

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.