Grief Update

I haven’t been posting any grief updates lately because I haven’t had much to tell. There has been no great pain or sorrow, no major traumas or dramas, no new adventures to undertake — just living my every day life of quiet sadness and loneliness.

Although I haven’t had any major grief upsurges for a while, I do often think of my deceased life mate/soul mate, even talk to him. Oddly, now that the agony of grief has mostly subsided, it feels as if he is back at home, waiting for me to finish my present tasks and return to him. I know he isn’t there, of course, but without the pain to simultaneously bind us and separate us, he doesn’t feel quite so gone.

I am still very confused by death. How can he be dead? Where is he? Is he? Perhaps he is waiting for me, perhaps he is simply gone . . . deleted. I won’t know until my life is ended, and perhaps not even then. Whatever exists beyond our cloak of materiality and physicality, beyond our brains and our minds, might have consciousness, or might simply be pure energy that returns to the Everything.

I’ve never known where to put his death in my head. I can’t be glad about it, yet at the same time, he couldn’t have continued to suffer. But more than that, if he is in a better place, why I am still here? And if life is a gift, why was it denied him? I’ve held on to the idea that dying relatively young was unfair to him, that he is missing something, and a lot of my grief was on his behalf, but the other night I realized it truly doesn’t matter whether we are alive or dead. Well, his death matters to me, but it doesn’t matter to the universe, and it probably doesn’t matter to him. Nor does my continued life matter in the vastness of life/death. A few years extra of life is but a dandelion seed in the winds of time. Almost totally matterless. Maybe even meaningless. In which case it truly doesn’t make any difference that I am alive and he is dead. (Well, except for the part where I miss him, but this insight wasn’t about that.)

Even if life is largely matterless and meaningless, I am still alive and at least for now, that does make a difference to me and those I am in contact with. But it’s good knowing I neither have to be glad nor sad for him, that I can continue to live without feeling bad that he is dead. Knowing this also makes it easier to remember him, to recall what we had, to celebrate his place in my life. I am still sad, of course, and maybe I always will be. I miss him, wish desperately for one smile, but gradually I am letting go of my worries for him. He doesn’t need them, and they are an unnecessary relic of our life together. And for all I know, he could be perfectly content, sitting by some cosmic lake, two ghost cats purring in his lap.

Someday, as my grief continues to wane, I might even get to the point where I find renewed life, but I still take comfort where I can find it, and for now I take comfort in thinking that life and death are somehow one.

***

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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

Grieving for the Dead

The conventional wisdom is that we grieve for ourselves, not the person who died, but as with any other idea most people have about grief, it is only partly true. When it comes to a soul mate, we often grieve for him as much as we grieve for ourselves. During our shared time, we cared as much about him, his well-being, his happiness as we did about our own, and that caring does not stop with death.

Many people still feel their soul mate’s presence, sometimes in a beneficial way, as a blessing or as a helping hand, but others feel their mate’s unhappiness. One woman, whose husband spend his last months connected to gastric tubes and other painful devices, continued to feel his anger long after he died. He’d been furious with her for agreeing to procedures that prolonged his suffering, and she was ridden with guilt because of it. (Though what other decisions about his care could she have made? He could not talk, and the doctors assured her he would get better if they performed those operations.) For more than a year after his death, she could still feel waves of anger directed at her. Perhaps the anger was a symptom of her guilt, but perhaps part of him still harbored those feelings. We hope our loved ones are at peace, but what if they’re not?

One of the great agonies of losing one’s soul mate is not knowing where he is, how he is, if he is. I found comfort in believing that my life mate/soul mate wasn’t suffering any more, that he, at least, wasn’t having to deal with the pain of our disconnect, but then one day it struck me that I didn’t know that for sure. Since I had no sense of his continued presence in my life, I had no conception of what he might be experiencing. What if he were feeling just as lost and lonely and bereft as I was?

I had to put such thoughts out of my head because I truly could not bear to think of him in pain. I was still grieving for all the suffering to which he’d been subject during his final days, weeks, months, still grieving for his hopes that never came to fruition, still grieving for the dreams that died with him. Perhaps it was silly of me to grieve for him, since it’s entirely possible he wasn’t grieving for himself, but still, those thoughts were there, complicating my grief.

It’s been a few days more than three years since he died, and sometime during those grief-filled months, I began to disconnect from him, to understand that whatever relationship we had, however much we shared, no matter how much it felt as if we were cosmic twins, we were still two separate people on two separate journeys. This is an important realization and a necessary step to mental health and eventual happiness, but the habit of thinking of him is still strong, and I wonder where he is, how he is, if he is.

I hope he is happy, fulfilled, challenged, radiant. I wish those things for myself, and I can wish no less for him.

***

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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

Three Years of Grief

Today is, unexpectedly, a day like any other. So far, on this, the third anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve experienced no great upsurges of grief, just that perpetual thread of sadness that bastes my life together.

During those first months of grief, my focus was completely on him, on his absence, on the horrendous feeling of goneness that his death left me with. It was as if by thinking of him, by holding him close in my thoughts, by reliving the horror of his final weeks, that somehow I could undo what had happened to him. But the years have taught me what logic didn’t — that he is gone and nothing I do or think or say or hope or pray will bring him back.

During his last days, he became childlike in his needs and actions (as if the combination of the cancer that spread to his brain and the drugs that kept the pain at bay killed the man, leaving only the inner child behind), which confused the issue in my mind. For a long time after his death, I panicked, wondering how he could take care of himself, wishing I could be there to calm his fears and his restless spirit, longing to hold him in my arms and keep him safe.

It’s only recently that the truth hit me. He was an adult, not a child, and except at the end, was more than capable of taking care of himself. Besides, if he does still exist somewhere, he is ageless, timeless, beyond any need of me and my feeble ministrations. (Feeble because nothing I could do erased a single moment of his pain or kept him alive one more day.)

There is an element of blank to my grief — an incomprehension of what it’s all about. I remember how grief feels, though I’m far enough along in the grief process that I have a hard time believing I was that shattered woman so lost in pain. But I don’t know the truth of life and death, and I’m not sure we humans are capable of understanding. And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It keeps us focused on our lives and not on . . . well, whatever else is out there.

Although time has insulated me from the rawness of my grief, and although my grief work has brought me to the point where I can once again see possibilities and feel hope, there is one thing I will never lose — that great yearning to see him one more time. To hear his voice. See his smile. To hold him tightly as if I would never let him go. But I have let him go. I let him go three years ago, not allowing my needs to bind him to his life of pain.

And I need to let him go now.

Well, here it is — the upsurge in grief I didn’t feel when I started writing this post. Tears are running down my face. I know I need to let him go, to let go of the grief that binds us together still, but not today. Today I will remember. And grieve.

***

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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

The Eve of My Third Anniversary of Grief

In just a few hours, it will be three years since the death of my life mate/soul mate. It seems impossible I’ve survived so long. It seems impossible he’s been gone so long. Sometimes I feel as if we just said good-bye, as if I could call him up and see how he is doing, as if when I am finished caring for my father, I could go home again. But of course, those are just tricks of the ever-changing grief process.

I’ve been doing well recently, keeping busy, not letting myself get too caught up in the past. The present is complicated enough with my father’s growing dependency (though he has been doing well the past week or so, taking more of an interest in his own care). And the future is becoming more real, not quite as bleak as it has seemed during the past few years.

020smallFor all these months of grief, I’ve been worried about what will happen to me when my present responsibilities end. Oddly, during my mate’s long dying, I never really thought of the future. I just presumed I’d be okay. He told me things would come together for me, and I believed him. But now that I know how life feels with him gone, I’ve been afraid of stagnating, drowning in loneliness, living as quietly and unobtrusively as I’ve always done. The realization that I don’t have to find a place and settle down but can live on the go if I wish destroyed those fears with one clean stroke, and I’ve spent the past week figuring out the logistics of such an adventurous life. It won’t be easy since I have few financial resources and strong hermit tendencies, but the alternative — stagnation — makes such a future seem possible.

Because of all that is occupying my mind, I thought I’d sail right through this anniversary without an upsurge of grief, (though I always miss him; that’s a given) but grief will not be denied. If I don’t acknowledge my loss and sorrow, grief will acknowledge me. A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I was grieving for him. Dreamed I wanted to go home to him. Dreamed I cried for him. And when I woke, I was crying still.

I guess it’s just as well that the next stage of my life’s journey could be a long way off. Apparently I have grieving left to do. Chances are, I always will grieve to a certain extent, but now I’m more concerned about what to do with my life despite the grief. I’d hate to meet him again some day and have to admit that I spent my life awash in tears. He would be disappointed in me, and to be honest, so would I.

But three years. Has it really been so long since I last saw his smile? Last heard his voice? Last felt his arms around me? It’s hard for me to believe, but the calendar doesn’t lie.

***

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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

When Grief Comes Calling

desert roadGrief has been leaving me alone lately, probably because I’ve been keeping myself busy with other matters, but Friday night grief came calling. Sorrow has been with me on and off now for two days, perhaps in recognition of my upcoming three-year anniversary. I didn’t think there would be a problem with this anniversary (which is a bit naïve of me considering that I didn’t think there would be a problem with any of the agonizing stops along this grief journey). I’ve been feeling as if the death of my life mate/soul mate happened long ago, so long that he’s been fading in memory. Yet on Friday night, the memory of his last days was so fresh and new, it was as if we’d only recently parted. I could almost feel his arms around me as we said our final good-byes. Could almost see his smile, could almost hear his voice.

And suddenly, just like that, the yearning to be with him one more time overwhelmed me, and the reality lay heavy on my soul. He’s dead? Really? How is that possible?

I know how it’s possible. He got sick, was sick for years, and finally, the inoperable kidney cancer spread, hijacking his body for its own use. But dead? Part of me doesn’t get it. Part of me (just a vestigial part now) thinks I’ll be going home to him when I am free of my current responsibilities, and the truth — that he is gone forever — is again too much to bear.

I do know enough about grief to understand that this upsurge in sorrow will pass, but there will be other days — at ever-increasing intervals — when grief will again come calling. We get so in the habit of life, of dealing with our small everyday concerns, that our grief gets pushed out of sight, but we never completely get over our sadness. How can we? The person who meant more to us than any other is gone, taking part of us with him.

If that weren’t hard enough to deal with, we can never completely forget that we were helpless to keep him here even one more day, which makes life and death seem an arbitrary business. Perhaps if we knew life’s algorithms, we could see how everything fits together, but without such omniscience, we are left with only questions. Where is he? Is he happy? Is he?

Sometimes what keeps me focused on living is the thought of what he would say if we were to meet again. He’d be disappointed in me if I told him that all I did was mourn for him. I can see almost hear him say, “I died to set you free and you did nothing but cry?” Yeah, well, he no longer has a say in what I do. It’s my life and I’ll cry if I want to.

It’s not so much that I want to cry, but sometimes tears are the only way to relieve the incredible stress of grief. I had no idea stress would still come into play at almost three years, but grief, even aging grief, takes a lot out of us. Despite the upsurge in grief and the accompanying feelings of futility, I am making plans, looking forward, trying to find something to live for.

But dammit! I miss him.

***

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+

It Takes Courage to Grieve

People have often mentioned how courageous I’ve been by writing about my grief, but the truth is, for the most part, it didn’t take any courage. At the beginning, I was in such incredible pain and bewildered by all I was feeling, that I tried to make sense of all the emotions and physical symptoms the only way I knew how — by writing.

There were two times, though, where it did take courage. The first time was when my grief continued far beyond what I had expected, and I was afraid people would think I was weak or self-pitying or self-indulgent, unable to move beyond the tragedy. I am moving, but at my own pace.

The truth is, when you lose your mate, you lose not only the person who meant more to you than any other, the person who connected you to the world, you also lose your best friend, your confidante, your support, your sense of self, your hopes and dreams, your shared world, your faith in a universe that makes sense. The changes are so vast and so sudden, it can take years to process them all.

I’d been honest about everything I’d been feeling, so I continued telling the truth about my grief even when I thought it made me seem pathetic. No one wants to show a weak side to the world, but someone has to explain how grief works, to show the ramifications of a certain type of loss. We are steeped in a culture of couplehood. Many songs and movies extol the joys of meeting the one person who makes life worth living, yet when you lose that person, you are expected to continue as if it didn’t matter. Well, it does matter. And it matters more when you lose that person to death. It’s almost impossible to fathom the absence of a person who once breathed the same air you did, who was there through every crisis and triumph, and who now is simply . . . gone. (Well, if I’m going to tell the truth, then I should tell the truth. It’s not almost impossible. It’s totally impossible.)

I’m past worrying about how people see me and my grief, so I’m back to not needing courage to write about how I am doing. I’m just continuing to chronicle the journey of a woman who is trying to rebuild her life after an immeasurable loss, both the steps forward into hope and the steps backward into sorrow and tears.

The second time I needed courage was when I published Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. It’s one thing to write about grief in the backwaters of the blogosphere, and a completely different thing to put my grief out there for the whole world to read. Well, the whole world isn’t reading the book, so that’s not an issue, but more importantly, those who do read my story find they are reading their own story. Although grief is unique to each person, the pain and angst and bitter losses are the same. And so is the way we make this unwanted and terrible journey . . . one step at a time.

And that takes courage.

***

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+

Grief Is Unique to Each Person

My mother, far right, on her 60th wedding anniversary

My mother, far right, on her 60th wedding anniversary

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 91 if she had lived. Her life wasn’t cut short, nor was her death a tragedy — she’d lived a long life, and for the most part, her death wasn’t particularly horrendous. And even at the end of her life, she managed to get one last wish — to reach her 60th wedding anniversary.

One of the things so confusing about grief is the various lengths of lives and loves. Do you feel more grief if you’d been together for 60 years as my parents were? Do you feel less grief if you’d been together a matter of months?

I was with my soul mate for thirty-four years before death took him. After he died, I’d look at couples like my parents, and I’d envy them their long togetherness, but then I’d look at couples who had been torn apart before they ever had a chance to settle into their lives, and I would be grateful for the years I had with him.

Despite my envy/gratitude, I’ve concluded that when it comes to the loss of a mate, the length of time you were together isn’t a factor in your grief because you always grieve the entire life — everything you had and everything you didn’t have. If you’ve been together for most of your life, there is more of the past to grieve. If you had little time together, you grieve for all you never had. And in my case, I grieved for both the past and the future.

Many other factors are more important than the length of time you had together when it comes to grief. The depth of the connection matters, as does the interdependency of your lives. If you count on two paychecks to pay the bills, for example, and one of those paychecks evaporates, financial fear adds to one’s grief. If you are each other’s support group, providing a sounding board or hugs when necessary, then the loss of that support when you need it most adds to grief. Complications in the relationship can add to grief because you lose any chance of ever smoothing things out. Quick deaths add to grief because of the horrendous shock, and long dyings add to grief because of all the guilt and regrets that built up. And if you lose your mate when you’re relatively young, then you face many years without him, which adds to your grief.

All of these things combine to make grief unique to each person, but what isn’t unique is the sense of loss, the yearning, the hanging on the best we can until life opens up to us once again or until we find peace at the end.

***

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+

A Palliative for the Brokenhearted

warriorThree years ago, a yoga teacher and fitness instructor living in Holland got tired of the cold, and so her husband put in a transfer to a warmer climate.

Three years ago, I was living a thousand miles away from the high desert in another state, watching my life mate/soul mate die.

Six months ago, that teacher’s life and mine crossed paths. A friend asked me to accompany her to an introductory therapy yoga class (a class geared toward each person’s abilities and disabilites), and there I met the woman from Holland, who was teaching the class. (She wasn’t from Holland originally. She was actually from California, but she’d living all over the world for the past two decades.)

At that yoga class, I began to come alive. Grief pulls you into yourself, huddling you against the pain, and the thrust of her classes was to open us up to the universe, to new experiences, and to ourselves. My friend dropped out after those introductory classes, but I was hooked. Coincidentally, all the women who remained in the class were in various stages of recovering from the deaths of their husbands, and we formed a bond with each other and with our globetrotting teacher. It was a rare and magical experience, the electric highlight of my week, but magic has a way of dissipating. The teacher was offered a wonderful job in another city that used all of her skills (and paid her a phenomenal amount of money), and she couldn’t turn it down.

Although I felt devastated when she made her announcement, I am trying to consider the ending of the class as a graduation. When a student is ready, a teacher appears, or so it said, and in my case it was true. So perhaps it is also true that when the student is ready, the teacher disappears. Perhaps I have learned from her what I need to know to continue on to the next stage of my life.

But this is all prelude to what I really want to talk about. Whenever I have mentioned how distressed I was at the loss of this class, the response has universally been, “Find another yoga class.” Ummm. Yeah. Find another confluence of people and events that come together from thousands of miles away to create a magical, electric, and life-affirming moment. Sure, I’ll get right on it.

This seems to be the response for every loss. Get a new class, a new life, a new soul mate. Is it really that easy for people to do? Or is it simply that it’s easy to say, a palliative for the brokenhearted?

I realize that soon I will need to find a new life, but as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, it’s not as if I can go to the mall and search the aisles at Lifes ‘R’ Us until I find a new life that fits properly and looks good. I’ve never really wanted anything or anyone, but out of the blue, my life mate/soul mate dropped into my life, bringing (for a while anyway) radiance and excitement, and then later companionship, but now that he’s out of my life, I’m back to not wanting anything. If I did want something, I’d go after it, but I don’t want what is out there to get. (Or maybe I mean I don’t want what I know is out there to get. For example, I’d never considered doing yoga, had no interest in it whatsoever, and yet out of the blue, the yoga teacher dropped into my life.)

Mostly I’m taking the need for a new life in stride. Whatever happens, happens. Wherever I go, there I go. It doesn’t seem to really matter — something will drop into my life or it won’t. Either way, I’ll deal with it.

The only thing I know (or rather, suspect) is that I will not remain here in the high desert. Because of the yoga teacher and her class, for the first time I’d been contemplating staying in the area so I could continue taking instruction from her, and her getting a new job seems to be a clear sign that my future doesn’t lie here. But then again, I don’t really believe in signs . . .

***

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+

Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces — The Story Continues

Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. Seven authors, including me, are involved in the current story — Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces.

Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Although some of the characters were introduced in Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a previous collaboration, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces is a stand-alone novel.

We hope you will enjoy seeing the story develop as we write it. Let the mystery continue! Whodunit? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end!

Chapter 34: Melanie Gray
by Pat Bertram

Sheriff Bryan turned off the highway onto Tehachapi Road and wound through Rubicon Ranch. Melanie gazed out the Navigator’s window at the beautiful houses. Although the buildings were typical California housing development architecture—stucco with tile roofs—many of the dwellings were custom-built, so none of the houses looked exactly like any other. Spanish, Moorish, and Mediterranean styles dominated, but Cape Cod designs, Greek revival porticos, and ranch-style houses were also prevalent.

It seemed strange, Melanie thought, that the lovely facades hid such horror—death, murder, dismemberment.

“When I took this job,” the sheriff said, “I figured Rubicon Ranch would be the least of my troubles. It seemed such a quiet place.” He shot a glance at her. “You find that funny?”

It had been so long since Melanie had smiled that it took a moment for her to realize her lips had quirked up in acknowledgment of their synchronized thoughts.

“Not funny, no. It’s just that the area does seem quiet and innocent, as if nothing bad could happen here. And from what I can tell, nothing bad happened until I came. First Alexander was killed, then Riley, then her father and her kidnappers, and now Morris. I know it’s foolish, but I can’t help feeling as if it’s all my fault.”

“Is it?” Bryan asked without a trace of friendliness.

“Note to self,” Melanie muttered. “Never confide in a cop.”

“What about if the cop confides in you? All hell is breaking loose in Rubicon Ranch, and I’d like to tell you what’s going on if that’s okay.”

“Ah, back to the nice cop. It’s amazing how you can do the good cop/bad cop routine all by yourself.”

“Bad cop?” He flashed a smile that could only be called a leer, but then he seemed to think better of it, and straightened his mouth into its normally stern lines. “Have you met Eyana Saleh? Egypt Hayes?”

“Haven’t met either of them.”

“It’s the same person. Petit woman, mixed heritage, new to Rubicon Ranch.”

“Oh! I’ve seen her. She’s always wandering around taking photos of the neighborhood. She’s beautiful and has such lovely skin. Eyana Saleh? That’s her name? It fits her. What has she done?”

“Right at the moment she’s in the hospital. Been beaten pretty bad. She’s not saying much, but one of her assistants found her and described the man she saw running from the house, and the description fits Jake Sinclair.”

“Have you arrested him yet?”

“He’s not going anywhere. He’s in the hospital too, just down the hall from Eyana. His arm was chewed almost to the bone.”

Melanie gaped at the sheriff. “Eyana ate him?”

“A coyote did, or so he says. Apparently, after he beat up Eyana, he ran off to the desert. That’s where the medivac helicopter picked him up. He’s not saying anything, either, though maybe when he finds out how unpleasant those rabies shots are, he’ll come clean. The doctor says it’s definitely a canine bite though he guesses it’s a domesticated creature. The only dog in the area that I know of that’s big enough to do so much damage so quickly is the bull mastiff Tara Windsor owns, but she’s keeping mum, too.”

“Tara Windsor is in Cabo with her pool boy.”

“What? How do you know?”

“My agent. She’s a celebrity hound.”

Sheriff Bryan tapped a long, well-shaped finger on the steering wheel. “So, a woman comes to town looking like Tara, telling everyone her name is Leia Menendez, wink, wink, leading everyone to believe that she’s the actress but is really Leia? Whoa. If Tara could act that good, she’d be a shoo-in for an Oscar. Playing Lizzy Borden, maybe. An axe was found in the Sinclair house under Jake’s bed. We think Leia put it there, but our witness is a bit unreliable since she was having hysterics at the time.”

“And here I thought the life of a cop was boring,” Melanie said. “All routine and paperwork.”

“Not boring enough. The witness is Nancy Garcetti, a real estate agent. She found Morris’s head in the Peterson house and went flying down the street, screaming all the way. She says while she waited for my deputies to arrive, she saw Tara Windsor sneaking around the side of the Sinclair’s house, and Tara was carrying something that looked like an axe. We can’t find any other witnesses, and Tara or Leia or whatever her name is, isn’t admitting anything.”

“Is it the axe that killed Morris?”

Bryan shook his head. “The ME says not. He says it’s animal blood, thin blood, like from a roast. Then, as if this isn’t enough of a circus, we have electric boy. Ward Preminger.”

“I know who you mean,” Melanie said. “He’s also new to the neighborhood. Seems to crackle with static electricity. Has a fixation with the Morris house.”

The sheriff turned onto Delano Road. “As near as we can figure it, Ward blamed Morris for his condition, though apparently his brain got rewired when he was zapped by lightning while trapped in a tornado. He—” The chirping of a cell phone interrupted him. Bryan pulled the device out of a sheath on his belt and held it up to his ear. “Yes,” he said. “Yes . . . Okay . . . Sure . . . Thanks . . . Be right there.”

He sheathed his phone. “I have to go. We got the preliminary autopsy reports.” He made a quick u-turn and pulled up in front of Melanie’s rented house.

Melanie climbed out of the vehicle and stood on the curb until the Navigator sped out of sight, then she trudged to her front door, unlocked it, and entered the silent house.

***

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+

Thirty-Four Months of Grief

desert roadThirty-four months ago today, my life mate/soul mate died of inoperable kidney cancer. For thirty-four months now, I have been posting updates on my progress through grief, and that astounds me. Thirty-four months? How is that possible? Written out, it seems such a short time for him to have been gone, and yet it feels immeasurably vast — so many minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and now years, spent trying to come to grips with what happened to us. For most of our lives we were connected by some mystical bond, a cosmic twinning, that kept us together even when times were rough. And then suddenly, in a single breath, that connection was broken. I am here, alone, and he is . . . well, I don’t know where he is or even if he is.

I never had survivor’s guilt for the simple reason that I wasn’t sure which of us got the worst end of the deal, but I have felt uncomfortable going on without him, as if somehow I were being disloyal. We helped fight each other’s battles, sticking up for each other, caring for each other, waiting for whichever of us happened to be lagging behind, always taking the other into consideration, and it feels as if I should still be doing so. But he is beyond my reach, beyond my care, beyond my consideration.

I have come to see that continuing the disconnect that began with his descent into death is one of the tasks of my grief. (Grief seems to be not so much about passing through stages, but more about completing tasks, such as processing the loss and learning to live again.) Until I understand within my depths that for all practical (earthly) purposes we are not one, I will never be able to embrace fully what life has in store for me. We are separate persons, each with our own experiences, our own journey, and our own destination. For a while, our paths crossed, but now, I have to continue as me, alone. No matter what I do, or think or feel, it cannot change the past. No matter how much I hate that he is dead, no matter how much I rail against the unfairness, no matter how much I miss him or wish desperately for one more word or smile, he is no longer in my life.

For most of those thirty-four months, this disconnect has seemed an impossible task, but there is a bit of light illuminating my path. Last week, when I went to my Yoga class, they asked how I was, and I said, without thinking, “I’m doing great.” It stunned me to hear those words come out of my mouth, because for more than five years, during the last of his dying and these many months of grief, I have had times of feeling okay, and I thought that was the best I could do. But at that moment, I did feel great. It didn’t last long, only about an hour before I began sliding into sadness again, but that hour stands as a beacon for what might be.

Up until that class, this year has been one of increased sorrow and tears, and such grief upsurges often precede or follow a deeper level of acceptance. It’s not so much that I am learning to accept his death — I accepted the truth of it from the beginning, though I hate it and will never be able to comprehend it — but I am learning to accept that I am alive, and that is a much harder thing to accept.

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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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

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