Grief: The Great Learning, Day 445

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 much of what I am thinking about now. My father recently died, and now I am facing what I could only think about back then — the vast open plain of the future before me.

I am packing to leave this house and go . . . I know not where. I’ll probably stay around here for a while. I have made new friends after those referred to in this letter disappeared out of my life, and it just occurred to me that I can speak about all of my concerns to at least one of those women. It’s nice and helps offset the loneliness that still hits me every evening.

And oh, yes. I still keep hoping for major changes — good changes.

###

Day 445, Hi, Jeff.

I’ve been going through an upsurge of grief, missing you so damn much. It stuns me, like a snake stunned by a rock thrown at it, to think I’ll never see you again. You’d think I’d have come to an accommodation with that, but such ”acceptance” of that fact does not bring acceptance of what it means — death for you, loneliness for me.

Life involves people, doesn’t it? I’m trying to “people” my life, but it’s not the same thing as being connected to one specific person. We were often lonely even when we were together, but this loneliness is incomprehensible. I’m considering staying here after my father dies because at least I know people here, but so many of the people I have met, especially those from my grief group, have already faded from my life. And if the rest disappear, then what?

It should be exciting to have the vast open plain of the future before me, but all I see is bleakness and aloneness. I have no one to talk to about my concerns. I don’t know how to cope with that. I keep hoping for major changes (good changes), but all that seems to be happening is a slow descent into inevitability.

I hope you’re not lonely. I couldn’t bear that.

***

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 435

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 thinking about now. My father recently died, and I am packing to leave his house and go . . . I know not where. I am trying to hope for some sort of great new life, but it’s easier not to hope, and just take each day as it comes.

Luckily, I have discovered dance. I am taking dance classes, and those classes give my life a semblance of meaning, bring me friendship and joy, and fill the emptiness. For now, it’s something to hang on to.

###

Day 435, Hi, Jeff.

Another Saturday. I’m tearing up again, though I’m not sure why. Loneliness, I guess. Feeling sorry for myself. I need to get on with my life, concentrate on myself. But how lonely is that? Perhaps it’s better to have no hope. Just try to take the days as they come. It sounds a lot easier than it is. The damn emotions get in the way.

Will this sorrow ever end? Will anything good ever happen to me? Do you miss me? Do you still exist? Will I ever love again? Will anyone ever love me? Is this all there is — this emptiness? I can fill the emptiness with doing things — reading, writing, walking, whatever comes my way — but as soon as I stop concentrating on the “fill,” the emptiness shows up again.

I need something to hold on to. I need something concrete to build my life on, but there isn’t anything but maybe survival. Survival — that’s what your life ended up being about. Is that all there is? Survival until there is no more survival?

How did you manage to survive as well as you did? Was it worth it living with such pain? I guess, in the end, there isn’t really a choice. You have to play out the hand you’re given. Damn. I wish I weren’t so lonely. I might be able to deal with your being gone if not for that. And I really should be able to deal with it. For cripes sake, I am not a child.

What a mess my life is, well, if emptiness can be called a mess. I wish I cared about something. I wish I could talk to you. I wish you weren’t dead. I wish you hadn’t been so sick for so long.

Maybe I’m being insensitive, whining about my life when you no longer have a life. But then, maybe you got the better end of the deal. I hope so.

I love you.

***

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.

Life Happens

I’m beginning to get a bit nervous about discussing my impending future because the uncertainty of my life bothers people — bothers them a lot — and I don’t like putting them in such a position. Oddly, the uncertainty doesn’t really bother me all that much. In fact, I am more fearful of settling into my solitariness and stagnating than I am of uncertainty, which keeps me dreaming of impossible adventures.

(In case you’re new here, after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I came to my nonagenarian father’s house to look after him in his declining years, and now that he’s gone, this house will soon be sold, and I will have to start my life from scratch.)

I have suffered so many losses in the past few years that I feel lost myself, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I don’t want to remain the same forever, nor do I want to do the same things I’ve always done. It’s time for me to try on different lives to see what (if anything) will fit. It does feel strange, though, that my options are both limitless and limited (limitless because a world of possibilities awaits me, limited because of a lack of resources). Such extremes add to the uncertainty. How do you choose a path when thousands are open? How do you deal with the requirements of modern life when resources are few? And most especially, how do you sort through all the things you don’t want to do to find the things you do want to do?

I have no idea how to begin a life from scratch, but as one lovely woman told me today, “You do it one step at a time.” And she should know — although she’s still fairly young, she had a stroke one night and woke up blind. Talk about having to start from scratch! I’m lucky. I don’t have to start from so far down. I can start from where I am right now, with all my baggage, both welcome and unwelcome.

But even she has cautioned me to make immediate plans. To make a decision — today.

The truth is, life happens. It’s as simple as that. You take one step, then another, and all of a sudden you are somewhere you never imagined. I had no intention of ever looking after my father, no thought of taking dance classes, no dreams of dancing on stage, and yet, those things have all happened, one unwitting step at a time.

The first step toward my new life is now in progress. I’m sorting through all my possessions, weeding out the superfluous and packing the rest. I’m also sorting through my immaterial possessions, such as responsibilities I have undertaken and friendships that no longer bring joy, to see what if anything is worth taking with me into my new life and what needs to be discarded. My next step will be to wait to see what happens with my father’s house. It might take a while to sell, and if so, maybe the executors will allow me to stay here until it does. Either way — staying here a or leaving shortly — my third step would be to find a storage place and move all my stuff there. And then . . .

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Seems a good enough plan for now. So don’t worry. I won’t starve. Won’t be on the streets. I’ll just be . . . wherever life has taken 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.

Too Many Losses

I’m sitting here with tears running down my face, and I don’t really know why. Just too many recent losses, perhaps. Two losses — the death of my father two and a half weeks ago and before that the loss of a dear friend to what seem to be irreconcilable differences — aren’t many, it just seems like a lot because any loss renews my grief for my life mate/soul mate, who died four and a half years ago.

windI tried to wait until the tears passed before writing tonight because I’ve wept way too often on this blog, and I just didn’t want to have to admit to more sorrow. But here I am . . .

I was fine all day until after dance class this afternoon when everyone went home to someone and I returned to a borrowed house. I don’t mind being alone — it’s rather peaceful not having to worry about other people’s ills and crotchets, not having to figure out what someone else wants or needs. But perhaps that’s my problem. After a lifetime of being needed — from a childhood spent taking care of younger brothers and sisters to a recent adulthood spent taking care of the sick and dying — all of a sudden, no one needs me.

It’s not that I want to be needed — I don’t. (It’s long past time for me to figure out what I need rather than what other people need.) It’s more that I’m not used to the emptiness not being needed has left behind, an emptiness I have yet to fill. Dancing helps, of course, but there are only so many classes I can take. I’m filling many of my weekend hours sorting through and packing my stuff for storage, but I can only do that for so long, too, because it’s sad dismantling what’s left of my shared life with my mate. Not only is each item I get rid of one more thing gone from that life, it’s a reminder that I won’t be going home to him. Not now, not ever. The odd thing is, I really had let him go several months ago with the realization that he is a person in and of himself and on his own journey that has nothing to do with me. But preparing for the coming upheaval in my life brings it all back.

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself tonight. Instead of sitting here whining or trying to figure out why the tears, I think I’ll go for a walk. If nothing else, it will be good for 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.

I am Truly Blessed

I just came back from dance class to an empty house. It felt strange not to have to worry about my father, not to have to deal with our complicated relationship. (Though at the end, it was simple. He wanted to die, and I was there, helping him let go.)

My father died in exactly the same way Jeff (my life/mate soul mate) did — terminal restlessness and agitation treated with morphine and haloperidol for a while, and then finally nothing when they fell into a coma and slowly and peacefully faded out of this world. In both cases, I sat with the empty body until the mortuary came for the remains, though in both cases I had company, a nurse with Jeff and a brother with my father.

But then came the major differences. With Jeff, I was totally shattered, dealing with unbearable angst and agony at his separation from my very being. I did not have that sort of deeply connected relationship with my father. Besides, he was considerably older than Jeff. Where Jeff’s life had been cut short at a fairly young age, my father had used himself up. He had nothing left. Most of all, when Jeff died, I was alone. Completely. Had to deal with everything by myself. Had little support. (Which is why I swallowed my intense independence and went to a grief support group, and one of the reasons I wrote about my grief.)

But this time, I could feel the incredible outpouring of love and caring from both my online and offline friends. Many comments were left on my blog and Facebook — not the typical stranger-to-stranger condolences you get on such sites, but heartfelt expressions of concern from people who have gotten to know me from my chronicling the traumas of my life.

I went walking with my walking group last night and cried on a friend’s shoulder and got hugs from everyone else. And then I experienced the same thing at dance class today, hugs and tears. After class, I went to lunch with friends, got calls this afternoon making this empty house seem not so bleak, and I will be going to dinner with another friend tonight.

I am truly blessed. Thank you for your kindness, your caring, your love. You mean more to me than you will ever know.

Me, Jeff, Mom and Dad on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Strange to think I am the only one left alive.

***

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.

Life As A Matter Of Punctuated Equilibrium

I’m still cleaning out my past — spent a few hours this afternoon going through boxes after dance class and lunch with friends.

It’s amazing that in the presence of another person (in this case my sister), it’s harder to justify keeping things that have lain unused for decades, so I got rid of more than I might have done if I were alone.

In my misspent youth, I managed a fabric store for a national chain, and I still had boxes of fabric left over from that time. Those are the boxes we went through today. Luckily, a friend agreed to take the fabric off my hands, so now even more of my past is gone. It feels good. Things are a responsibility and that responsibility weighs heavily on me. It will be nice to journey into my unknown future feeling so much lighter.

Odd about that future. I’ve been assuming it will be wonderful since I’ve been paying karmic debts or dues or some such with all the epic traumas I’ve dealt with the past four and a half years, yet someone made a comment today that makes me wonder if perhaps I’m being uncharacteristically optimistic.

He said, “There’s a dramatic tension in your journey, Pat. I’m not sure if the universe will eventually smile on you, and I have this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, but we’re rooting for you to achieve a harmonic convergence. You may have a destiny as our guru and guide. You’re certainly paying a price for the upcoming payoff. Is it a bloody hammer of God or a bouquet?”

Eek.

Perhaps the courage to deal with traumas makes them possible. Perhaps ever-increasing traumas prepare the way for even greater traumas, and I am in for a “bloody hammer of God” sort of future. It seems impossible there could be more traumas waiting for me, but then, I couldn’t have imagined the soul-deep traumas I’ve had to deal with during the past few years, such as grieving the death of my life mate/soul mate, dealing with my dysfunctional brother, and taking care of my father during his final years. Nor could I have ever imagined my reaction to such traumas — the shocking and breath-stealing agony of my grief, the horrific journey taking my brother back to Colorado and the 1000 miles of tears afterward, the continued frustrations over my father’s struggle to maintain his parental authority while expecting me to baby him.

sunflowerI suppose it’s just as well we can’t envision our futures. It would probably be terrifying to know what was in store for us. Even knowing that blazing joy rather than epic sorrow is waiting would be terrifying because it would be so alien. And even if we weren’t terrified of awesome bliss, there would be the fear of it never happening or if it did occur, that we wouldn’t believe we deserved it.

Besides, the person who has to deal with that future is not the person of today. Life is a matter of punctuated equilibrium. Nothing happens, and then everything happens. We change little by little, and then something big happens, and we change a lot, though sometimes — maybe most times — we don’t feel the changes. But they are there. (I doubt the subjects of evolution feel the changes, either. Species go about their daily business until the equilibrium of their lives and ecosystems are punctuated by change, and then you find alterations in the fossil record showing what seems to be the truth.) It’s that changed person (as well as the changed species) who has deal with what will come.

Whatever happens in the future — a bloody hammer of God or bouquets — I had a good day today. No one can ask for more than that.

Can you tell I’m smiling as I write this?  It really was good day, but then, any day that includes dancing and friends is good.

***

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.

Spending Too Much Time in Shuttered Rooms

After my life mate/soul mate died, it was all I could do to get through the day. I couldn’t imagine a future without him in the world. Didn’t want to imagine it. When my grief started to wane and I could again contemplate the future, I would wonder where I should go to settle down, but my mind always rebelled at the thought. Settle down? Alone? How? He was my home. Without him, there was no home, just a place, and one place seemed the same as another.

Although I am gradually coming to terms with both my loneliness and my aloneness, I still rebel at the thought of finding somewhere to settle when I leave here. (I am currently staying with and looking out for my 97-year-old father.) For a person with hermit tendencies, such as I, settling down alone sounds like stagnation. At the beginning, I would do things, of course, but then as time passed, I would become entrenched in my habits, would get tired of the same sights, the same errands, the same . . . everything. And my world would shrink and continue shrinking until I became the crazy cat lady sans cats.

Most people have not been able to identify with this scenario. They see me now, embracing new ways of living, and say that it will always be so. Perhaps they are right, but still I do fear the stagnation that would come from being too long entrenched in one place alone.

The truth is, whether we are aware of it or not, some form of stagnation happens to all of us. In “It’s a Nomad, Nomad World,” Bruce Chatwin spoke of our heritage as nomads and explained the necessity for keeping on the move, especially by foot. Chatwin wrote:

Some American brain specialists took encephalogram readings of travellers. They found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well being and an active purpose in life. Monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produce fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self disgust and violent reactions. Hardly surprising, then, than a generation cushioned from the cold by central heating, from the heat by air conditioning, carted in aseptic transports from one identical house or hotel to the another, should feel the need for journeys of mind and body, for pep pills or tranquillisers, or for the cathartic journeys of sex, music and dance. We spend far too much time in shuttered rooms. . . . 

The best thing is to walk. We should follow the chinese poet Li Po in “the hardships of travel and the many branchings of the way”. For life is a journey trough wilderness. This concept, universal to the point of banality, could not have survived unless it was biologically true. None of our revolutionary heroes is worth a thing until he has been on a good walk. Che Guevara spoke of the “nomadic phase” of the Cuban Revolution. Look what the Long March did for Mao Tse Tung, or Exodus for Moses.

I have no interest in being a revolutionary hero or even a spiritual leader who wanders in the wilderness until fate thrusts me into a new role. But somehow, I instinctively knew the truth — that settling down means mental stagnation. When you live with someone, you don’t stagnate quite as much because there is someone to help disrupt the rhythms of your life. But who disrupts the rhythms of your life when you are alone? (Cats, I suppose, which could be why so many old women alone end up tending  a houseful of cats, but that’s not for me.)

I do not know if I am physically capable of a life on foot — I’ve never been athletic. Even if my capabilities weren’t an issue, the problem of getting enough water seems insurmounatble. The sheer volume of water a person needs is staggering. Some areas in the west, you can go up to hundred miles between towns, and in the wilderness sometimes it’s almost as far between watering holes. Considering that a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds (just the water, not the container), and considering that a someone on foot needs to drink almost that much a day, and considering that at the most I could walk 10 miles a day (and that is being optimistic),  I’d need to drag along almost 84 pounds of water. (I read about a college student who dragged that much water with him on a cross-country trip. Actually, he didn’t drag it, he pushed it. Used some sort of cart.)

I don’t know what the answer to my conundrum is, but I have a hunch it will take care of itself. I’d probably start out in my ancient vehicle, and if it broke down or fell apart . . . well, then I’d have to finish the trip on foot.

It’s also possible that I end up doing what everyone does in the end — spend my life in shuttered rooms.

As a matter of fact, right at this moment, I am in a shuttered room. It’s not so bad.

***

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.

Talking to a Facebook Friend in Real Time

I’ve met a lot of wonderful people because of opening up and blogging about the loss of my life mate/soul mate. One woman, Shannon Fisher, has become a good friend of the Facebook variety, and tonight I will have a chance to talk to her in real time. I am going to be the premier guest on her new radio show, “The Authentic Woman”. I hope you can turn in at 8:00 pm ET.

Although we won’t we talking about grief (or not much, anyway) that is something we have in common, losing our soul mates. Shannon’s wisdom helped me get through many lonely nights. One night when we were messaging each other about the realization that although we felt connected to our soul mates, an important step in grief (sometime during the third year) is the realization that we are not our mates, Shannon wrote:

That’s the toughest part – realizing that their death has nothing to do with us and that we are all, while connected through a web of energy, uniquely created beings following our own individual path. Regardless of how connected we are to some people in some ways, their path is theirs and ours is ours.

When I felt that disconnect, I was suddenly okay. He was gone. I was here. And it was okay. The fear of letting go is what keeps us in the mire. We let go when we are ready to do so, and not a moment sooner.  Our partners are gone.  We can either live in this world without them, experiencing a full, active life…or half-live a life while we are still connected to our dead great loves through the ether, which we can’t navigate or understand this side of death.

It isn’t a choice; you can’t “just get there.” But you will get there. And everything will suddenly feel new again. You will see possibilities as something toward which you want to leap, and you will suddenly feel untethered and able to make that leap.

Well, I’ve made many leaps during these years of grief, and this radio show interview is just one more leap into the untethered future.

The live show begins at 8:00pm EST here at this link: http://tobtr.com/s/6078195. If you miss it live, then use the same link for the podcast, available immediately after the live interview.

Call ins are welcome. 347-884-8266

AW

***

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.

Dreaming of Adventure

I’ve been spending way too much time lately thinking/talking/writing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, especially since I doubt I will ever travel more than small pieces of it. There are many problems to deal with when hiking the length of the trail — food (two pounds a day is recommended), water (either too much in the high sierras, with swollen rivers and icy trails, or too little in the deserts), heavy packs, wind, ticks and other unfriendly insects — and I would prefer a trouble-free life.

Still, just thinking and researching the logistics of such an adventure are an escape from my life. In looking after my 97-year-old father and dealing with a dysfunctional brother, I amcamping always aware of others, either listening for signs of distress from my father or listening to my brother’s moans and cries without knowing if these sounds come from pain or are a way of manipulating me. When one is hiking alone, away from civilization, away from other hikers, even, one only has to listen to oneself, only has to fulfill one’s own needs. That idea is restful to me. One foot in front of another, nothing to think about, no one to worry about.

Even more that that, thinking about such an adventure is like working a puzzle, helping to keep my mind active and alert despite too much loss of sleep. I’ve even gone so far as to join a few Facebook groups, including a couple just for woman hikers. Lots of good information in those groups, lots of things to consider. Planning such a trip gives me a new way of looking at ways of life we take for granted. Modern plumbing, for example, has made basic body functions easy for us. But what if there isn’t a restroom for hundreds of miles? How does one keep clean? How does one remain infection-free?

Thinking about living an adventurous life (simply thinking about it, not living it) has also helped me past the last hurdle of grief, giving me something to concentrate on besides what I have lost. It’s been almost four years since the death of my life mate/soul mate, and I have adjusted to life without him. In fact, sometimes I forget that I once had a different life, that once someone loved me. I don’t want to forget — I loved him deeply — but I can’t spend the rest of my life yearning for him, can’t be always looking to the past. Thinking about a life on foot makes me realize that, whether my life will be on my feet or on my behind, I do still have a life.

Throughout all these years of grief, I have been afraid of the future alone, afraid of becoming the crazy cat lady (sans cats, of course), afraid of settling somewhere and waiting for entropy to take its course. Thinking about other possibilities — hiking the PCT, walking to Seattle, car camping, going abroad and just winging it, taking a freighter to New Zealand — helps me realize that I don’t have to moulder. I can live. I can be adventurous. I can take chances. I can try new things. I can learn new things. I can become the sort of person who could hike the PCT if she so desires.

I don’t know what I want to do, and there’s no reason to make any plans since my stay here at my father’s house could continue for many more years. But I can prepare. In fact, tonight I will take a backpack on my Sierra Club walk (I walk with the club three nights a week) and fill it with a five pound weight. Five pounds is heavy! I cannot imagine trying to carry thirty pounds for any distance, but at least, this will be a start.

But a start of what? Maybe someday I’ll find out.

***

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.

And So Grief Goes . . .

When you lose a soul mate or any person who connects you to the world in a significant way, you are born into the world of grief. At first, like any infant, you count your age in days, then weeks, and finally months and years.

I am long past counting the days and weeks since the death of my life mate/soul mate, though I can figure it out. (In case you’re curious, I calculated that it’s been 1,310 days or 187 weeks.) I’m even past counting the months. Today is an anniversary of his death, but without stopping to figure it out, all I know is that it’s been more than three and a half years but less than four.

numbersThis is a significant development. People who have never had to deal with the death of such an important person in their lives were spooked by my counting the days for so long, thinking I was unhealthily obsessed with the past, but that wasn’t the case at all. The days were milestones, ways of proving to myself that I could get through my grief one day at a time. And I have mostly gone through it. The horrendous pain, angst, and confusion of those first months isn’t even a memory. I can’t imagine anymore what I went through, can’t imagine how anyone could go through such a series of losses and come out the other end stronger and able to face whatever traumas life has in store. (In my case, not only did I lose my life mate/soul mate, I lost shared hopes and dreams, my most devoted fan, my best friend, and my home.)

When I talk about my grief, people assume I mean I still mourn him. To me, grief is the process, the whole spectrum of grief-related advancements including healing and rebuilding one’s life. The spectrum flows from the deepest black of despair to the brightest white of joy. Mourning is the sadness, the tears, the screams, the soul-deep pain — the physical manifestation of grief. I am long past the soul-deep pain, but I am still a long way from joy, so although I seldom mourn him any more, I still consider myself a child of grief.

Someday, that too will pass. Grief has taught me what we already know: things change. I never thought I’d laugh again, never thought I could live again. And yet here I am, all these months later, laughing and enjoying myself on occasion. I never thought I could forget him, and yet he is not always on my mind. For so long, I couldn’t bear the thought of settling down anywhere when I leave here (I am temporarily staying with my 96-year-old father, looking after him so he can be as independent as possible). All I wanted was to keep on the move. Travel See what life has to offer. I still think of leading such a spontaneous and unsettled life, but I am also weighing the possibility of settling down. I used to fear stagnation, but I am surer of myself and my solitary place in the world, and I doubt I would stagnate. I would do . . . something.

And so grief goes . . .

***

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.

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