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.

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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.

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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.

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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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Living Offline

I seem to have more of an offline life lately than I do online, which is a throwback for me. I didn’t get a computer or get on the internet until 2007, but they came at a time of upheaval in my life (my mother was dying and my life mate/soul mate was declining) and they proved to be lifesavers. Well, mindsavers. I needed something to occupy my mind to keep from giving in to foolish worry (foolish because there was nothing I could do about either situation except to be available when needed), and learning has always been my forte. So I learned what I could about using computers, navigating the internet, blogging, social networking, and everything else that goes to making up an online life.

Origidesknally, I was gifted with a year of the internet, and after checking out libraries and finding other interesting sites such as the Internet Movie Database, I wondered how I could possibly use this unexpected gift. I figured that by the end of that first year, either I would find something to do, or I would get rid of it.

It didn’t even take a year, just a few months. Not only did I find something to do, I found a life, excitement, friends, even love of a sort. (I loved blogging from the first time I posted an article and understood what blogging was all about.) I also found support and encouragement. I don’t know how I would have dealt with the death of my life mate/soul mate if it weren’t for the bereft I met because of opening myself to the blogosphere.

Now, almost three and a half years after his death, I’m looking around my offline world, and I’m finding life, excitement, friends, even love of a sort. (I love walking with the local Sierra Club.) I no longer seem to need the screen of a computer to filter the worst of my worry or pain. I see the world through the excited eyes of child rather than the angst-ridden eyes of a bereft and lonely woman.

Parts of my offline life are hard, of course. I’m looking out for my 96-year-old father, dealing with problematic family members, and experiencing occasional upsurges of grief, but what isn’t hard is easy. Fun, even.

Instead of fearing the rest of my life alone, now I’m looking forward to seeing what I will make of myself.

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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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Thirty-Two Months of Grief

I haven’t been writing much about grief lately. It’s been thirty-two months — 977 days — since my life mate/soul mate died. In that time, many others have suffered grievous losses, and to continue mentioning my grief seems like all I’m doing is whining. Still, this is my loss, and what other people experience, no matter how horrific, doesn’t lessen my sorrow. I don’t have the same sort of raw pain that I did at the beginning, of course, nor do I have the gut-wrenching angst that so often bedeviled me during those first months, but I do experience bouts of sadness and yearning.

My emotions are on a slow Ferris wheel ride, usually sliding down into sadness on Saturdays, the day he died — a day that apparently is etched in my very psyche — and then a gradual climb to hope and possibility on Monday and Tuesday.

Even when Saturday’s sorrow is fleeting, as it often is now, I find that I am at my most vulnerable then, and any hurtful word, thoughtlessness, or setback can send me spiraling down into grief. Without him to talk to, without my being able to casually mention the slights and so slough them off, the unkindnesses take hold and remind me that I am alone. Which reminds me that he is dead. Which makes me grieve.

I can handle being alone. I can even handle his being out of my life. What I can’t handle is his being dead. It’s possible he still exists somewhere, perhaps lolling on the shores of some cosmic sea, a cat purring in his arms, but I have no way of knowing for sure. All I know is that he is out of this earthly life. Gone. Deleted. I still cannot wrap my mind around that. And I still can’t help feeling that he was cheated out of a couple of decades of life.

Sometimes I pretend to believe that he left so that I could experience life in a way we couldn’t experience together, but other times, especially on the day of the month that he died — such as today — I find it impossible to pretend that this new experience of life alone is a positive thing. And even if it is for the best, it comes at the cost of his life, and that is too big of a price to pay.

If I sound discouraged today, the truth is, I am dis-courage-d. Have lost my courage. Sometimes I am strong and forward looking, but on this 977th day of his goneness, I am unable to gather the courage to believe that any good will come from his being dead and my being alone. I’d give anything to see him one more time, to have him smile at me or say an encouraging word, but no matter how much I yearn for such an encounter, it’s not going to happen in this lifetime.

I am used to the ups and downs now, so I know all I have to do is hang on, and in a day or two, when I am less tired perhaps, I’ll find my courage again. And some day I might even come to believe that this new experience of life alone truly is a positive thing.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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+