My high school boyfriend died on April 25th, 2010 from injuries sustained in a car crash. I was 19 at the time. I had never experienced the death of someone so close. A few acquaintances and distant family members, yes, but even all of my grandparents are still alive. So I didn’t quite know what to expect when the person I was most emotionally dependent on was gone. I thought I knew. My best friend and I once talked about what it would be like if something awful were to happen. Could we survive it? And that’s the first thing that went through my mind. “I cannot believe that I’ve talked about the possibility of death happening and it actually happened.” It actually fucking happened.
It was a Sunday morning and I woke up feeling sick. My stomach shrivels into a peach pit in the midst of despair but I didn’t know why it was there. I went back to sleep. My friend Garret called to tell me there had been an accident. As soon as the words left his mouth, I already knew. My brain immediately opted for denial. “He’s okay,” I said. It wasn’t a question. I started rambling incoherently in order to stop my friend from uttering what couldn’t be true. You know how some people claim to have “floated out of their bodies” after a traumatic event? I guess that’s a real thing. It felt like I was physically split in two and my logical side was watching the rest of me trying to remember what month it was.
I no longer believe that impossible things can’t happen.
I spent the first year in a haze of whiskey and cheap beer. One night, after 6 months, I slept a full 11 hours uninterrupted and without the help of alcohol or Benadryl. Progress.
And who cares, really? I didn’t care about anyone else’s problems. I didn’t expect anyone to care about mine. But something happened there. I was depressed, but I was awake. I felt more awake than I ever had before, and it stuck. I started thinking about relationships. This boy was someone that I loved very selfishly. I wanted to believe that our love was earth shattering, unconditional, and permanent. As I get older I realize that it was not earth shattering but highly melodramatic. It was first love. I was stumbling into levels of vulnerability that I never knew existed. Which does turn out to be earth shattering, just not in the way I had hoped for.
We were broken up when he died. Breaking up wasn’t foreign to us. I was certain we would get back together like we had so many times before. I hadn’t seen him in a few months but we were supposed to be attending the same concert that night. In true female form, I had a plan: I was gonna look super hot and “accidentally” run into him so he would regret ever losing me. He never made it, and I was the one left with regret. My regret is not spending the years we shared getting to know each other the way two people should. I didn’t really know my boyfriend. I knew what I chose to see and I knew what I wanted from him. It’s not enough.
I don’t really have any advice on how to deal with the death of a loved one, except forget how everyone else thinks you should feel about it. Feel what you feel, and don’t apologize for it. Be angry. It’s okay. But to all of the fiery souls of the ones who have or haven’t yet experienced grief and all its gut wrenching dead ends, you are here. I desperately urge you to push the people that you care about. Study them. Dwell in their vibes. Dig, and find out what drives them to be who they are, who they’re not, and who they want to be. And then figure out what you can contribute to that. Challenge them. Be kind. There’s nothing more important than helping each other move forward while you have the chance.