1. It hurts. Like hell.
Picture this: for years, you work steadily every single day at building a life together. Every fight at 4am is about breaking walls and pillars down, about demolishing before rebuilding. Every talk about the future is a re-affirmation of direction. The army conscription notices and university offers are mutual decisions — a farewell party on a Saturday evening instead of a weekday, planning to spend more time in London instead of New York, choosing to enroll in a womens’ college.
And then one day, you wake up with empty hands. The dogs, the friends that became yours, the naps in his bed — they’re all his. All you have to hold are the things you chose for “us” (and him) that are now entirely “yours,” and yours alone.
The thing no one tells you about healing is that saying “it’s over” is relatively painless compared to what comes after. It’s not the giving up that stings, it’s wondering what to do with the life you built around his. And that hurts like hell.
2. It does not get better every day.
No matter what people tell you, moving on does not happen in a straight line. Some days you inch closer to acceptance, some days you fall back into anger and grief.
For every day you make it past dinner without being reminded of the “nachos” and scrambled eggs he used to make, there are days when you walk past the Science Fiction shelves in your favorite bookstore and see him in the corner of your memory’s eye checking if they have any new editions of Bradbury novels for his collection. For every time you suppress the urge to hug him when you see him, there comes the falling-apart on the way home.
It does not get better with every day. And that’s okay.
3. There is no such thing as “too fast,” or “too long.”
He is the boy shorts and boxers in your top drawer, the scale models and origami TIE fighters on your dresser, the dog tags hanging from a lightbulb on your vanity. He is the black-and-white photo of you two that stands in the doorway to your room, and the receipts in your bedside drawer. He’s even in the snacks his mom bought for your office that still sit in the left corner of your room, untouched since the start of your no-junk-food diet. He is in the corners of your bedroom and the back wall of your wardrobe. He is everywhere.
Just like you can’t pack up his lingering presence and erase him from the room’s memory, love is not an “on-off” switch. You don’t decide one morning to let go, and then never think about him again. You can’t control when you’re ready to open up and love someone new. You can only continue to take wavering steps away from the memory of him standing in the train carriage watching you walk away. You wish there was a suggested timeline for forgetting, and a line in the sand that says “From here on, you’ve moved on” — but there is only taking it one half-day at a time.
4. There will be things you’ll never get back.
He was your investment strategy. It was a chunk — maybe even all — of your resources, dedicated to the potential for lifelong fulfillment. Even after moving on, the journey from your neighborhood to his, or the mention of Ray Bradbury, is no longer the clean canvas is used to be. They haunt you, like the way his words “no one’s gonna love you more than I do” hangs over every “I love you” from someone else.
Like the Rolling Stones vinyls you bought him after scouring all the flea markets in Williamsburg one warm winter afternoon. Like Stephen King’s On Writing, because you gave it to him and thought it would always be around when you finally wanted to read it. Your shirts in his closet, and the bow hair clips next to the cologne on his shelf. The last two years. You will never get them back, and he will always be a failed investment in your portfolio.
5. Life, and love, move in cycles.
You will learn to love again. You’ll rebuild your life without the shirts, and bow hair clips. Your train commutes will shape their memories around different stations. You’ll get used to the feeling of someone else’s fingers filling the spaces between yours, the feeling of their arms around your waist, and talking about nothing and everything all over again. You’ll get used to making mixtapes with Creedence Clearwater Revival and Poets of the Fall instead of All Time Low and The National.
He wasn’t the last stop on your relationship map, and just like you learn to love by loving, the grooves and ridges of the recovery process teach you how to let go. It always happens a little differently, but moving on is also moving towards who we are meant to be. Love is cyclical, and the lessons he taught you seep into the rest of your being. You will always have an acquired love for Blade Runner and A Few Good Men — even if it means you never got to watch Mean Girls with him.