They say that grieving the loss of someone who is still alive is one of the most difficult things we all must learn to do. As we get older, it happens to most of us. Sometimes there is a big, messy fallout complete with screaming, cursing, and tears. Sometimes we realize that we are no longer compatible with people whom we’ve shared a lot of memories, so we take those memories, tuck them away for safekeeping, and gracefully part. Yet sometimes it’s a slow burn, and the relationship fades quietly into the background until one day, you notice that the person you used to love is a total stranger.
It doesn’t happen overnight. I gradually began to notice that I knew less and less about what was going on in your day-to-day life, until one day, I struggled to remember basic information, like your favorite food (it’s pizza).
When you grieve the loss of someone who is gone, you are comfortable in the knowledge that your person did not exit your life by choice. If you’re a person of faith, you might even believe that your person is still in your heart. However, grieving the loss of someone who is still alive is a different type of hurt because the cold, stark truth is that, for some reason or another, your person has consciously decided that you no longer hold value in their life.
At first, I was in denial. I told myself that you weren’t calling or texting because life happens. In my heart, I knew that things had changed, especially when I started to feel like my calls were being forwarded to voicemail from the couch. I was slightly angry, but I was definitely sad. The sadness ebbs and flows. Some days, I have almost made peace with your decision to cut me out. Other days, I sob. Sometimes, a cruel reminder turns up in the form of a Facebook memory, an old photo, or a card.
I miss you most when big, exciting things are happening and I’m not telling you about them. It breaks my heart that I’m not able to FaceTime you to talk about the new friends I’m making and the wild things I’m doing. You were supposed to be a forever person. I thought you would be around for all my life milestones, big moments, and sad moments. I thought you would be a constant during the best and worst times of my life. Occasionally, I find out about your happenings via social media, and it’s a cruel reality check that I’m now just a Facebook friend. I scroll through social media and I still see all of your posts. Sometimes I smile, other times I feel like I’ve been gut punched. I want to “like” and comment, but I’m not sure how you’ll react, so I pause for a moment and keep scrolling.
Some of the things you shared with me will always be part of who I am. Because of you, I use my voice when something doesn’t feel right, even when it doesn’t make me the most popular person in the room. Because of you, I am careful when I drink, and I always make sure that no girl is left behind. When I start talking to a new boy, your voice echoes in my mind: “Don’t make someone a priority who doesn’t make you one.” I catch myself muttering mantras that you taught me. I try to be more empathetic. I try to be stronger, like you. I thought you were Superwoman.
Sometimes I still catch myself about to FaceTime you when it’s nighttime and I want someone to talk to. Then I remember that we don’t talk anymore, and you wouldn’t pick up—and, if you miraculously did, I wouldn’t really know what to say. Would you be mad? Would you block my number? Would you question why I was calling? It would be awkward at best and painful at worst.
Random things make me think of you. When I hear Fleetwood Mac, I think of laughing and dancing on a cold December night. When I wear those pink sweatpants that you gave me, I think about helping you sort through your clothes before your move. You did most of the sorting, while I laid on your bed and talked. When something horrible happened to me, you were the confidant I went to. When boys made me cry, you patiently listened, even when it was the same scenario over and over again. When I had big questions, you never failed to try to help. I leaned on you for advice and reassurance. I looked up to you as the big sister I never had. I was well aware that you weren’t flawless, but I loved you so much that I accepted you as you were. I wanted to be like you, and I still do. I hope that I’m lucky enough to impact a younger girl’s life in the manner that you did mine.
Today, I accept that our relationship is over, but it doesn’t mean that the love is gone. You will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope that you think of me sometimes. I hope that I impacted your life in some positive way. In every relationship, someone has to be the one to love more. I accept that, because the value of love is not rooted in being loved back. That said, I will always love you, and I hope that in your own way, you love me, too. I am happy, and I hope you are, too. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had never met you.
Maybe someday we’ll be able to sit down and talk about it all. Maybe we won’t. However, I know one thing for certain: We meet people for a reason. You taught me much-needed lessons that helped me find myself and grow into a better version of me. Thank you for everything. I love you always.