Almost a month ago, without warning, I lost one of the most important people in my life- my fiancé. We’d only had three years together and although we were supposed to have many more, those three years were the best ones of my life. He taught me how to love, and how to be loved- even through my toxic combination of clinical depression and trust issues. We were supposed to be with each other forever. I’m always the type to overthink and second guess everything, but that’s one thing I’ve never doubted.
We were supposed to start a family. We were supposed to get married and continue to support each other and keep each other grounded like we have since the day we met. It was supposed to be forever, and I know damn well that it would’ve been. I’m so grateful for all the memories and experiences that he’s given me and all he’s taught me in my time with him. I’d like to share a few real, raw, and often overlooked life lessons that I’ve learned through my dance with the grieving process- things that I wish people would’ve told me from day one.
1. The grief and sadness stay with you. You just get better (Much better. Become a pro, even) at hiding it from other people. You’ll still cry, but you’ll be able to cry alone. Both a blessing and a curse.
2. It’s so easy to hide this from others not necessarily because they don’t care- not even because they’re ignorant. We’re all biologically wired to be selfish to some point at least; so while you’re thinking of how your entire world has been flipped upside down, everyone else is thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner and how excited they are to hit the beach this summer. It’s not their fault. This is human nature.
3. The statement “grief comes and goes in waves” is completely true. This sounds strange, and I was quite the skeptic. However, I now understand exactly what this means, and feel like I too am the shore with wave after wave breaking down (hard as hell) on me. Clearly the tallest waves will come and break down the hardest when you think about something that reminds you of your late loved one, but you will still be hit (and hit quite often) without as much as a fair warning. They don’t even need to be triggered. They will hit you.
4. You will become much weaker. There was an entire week where I could not eat or sleep no matter how hard I tried or how badly I wanted to… let alone leave my bed. Each day that goes by will feel like another knife has been forced into your gut, and this will last for quite some time. Your head will be filled with fuzz. Eating will only make you feel sicker, and you’ll hate sleeping because yes, everything will hit you all over again each and every time you wake up. You’ll wonder how the fuck you’ll ever be able to go on. It gets morbid. Personally, I had constant thoughts of how it should’ve been me. Though I’ve been told by nearly everyone I know that this temporary weakness makes you much stronger in the end, I have not progressed far along enough to either dispute or agree with this. I assume they’re referring to an “it’s always darkest before the dawn” type ordeal here, but that’s kind of annoying, isn’t it?
5. You will actually run out of tears- this happened for me after the first week, and it is actually something to look forward to. It’s nice to be able to sit in silence without ugly crying… even if that silence does only last for 30 seconds.
6. You will get angry. Really angry. You will have to try really, really hard to keep yourself from kicking innocent people who are genuinely trying to help you along. Clichés will be thrown at you like there’s no tomorrow. They’ll think that’s what you need- to hear that it’ll all be okay, and that you’ll get through this, and that they’re there for you (sorry, but most of them aren’t) and my personal favorite “stay strong”. This is not the time for me to stay strong. This is the time for me to let myself break. How am I supposed to get through the healing process if I take your completely moronic advice and muster up this falsified strength instead of really feeling and really grieving? Thanks, but no thanks.
7. Buuuut it’ll be an emotional roller coaster. You will hate yourself for getting so mad at everyone who means well. You’ll then fight back with yourself, arguing that maybe if anyone on Earth had a dash of common sense you wouldn’t be so angry. You’ll be mad at yourself for being mad, then you’ll just get upset and break down crying. You’ll get mad at yourself for crying, then you’ll laugh at yourself for being mad at yourself for crying.
Bright side: never a dull moment!
8. I mentioned breaking out the clichés in number 5, right? You’ll realize who your true friends are. The way people act in situations like these is a defining moment of their character. I would’ve rolled my eyes if I heard this one before experiencing it, so I completely understand if you’re rolling yours, but hear me out. There are people I thought really were “always there for me” that I’m not sure I can as much as look at again after this.
Example: I was seeing this guy Scott on and off for quite some time before I decided to completely pursue my relationship with Tony. The two of them worked together- in the same department even at one point- and back in the day when Scott would come to my house, he would have nothing but negative things to say about Tony. This same man, like they all do, always said he’d be there for me even after we stopped talking in that way. You can imagine my shock when he attended my fiancé’s wake and, after locking eyes with me several times, couldn’t be bothered to say a single word to me.
Seriously. He stood about a foot away from me (if that) and blatantly ignored me. I did even call him out on this, and his excuse was that he felt “awkward”. To make matters worse, his new girlfriend also attended (not with him though, which I found strange). She’d also had a negative opinion of Tony. She came in, treated it as if it were a social event, didn’t bother to pay her respects to him, and then left shortly after. Several of my former “best friends” who text me upon hearing the news made promises of being there for me and asked me for service information didn’t even bother to show up. Moral of the story is not to hold even decent expectations of anyone. You will be let down, and it’ll hurt.
9. Fortunately this works both ways, and there are people I thought I didn’t like very much that were collectively my “saving grace”. Additionally, several people I had never even met came together to make sure that I was okay. They all offered me sincere advice, showed me true sympathy, and conveyed the fact that it’s okay to feel- it is okay to grieve. Several even went as far as inviting me into their homes, and the effort that everyone made really went a long way. I’ll never be able to thank them enough. I’ve always been very private with my emotions, but when you’re placed in a situation like this, you will cry on every damn shoulder that is offered to you. Take advantage of this.
10. You’ll realize how loved your deceased loved one really was. The line outside of the funeral home for my fiancé’s viewing was longer than any I’ve ever seen at Six Flags. There were people waiting outside for over half an hour to pay their respects to him, and it made me so happy that I wasn’t the only one who knew how great of a man he was. He did everything for everyone, and more importantly he did so with genuine intentions.
He never looked for any type of praise- he was fueled by the desire to “do the right thing”. Seeing that reciprocated and all of the support he received in return definitely made me believe in something, although I’m not exactly sure what. As strange as it sounds, it was nice to have people to grieve with and see how much they were already missing him too. If I’m as missed as he is when my time comes, I’ll know I did something right.
11. If everything doesn’t pan out perfectly at the services (which it won’t) you will have another breakdown. And you will resent every contributing party for a really, really long time apparently. The idea of anyone respecting your beloved, especially now, will leave you livid. (See number 8.)
12. You will sometimes feel like you are the only person unable to get back to their own life. On occasion his family will pop up on your Facebook newsfeed. They’ll seem happy, as if they’re back in their old routine, and you’ll wonder why you’re the only one that can’t do it. You’ll lament over this for quite some time. You’ll ask yourself what could possibly be wrong with you until all of the sudden you think back to #1.
A lightbulb will go off inside of your head, and you’ll understand that they’re still grieving too. Like you, they must’ve mastered the art of putting on a happy face for everyone else. I wonder though, why do humans find this necessary? Why do people ask how you are if you’re just supposed to hide your pain and issue clean-cut, polite responses?
13. Regardless of what your current belief system is, you WILL question it. Maybe this is for the best. You will look for your purpose, and try anything to make yourself believe that this isn’t the end, you’ll see him again, there’s more to life than this, etc. This is okay, and may even help you find peace.
14. In a broader spectrum, you may try to reinvent yourself. We hear all the time about girls changing their hair after a break up- and after all, this is much more extreme. Your interests, thoughts, and even pastimes may change, even if temporarily. This is okay. A good friend of mine explained to me that this was none other than evidence that I was expanding as a person and leaving my comfort zone.
Right upon receiving the news, I physically felt myself break and begin morphing into someone new. I knew this would change me drastically, and was worried I wouldn’t like the person I was about to become. The best advice I can give you is to embrace this. You’re rightfully adjusting your outlook and becoming who you are supposed to be, and it’s because you’re learning and experiencing more. Don’t try to fight this. It WILL make it harder.
15. You will want to jump into someone else’s arms right away, and it just may be the dumbest thing you could possibly do. You’ll feel really, really lonely and you’ll crave to feel loved- the feeling that he gave you. You’ll want to be held and experience touch and closeness. This is a natural response, but not one that you should act on. If you do jump to someone else, it is very unlikely (impossible, even) that they will make you feel the same way that your loved one did, and this will hurt you more. It’ll open up questions such as “Does this mean I really will never love again?” And that is not what you should be dealing with right now.
16. The regret will be strong. You’ll find yourself lamenting over things that are really quite silly. In addition to this, there is a 90% chance that at some point, in some way you will blame yourself for their death. You’ll understand deep down that this is something you had no control over, but it’s almost like it’s easier to tell yourself that you did. Facing news like this also, in a broader spectrum, leaves you to deal with the fact that the universe can be cruel and moreover that you really do have absolutely no control over most things that happen to you. We are ants on a wet, floating speck of dust.
17. You’ll probably yell at the sky a lot, and that’s okay too. I’ll admit I thought I was just crazy at first, but apparently it’s a healthy part of the grieving process and plenty of people do this. Because nobody is COMPLETELY sure of what happens after death, we must acknowledge that there is a chance (even if it is slight) that that person’s soul lives on and that they may even be able to hear us. If this is true, I know I want to take advantage of my last chance to tell him how much I love him, and that I know I have work to do on Earth for a while still but that I can’t wait to see him on the flip side one day.
18. You’ll be floored by your ability to feel as deeply as you’re feeling right now. I know. Freaky, isn’t it?
19. Situations like these will really teach you to appreciate what you have, and how important it is to show your appreciation before it’s too late. Another cliché, but it’s important. What’s the saying? “They’re clichés because they’re true”? Too bad that’s another cliché, or I would use that here. Really though, the regret you’re feeling right now is so heavy and so awful that you will never want to feel this again. If you’re wise and I hope you are, you’ll pick up your phone, call your mom, and tell her that you love her. Yell it to the birds outside and the tree that blocks the view from your window.
Give your sister a hug, thank your boss and/or your professors for that god awful criticism they’ve given you in hopes of helping you get ready for the real world, go to your grandma’s house for dinner, etc., you get the point. The fact of the matter is although life is the longest thing anyone’s ever experienced, it is short, and nobody gets out alive. You never know when your last chance is to get it all out, so take every chance you have. It’ll make you feel better, and it’ll make some people really, really happy to know how much you care.