How we find out who we really are: Endings and beginnings
One of my boyfriends, and the first love of my life, killed himself 14 years ago this month. I didn’t find out about it until about four years afterwards. We had not been in touch for a couple years by then.
Finding out he was dead has haunted me ever since. I was not unfamiliar with suicide before this. I had known people who chose that way out, but never someone I’d been in love with. To say I was deeply wounded would be an understatement.
At first I just cried and cried. For hours, I couldn’t stop. I found a picture of us together and kept it close to me. And then I felt so guilty. I wondered if somehow I had driven him to his choice. And then the anger set it. It felt as if all our times together, our memories never existed because he no longer did. Because I had no one alive to share them with.
There is a saying that time heals all wounds. It’s a nice idea, but I don’t think heals is the correct word for how grieving progresses. I don’t feel healed. I have learned to deal with my feelings about his death. I have come to understand in some ways why he chose to take his own life. But I am not healed. And I don’t believe I ever will be. That is not my goal.
For some reason today he is on my mind. I heard a song that always reminds me of him, and it caused me to think of him and miss him yet again.
Maybe because I am seeing a man who breaks me open the way my old boyfriend did it is causing me to revisit my feelings all over again. There is a fear within me about loving someone quite that way ever again.
What if I lose this new man I love?
How will I ever handle the feelings his loss would bring up in me?
Am I strong enough to love someone that deeply again?
Ironically, I have asked myself these question ever since my old boyfriend and I broke up all those years ago, long before I found out he was dead. And his death has made my feelings for him all the more clear to me.
I promised myself after grieving for him so deeply that I would never push someone completely out of my life again. That I would understand I cannot know the depth of someone’s love or pain, and I would not be completely gone from anyone’s life again. I would not let my fear cause me to break off completely my ties with anyone.
And so here I am in a relationship with someone who touches me very deeply. I know it is what I want, and what my soul needs. And it is causing me to think of my old love. Maybe to ask his forgiveness in a way. To ask him if he is okay with me loving someone new as much as I loved him. Maybe to come to terms with the fact that what I truly want, I have had and lost, and that I am afraid it will happen to me again.
I know there are no guarantees in life. I have given my heart completely to someone and lost that person twice. First when we broke up and again when I heard of his death. So I know it can happen, and how it feels when it does.
As I have gotten older, I have come to understand the journey I am on can be very hard. It has, at times, been very, very difficult to live through. I have been at places of extreme darkness and emptiness before. And through this understanding, I have come to live my life with purpose all the more. I have come to accept that we cannot control how our relationships will unfold. We cannot know who we will lose and who we will not. Life is not about control or about certainty at all.
Through it all I have learned more about myself than I ever thought was possible. I have come to understand that there is a depth within me that is so deep and sacred and loving it is capable of holding me within its arms forever if I let it.
I had to hit my rock bottom before I could accept that being vulnerable is a beautiful part of this life. My vulnerability used to scare me and that made me angry. I hated being scared. But now I see that being afraid, feeling vulnerable, falling apart, and then getting up again is where wisdom and loving reside.
I will always mourn my old boyfriend. He is a part of my past, a part of who I am that I will not ever let go. And through my love for him, I have learned the depth of my love for others, and I cannot ignore what a beautiful gift he has given me.
I feel as if I am beginning a new chapter of my life. That I am starting at a new place with much more understanding than I have ever had before. I find the experience sometimes overwhelming, always challenging, and so amazing that I am in awe of how generous this life can be.
From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor
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