Heather and Jon at the beach on the South Coast

19 December

I woke up feeling sad this morning. This was no real surprise as the last few months have been difficult for me. But I’d been feeling better for the past couple of weeks, so when the sadness returned this morning I felt a little disappointed.

At about 8:30, lying in bed with the curtains still closed even though I’d been semi-awake for hours, I looked at the date on my phone.

17 December, it said.

Oh right, I thought.

It’s almost 19 December, the day Jon died.

Jon in KlipriviersbergJon.

Jon died in 2011. His death was horrific and I suffered greatly, as did everyone else who loved him. While not a complete surprise, the death was sudden and I didn’t get to say goodbye. No one did.

For the first year I thought about Jon at least 50 times a day. It felt like one of my limbs was missing. I fantacized about all the things I wish I’d said to Jon before he died. I went through months of therapy and 12-step meetings and emotional rehab. I cried in bed, in the shower, in coffeeshops, at concerts and church services. I tried to get angry but felt only sadness.

In December 2012, I spent weeks working on a blog post to commemorate the first anniversary of Jon’s death. I wrote and rewrote, deleted everything and started again. I walked alone on the Melville Koppies, feeling all emo and shooting photos with my iPad. (Yes, my iPad. Those were the early days of Instagram, okay?) You can see those photos in the post I wrote.

Looking back, I realize I was self-righteous in my grief.

I felt Jon’s death made me special. Losing a boyfriend in such a tragic way gave me privileges, I thought. I could cry anytime, anywhere. I had a free pass (I thought) to talk about Jon and blog about Jon all I wanted, in the most melodramatic of fashions. I could say pretty much whatever I pleased because Jon was dead. If I started to date someone else, no one could fault me for fondly remembering my dead boyfriend.

Most of all, I started to think I was invincible. That I’d suffered the worst of the worst, and grief would never get me again.

I didn’t blog about Jon on the second anniversary in 2013. I still thought about him but my head was filling with other things. Halfway into 2014, I started a new relationship with Ray.

Ray and I broke up a few months ago. And now, as the sixth anniversary of Jon’s death approaches, I’ve been thinking about everything differently.

Blogging about a breakup is more difficult than blogging about a death. (That’s why I left it to the Melville Cat to deliver the news, even though he doesn’t understand what a breakup is.) One of the reasons for this, I’ve realized, is that a breakup doesn’t seem…significant enough. People break up every day, right? So what? It’s not like anyone died.

And yet over the last three months, I’ve discovered breakups and deaths can feel very much the same. I’ve experienced the same lost-limb feeling and had the same fantasy conversations with my departed partner. I’ve felt the same sense of powerlessness and mind-numbing sadness and fear.

I felt all the same feelings but I didn’t think I deserved them. And that just made me feel more sad.

Death, breakup, or whatever: Grief is grief, and grieving never gets easier. I wish I’d known that before.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this post. I guess I want a reason to honor Jon. The months since my breakup with Ray have opened up some space in my mind to really remember Jon again, and I’m reminded of what a rad guy he was. My life is so much fuller and richer than it ever would have been without Jon.

Heather and Jon at the beach on the South CoastBest picture of Jon and me.

Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to send a shout-out to everyone who feels like shit this December, because of any or all of the following (or anything else I missed):

  • Your friend or family member died.
  • You’re experiencing abuse.
  • Your pet died.
  • You got divorced.
  • Your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you.
  • You’re sick.
  • Your parent/child/partner/best friend is sick.
  • You lost your job.
  • You lost your home.
  • You had a miscarriage, an adoption fell through, or you’re struggling to have a child for any other reason.
  • Someone in your family is suffering from addiction.
  • Your team lost at rugby.

I’m kidding about the last one. Losing at rugby is sad but that doesn’t count.

Also, if any of the above has happened to you (even the rugby) and you’re wondering how to survive the December holidays, I’d like to recommend a podcast called Terrible, Thanks for Asking (aka TTFA). A good friend of mine — who has had a very shitty year herself — recommended TTFA to me and I’ve become a loyal listener. TTFA is guaranteed to make you feel better (or at least a little less shitty) with the reminder that no matter what you’re going through, someone else out there is going through the exact same thing.

You’re welcome. And Happy Holidays.

Previous Post Next Post


  • Reply Tricia Sibbons December 17, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    always look forward to your blogs – fab photo on the shore – thanks for writing and helping us all remember there’s often someone going through similar or worse; sometimes life sucks but it’s all we have.

    • Reply 2summers December 17, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      Thanks Tricia. Jon actually used to say that too – we only have one life.

  • Reply autumnashbough December 17, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    You made me laugh out loud with your rugby comment. Same goes for football, although some 60 million white men in America seem to mourn their teams’ loss like a departed one.

    I ran into a neighbor at the Farmer’s Market recently. She lost her beloved mastiff and told me the story and then apologized for telling me the story. Which made me sad. Why is it women feel compelled to apologize for their feelings, but it’s okay for men to bitch, moan, and riot over sports teams?

    • Reply 2summers December 17, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Haha. Well, as a retired rabid NFL fan (I technically still own season tickets although my dad uses them), I can also see things from the perspective of the men. But I also recognize it’s just a game. (I hope my sister and father don’t read this comment – they’ll hate me 😂)

  • Reply Gail Wilson December 17, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    So sorry you are going through all this, you do hide your emotions well. I strongly believe that as one door closes another opens, maybe not right away but it does. Here’s to 2018 been a great year for you. Xx

    • Reply 2summers December 17, 2017 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks Gail. I’m sure you’re right 🙂

  • Reply stanmorrison72 December 17, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    This 77 year old grandfather has drawn a lot of pleasure from your blogs, especially this last. You express yourself so well and so honestly. Thank you for sharing … Best wishes for 2018 and please keep up the good work.

    • Reply 2summers December 17, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      Thank you very much, Stan! I’m glad you enjoy the blog.

  • Reply violetonlineisonline December 17, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Poignant, beautiful, heartbreaking, healing.
    Wishing you ALL THE BEST for 2018 and much love.

    • Reply 2summers December 17, 2017 at 10:04 pm

      You too Violet 💜

  • Reply eremophila December 17, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Ditto to Stan’s comment, as I admire your ability to convey your feelings Heather. Its five years since my Sally died and while the acute grief is gone, there are still unexpected moments that catch me out and bang I’m sobbing again. Shrugs. Just is. I thought about writing a post on the five year mark then chose to take off on adventure instead. New horizon and all that. It helps.
    Your situation is building you some amazing life muscles – go girl! 🙂

    • Reply 2summers December 17, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      I’m sorry about Sally 🐴❤️

  • Reply Peter Glendinning December 17, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    You’ve certainly brought a lot of joy, smiles, and laughter, to many through your regularly wonderful true-story-telling of people and places, and from the photographs I’ve just seen of Jon’s he did too. I’m very sorry for your loss, and hope for you a bright and joy-filled 2018, with 2 summers’ worth of sunshine!

    • Reply 2summers December 18, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks so much, Peter. Jon was one of the best photographers in South Africa – I learned so much from him.

  • Reply Nicole Melancon December 18, 2017 at 2:26 am

    A beautiful post Heather. It takes courage to discuss such heartbreak. Life can be a bitch but also wonderful all the same. I sincerely wish you a wonderful year ahead. Take care of yourself! And don’t be too hard on yourself (hmmm I am the best at this but am getting better thanks to my mindfulness meditation practice). 🙏

    • Reply 2summers December 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks Nicole. I really need to start meditating one of these days 🙂

  • Reply Niamh Ward December 18, 2017 at 7:07 am

    Sterkte….as they say here..I hope 2018 will be a happier year for you!

    • Reply 2summers December 18, 2017 at 9:02 am

      I like that word. Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Bianca December 18, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Reading your post makes me jolt as I lost my dear mom to breast cancer only 5 months ago. My heart breaks into a million pieces every day and my grief is pouring out of me from every pore. Hidden – as people feel you “need to move on” or “you knew she was sick”. Yet 19 December for me is also my wedding anniversary – the day that I married the most fantastic man who gave me two beautiful children. Joy and sadness can be so close. 2017 was a tough year for me. I hope that 2018 will be positive, healing and renewing for both of us.

    • Reply 2summers December 18, 2017 at 9:01 am

      Thanks fo much for sharing this, Bianca. I’m so sorry for your loss. And happy anniversary 💜

    • Reply durbanroots December 19, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Bianca – grieve and mourn in your own way unapologetically. I lost my mum to breast cancer in 2004 and I will be dealing with this heartbreak for the rest of my life – and I’m OK with that; I still live my life and I try to honour hers by “shining on”.

      • Reply 2summers December 20, 2017 at 10:56 am

        Thanks for passing your wisdom along.

  • Reply johnsneed December 18, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Do remember those of us who love you and are still here as a source of comfort if not joy.

    • Reply 2summers December 18, 2017 at 9:00 am

      Oh, thanks John Doe. Hope to see you soon. ❤️

  • Reply durbanroots December 19, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Heather – I, and my husband feel like shit this December. We heard a few days ago that an important, longtime, close friend had died and is no longer in the world. We’re sorrowful, regretful, lonely, tearful, restless – you know how it is. I think of what John Lennon sang: “And we all shine on” – because that’s all we can do. To everyone else going through stuff – you really are not alone. Take care this significant month, Heather. x

    • Reply 2summers December 20, 2017 at 10:56 am

      I’m very sorry for your loss 😥

      • Reply durbanroots December 20, 2017 at 11:48 am

        Thank you. Could do with some South African sun!

  • Reply Jaina January 10, 2018 at 10:09 am

    It takes a lot of courage to write truly honest posts like this, Heather. And I admire you for it. Grief can be hard to talk about, let alone write about it. There’s plenty we can learn from it, and it sounds like you’re doing just that. Keep on keeping on 🙂

    • Reply 2summers January 10, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      Thanks Jaina. Getting there, slowly 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: