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 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.
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.