If you’ve just left someone you truly loved, this is for you
Why it’s okay to say goodbye, even when it hurts.
You loved him, and you still do. Grief has crippled you, a sucker punch in the diaphragm that has left you reeling. Loss has curdled suddenly into the spaces and cracks of long evenings, the wide spaces of your bed and the absence of a wedding ring. The faces of children you will now never have fade before you, and in the salt choked sadness of waking alone for the first time, you are left with only one question. How do I carry on?
Carrying on is one of those things you cannot plan for. There is no sellotaped bandage that can be wrapped around your heart and heal it with firm words of common sense and reason. There is no amount of words, tears or songs you can sing that will take you faster down the road to the day this grief becomes numb. But it will come. You won’t expect it, you won’t be able to mark a day in the calendar or a star in the sky where you won’t ache anymore. But it is coming. Like the first day of spring, you will find it suddenly with a chorus of birds or the blossoming of a long dead bud. It will be unannounced, and bittersweet.
Perhaps you will find it in the arms of another, perhaps you will find it in the lessons you have learnt and the person you have grown to be. Heartbreak is a long walk we must all perform blindfolded, unaware of the moments we shall stumble and weep, encounter our demons and fight our fears. But it is one that comes to an end, in the calm cold light of a new chapter.
Perhaps it has been sudden, perhaps it has festered and decayed over many months. Perhaps he left you in the words he no longer said, the time he no longer gave, and the compromises that were no longer made. Perhaps it was you who ended it, sharply in a way that left you stunned in the dark, without notice in the glimpse of the person you once thought you knew. Perhaps the dreams and fantasies of a fairytale love just turned to ash as reality set back in. Perhaps he hurt you, perhaps it was you who hurt him. You can relive every word he wrote, and every word you said, but that will not heal you.
That will not soften the absence of his touch, or the letters that will never come again. The thought you can no longer share, the confidence you can no longer rely on. Scrawled out lines in phone books, deleted contacts, the shelves no longer filled with the things that existed in ‘us’. That will not stop the sharpness of a space at the table, the questioning of friends or the disappointment of parents. Reliving it does nothing for you, and will do nothing. It has been, it cannot be altered. It is no more changeable or malleable than the end of childhood, the histories of empires or the memories of what have been. If you must think on it, learn to grow from the lessons you have learned.
What do you need, as a person, in a lover? What made you feel joy, what filled your heart with hopes and your dreams with light? What challenged you, expanded your mind, left you breathless and gifted you with an unknown strength? What did you explore and discover and rejoice and find reverie in during the months or years you spent together? Those memories and joys are still real. They still happened. They are still yours. You can still kiss someone deeply in the snows again, throw wishing stones into the ocean and dance barefoot laughing in the kitchen. You can still taste apples when the air is acrid with fireworks and bonfires, and reel in the delight of a joke that will only make sense to you. You can love again. You can search for what you loved before, knowing what it truly was that healed and completed you far better than you could have done before you met and said goodbye to the man who has been before.
Perhaps the lessons you have learnt are in what truly hurts you. What leaves you weak, what leaves you vulnerable. Perhaps you have learnt whether you need patience, or forgiveness. Perhaps you have learnt what leaves you lonely or afraid. Perhaps you have discovered what brings out your rage, your tears, your irritation and your sadnesses. You will have learnt yourself along the way, in a way you only can through a close bond with another person. When that dream has died and you are left with the shadow of them, it can be easy to hate them for not being what you needed, or resent them for not wanting you.
Remember, we are all just people. We are just humans, wandering the earth under altering stars, filled with flaws and anxieties and talents and shadows and shapes that are uniquely ours. If we cannot fit with another, there is no point forcing it to the point you both break. You will evolve from what has been, and you will find joy in what has yet to be. You have not met the people you have yet to love, the next man who sends your heart racing, the next voice down a telephone line that your soul has known for a thousand years. You may have children to love who have not yet been born, and grandchildren to cradle that you do not yet know. That adventure is yours, and having to pass this chapter alone does not change that.
Believe in the kisses you have yet to have. Believe in the storms and summers that have yet to pass. Believe in the dreams you have yet to dream. A dream that is dead is a dream you can mourn for, and leave behind. You can walk on, however cautiously, into the next story. You have not failed. You have not irreparably destroyed happiness. What was not meant to be must be left behind to find what — or whom - was truly meant for us.
However daunting it may seem: the first day of spring will come.