You think you’ve been through it once before, so the losing should be familiar this time. But this is different. The shape of it is bigger, all corners, and somehow the empty space is so heavy.

People have stopped asking if you’re okay. You don’t blame them. They’ve moved on with their lives, but you have, too. Even if you’re moving so, so slowly.

You wake up on her birthday and prod at her memory like a bruise — it’s painful but it’s a reminder she happened. She should be 33 and all you can think about is how she’ll always be 32.

You feel the pressure in your chest, the same that’s been there since February. But it has claws today.

You think about how you’ll honor her because her birthday was always an event. She loved to be the center of attention, and because you were opposites you were happy to give it. You think back to only a year ago, the second to last time you saw her, and you reel for a moment.

Nothing seems good enough.

You hate how days like these mark time differently now, that her birthday will forever remind you how many birthdays it’s been since she left you. You want to just get through today, and you will get through today but you’ll do it alone, just like you do every day now that you’re only one of two.

You text your mother because you know. You comfort her because you know. You let her cry for the both of you right now because you know you’ll cry later. After.

You look at photos you’ve saved, marveling at how they bring you peace wrapped in sorrow. Most of them are from your childhood, when you were learning how to love because she taught you. She made you want to guard the brilliant jewel of her heart, to protect her from everything. Anything.

You’re deeply sorry if she thought you ever stopped.

You want to watch her favorite movie but you can’t remember what it is. You panic, because maybe you’re starting to forget her already. But the panic subsides when you recall that she didn’t really have favorites, because there was nothing in her that could ever choose just one.

You feel overwhelmed and try to stay distracted. You do all the usual things. You have coffee, you eat lunch. You stare at your phone and let the lump in your throat threaten to choke you. You laugh at jokes and listen to conversations. You make a mental note of things you hear and see and want to tell her, because that reflex is still there and you don’t know if it will go away.

Your thoughts land, as they often do, on the last time you saw her. A summer evening in July. Her hands, so warm, resting on your back as she hugged you. The stars punctuating a black sky, bright and infinite and bearing witness to a goodbye you didn’t know was happening.

The tears do come. And then they stop.

The day ends and it leaves you where you started: hollowed and sadder than you ever thought possible. Because if she taught you how to love, she also taught you how to hurt. The pain is the price and the grief isn’t done with you, won’t ever be done with you.

But you find you’re grateful she taught you anything at all.

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