Love and grief go hand-in-hand when divorce and death are part of the equation.
Recovering from the loss of a loved one is hard, regardless of how and why you may have lost them. Grieving over a broken romance can be just as difficult for some people, as grieving due to the death of a loved one. I know, because I lost the love of my life in two different ways, on two different occasions, and each time it was hard as hell trying to move on.
The details of my story is sad but true. Even now (decades later), it’s hard to express how I felt all those years ago, without feeling a wisp of pain. These days, the pain is only slight, and doesn’t last long; like a faint breeze that comes out of nowhere, then disappears as quickly as it came. But that’s only if I chose NOT to dwell on things. Dwelling causes you to start a negative thought pattern and before you know it, you’re depressed. That was one of the things I finally figured out when I first started learning to move on.
Love and Romance
Love and romance are tricky things and no one truly understands what happens between two people who share a special bond. One of the hardest things to do is to get over a lost love, especially if they were the love of your life. You know the kind of love I mean; that special kind of love when two people are connected, and their hearts seem to share the same rhythm. The kind that Sade meant in her video where she’s a mermaid wearing a wedding gown and singing “No Ordinary Love.” Now that’s special.
But special or not, sometimes, crap happens, even when you have the kind of love that’s not ordinary. Rene, the man I married, was the love of my life. I’ve never loved another man as much, or in the same way. The first time I ever let him lay a finger on my 18-year-old body, I knew I’d love him forever, and I was right. You can read all about our story right here on Medium in:
The Love of My Life is Dead and Gone but it was Definitely No Ordinary Love
Love and romance can create powerful feelings and put you in some crazy situations.
Rene is dead and gone now, and I still love him to this day. Did we have a perfect marriage? Not by a long shot. In fact, after ten years, we eventually separated and divorced. But divorce or no divorce, I loved him intensely, and I believe when he died, he probably still loved me too.
First Comes Divorce
The first time I suffered from the loss of my true love was following our painful divorce. The actual divorce itself was quick and painless and Rene never even showed up in court. But the pain I felt later was harder to deal with, once we officially stopped being man and wife. I guess I never believed it would really happen. In the back of my mind, I thought we’d get back together and eventually find a way to work things out. We didn’t. As time went on, I had to face the fact that our lives together had come to an end.
I mourned my lost love like a death in the family. The loss I suffered as a result of divorce was truly a tough burden to bare. I still loved my husband. But now his love was reserved for crack cocaine and a love of the streets. For a long time I d been blind to his secret drug addiction, but the truth finally came to the light. When it did become evident, there was no way I could continue being a co-dependent to his habit, not while I was trying to raise our child.
Raising my son on my own was no easy task either, but at least I could keep him safe from negative surroundings. I refused to let him be exposed to the kind of life that I had to live as a kid. Getting over Rene took lots of effort on my part, but I was determined to do it for my son. In order to succeed, there were some things I had to learn how to stop doing. One of the main things was letting go of the past.
Releasing the Past
Eventually, I was out of the the “I just gotta see him or hear his voice” stage.
One of the hardest things to do after a bad breakup is learning how to release the past. Even if it has been weeks or months since the official split, you may still find yourself clinging to any and every thing that reminds you of him or her. This is only natural, but if you keep this behavior up for too long, it starts to become unhealthy. If you don’t let go, you’ll probably make yourself crazy. But how do you release the past, so that you can maintain your sanity? Here is what I had to teach myself.
Just do the opposite of what you’ve been doing. Instead of finding reasons to think about, talk about, or even run into your former love, you have to make a conscious effort to avoid anything that relates or reminds you of him.
At first I tried to tell myself that this was an extreme route to take, but I decided that it was for the best; at least until I was strong enough not to go running back. I made my decision and took it to heart, and only then was I able to stand firm. Eventually, I was out of the the “I just gotta see him or hear his voice” stage. Once the real healing started, gradually, it didn’t hurt as much whenever I thought about my broken relationship. But until that time, I had to stay on guard and keep taking steps not to think about the past.
As a result of my own experiences, I put together some tips that actually helped me during this rough time in my life. If you’re going through a breakup or suffering from lost love, these tips might also prove helpful to you.
Tips to Help You Move on:
- Stop all unnecessary communication until it doesn’t hurt anymore
- Put any photos, keepsakes and other items connected to them out of sight
- Stop finding reasons to talk about them or slip their name into the conversation
- Stop inquiring about “how they’re doing” to mutual friends and associates
- Resist the urge to follow them or their activities on social media
- For as long as it takes, limit or discontinue spending time with mutual friends from the relationship
- Avoid favorite places or common hangouts where the two of you spent time
- Avoid music, movies, and locations that remind you of them
Those are the things NOT to do, but what should you do in the meantime? Live your life and start creating new friends, new favorite places, and start making new memories for yourself.
As you might imagine, it can take a lot of time and effort to get your former lover off your mind and heart, but it can be done if you’re really ready to move on. The key lies in your motivation for sticking to your guns. Mine was my son; otherwise I would have went back and stuck it out, even if he never wanted to get off drugs. Love for my son forced me to do the right thing and stop running back to a bad situation.
I recall having to scold myself often, for playing familiar songs that made me think about Rene and cry. I had to face up to the fact that no matter how lonely I was or how much I started to miss him, my behavior was only making things worse. It certainly wasn’t helping the situation. Neither was sobbing my eyes out while desperately clutching his picture. Dwelling about how much I missed my love was causing me to self-destruct. For my child’s sake, I had no other choice but to finally start moving on, so that was exactly what I did.
Death and Grief Follow
Rene died a violent death one year, but I didn’t find out until almost three years later. He lost the apartment I left him living in and eventually wound up on the streets. I really tried to keep up with him over the years and make him stay in contact with his son. But seeing him like that was really hard and sometimes more trouble than it was worth, plus it always stirred up old feelings. Then I’d end up going through the whole grieving process all over again.
When he finally stopped showing up periodically, I didn’t bother to go seeking him out. But I didn’t realize so much time had passed since we had last been in contact. When I did realize it, I went to go look for him at all his known hangouts. That was how I found out he was dead.
The doctor’s report said that they found Rene lying face down on the sidewalk with “blunt force trauma” to his head. He was rushed into surgery when he went into a coma and they claim he never woke up again. He didn’t have any other family, so apparently, when they were unable to locate me and his son, no next of kin was ever notified. The state cremated his body and kept his remains until I found out and was able to go get him. I never discovered the details surrounding his death, and I doubt that I ever will.
Dealing with True Loss
Up until the day that I found out Rene was dead, I thought I knew what grief looked like. I remembered what a mess I was when we first broke up and how I fell apart after the divorce. But none of that could compare to how I felt when I learned that the love of my life was dead. Knowing that this time he was really gone for good made me depressed for more than a year.
What do you do when you’re heartbroken from losing a love, and other people try to tell you how to grieve?
I grieved for the man that I had once married. I mourned him like we had never been apart, and like his death had only just happened. I vividly recall all the hurt, the anger, the rage, the loss, the pain, and even the guilt. They were all the same emotions that I went through after the divorce, only the situation and circumstances had changed.
Of course, everyone around me thought I was crazy. They couldn’t understand what I was going through; not when he’d been dead for so long and we weren’t even married when it happened. They wondered why I couldn’t just snap out of it and sometimes I wondered the same thing. But how? What do you do when you’re heartbroken from losing a love, and other people try to tell you how to grieve?
The more I thought about what they were saying, the angrier I got over the situation. What right did anyone else have to try and define what I was feeling or why, especially when I didn’t even know myself. This time, I was really learning the meaning of true loss.
Finally Moving On
Ironically, the only way that I was able to finally move on was to remember what I did after the divorce. In no way, fashion, shape, or form am I equating the death of a loved one to a broken romance. But I am acknowledging from personal experience that some of the same strategies on how to recover also apply. If you don’t think so, just take another moment to look at the above list of do’s and don’ts that I consulted following my divorce.
Hopefully, my story provides a bit of inspiration and may even help someone else one day. If I can recover from losing the same love twice, you can also learn to get over a lost love and manage to get on with your life.
Charm Baker is the author of: How to Call it Quits and Move On (The Smart Self-help Relationship Breakup Guide)