I’m That Woman Who Cries Over Her Pet Five Years After It Died, so you can imagine how good I am at letting go of people. I carry around pieces of you. And you. And you. I’ve grieved you well enough, but I still wear that hoodie you left me that night we broke up. I still have the pendant you used to wear when I was six. I still read the letter you sent me a year before you died.
Recently someone asked me how I let go. I don’t. I don’t want to. I learn to live with absence by bringing those I’ve lost closer. I keep the box of tricks they gave us that night at the theatre on my bookshelf. I have every hand-addressed envelope you ever sent me. I tattooed a line from one of your poems on my suicide scar. It reminds me of all the reasons I want to stay alive. I did as you asked the night we saw the moon in a footprint and you said it was a poem waiting to be written. I wish you’d been alive when I wrote it.
When my mentor died, trying to let go of him was impossibly painful. If I could find those parts of him that didn’t die when he did, I could get beyond an impossible grief. If I could incorporate what he valued into my day to day life, I could chip away at his absence until it disintegrated. So that’s what I’ve done with everyone I’ve lost to death.
I wish it worked as well with breakups, but those always seem to have more in common with amputations. That person who’s become so much a part of me that he’s like an extra limb has to be cut off cleanly and utterly. When romance ends, it comes with a hundred nagging questions: could we have fixed our shattered love story? Did we give up too soon? Was it me? Could I have changed?
My brother once told me grief is nothing more than physiology. Maybe scientists do better with loss because they know what it’s made of. As for me, I muddle through relationship endings one absurdly small millimetre at a time. It’s agonisingly slow work.
I’m back at the beginning again: how do I get past the loss of a relationship ? I face the feelings. I cry. That’s it. There’s nothing more that I know how to do. One day, I wake up and find a week has passed without so much as a daydream about him.
Grief after a relationship is like walking through hell. There is a door out of there, but to reach it, you just have to keep walking.