Sometimes, I think that the reasons bad things happen to us, is so that when something bad happens to someone we love and care about, we know how to be there for them. Because after our own bad shit, we can truly empathize with someone else; we can know how they feel, understand what they're going through, and help get them to the other side.
As many of you have read, I had an ex-boyfriend die in a car accident several years ago. It was tragic and devastating, and there are days that my heart still aches for him. I think about him all the time, I talk to his friends because they make me think of him, and I have learned to only look back on our happy moments, not the break up.
Being "the ex" to someone who dies is a whole other level of confusion, because sometimes, things end badly. You have bad feelings. You say bad things. You may even have had a horrible final conversation in which words were exchanged that you probably didn't really mean. But you never think that there will be a day you can't take those things back.
Until that day is today. Until you realize that the last conversation the two of you had was negative and mean, hurtful, and a little painful.
One of my girlfriends is now in my boat. Her ex boyfriend passed away this week. And I can honestly say, I understand her grief. I have shared a similar experience and can talk to her in an empathetic way that (I hope) she finds helpful and comforting. There's a reason bad shit happened to me, and she is that reason. Because now I can help her. She wrote this last night, and it is eerily similar to what I wrote when Zach died. I am so proud of her for writing it, for feeling her feelings, for expressing herself, and for letting her heart be vulnerable.
So proud, I had to share her words:
He used to always tell me that you never really know what never means, so don't say it. I think about that any time I think I am about to say "never."
He and I did not end well and people know that about us. We did briefly have our time of getting along and being friends after we broke up, but then over time we drifted... then we had a pretty public Facebook fight that I ended up deleting and then I ended up unfriending him. I don't regret that decision, it was right for me at the time. But I never (there's that word again) thought that would be my very last interaction with him EVER.
I am extremely close to his family. His brother is my My Best Guy Friend. Momma C and I talk regularly over Facebook.
The news was so strange to take in at first. Momma C messaged me in the middle of the night this very vague message that instantly worried me. I wrote her back when my son woke me up and then again first thing in the morning and then I didn't hear back from her. I messaged My Best Guy Friend out of worry even though I wasn't sure how worried I should be. He hadn't heard anything. I spent the day with increasing worry as I didn't hear back and I just KNEW it was bad. My Best Guy Friend finally wrote me, said he was with his parents but that he would call me later. Turns out I was teaching a group at the time he was planning to call--a total blessing in disguise. Then My Best Guy Friend had to work and couldn't call. Momma C got to me before I heard from My Best Guy Friend. She apologized about not responding and explained that it was important to talk to family first, which I completely understand. Then she told me "He is gone."
I went through all sorts of feeling. Initially it was shock. Then I got mad. Then after my husband asked me multiple times how I'm feeling because he couldn't figure me out I finally burst into tears. Of course that's around the time My Best Guy Friend called me. And instead of being a strong friend to him, he ended up consoling me and I just kept saying "i'm so sorry."
It is such an amazing coincidence that I had plans to meet my parents at the beach. I posted some pictures with "beach therapy" as the title because that's truly what it was. I cried a lot over the weekend, but over time I felt soothed and relaxed. By the time I got back home the random spells of tears stopped coming. It's interesting to feel the transition that happened. I have worked so hard to get over the bad times with him that I realized that I have completely forgotten about the good times we had. People have messaged me stories and pictures and some of those happy memories have reminded me that I really loved the guy once upon a time.
No one has ever made me as angry as he has made me. But it's time to let go of the anger.
She makes such a valid point about the necessity of letting things go. What I learned in losing Zach, is that it is unhealthy to focus on the negatives. Of course there were negatives, that's why we broke up. And of course there were bad times, there are bad times in every relationship. But there were also a lot of good times, and you have to make a conscious decision to focus on those moving forward, so that you don't bog yourself down with guilt.
Being "the ex" to someone who dies is hard. It's awkward. It's confusing. People are weird at the funeral, and you feel an array of extra emotions that no one else is feeling. But at the same time, being "the ex" to someone who dies is special. It's something you have, just you, that nobody else has. It is your chance to have and experience more feeling, more emotion. It's important and heartbreaking and gut wrenching. It's an opportunity to let go of your bad feelings, your frustration and anger, and any negativity you've been holding on to.
Sometimes, bad shit happens to us, and the best thing we can do is to turn around and help a friend get through the same bad shit later. We can be a shoulder, be a sounding board, be a support. We can listen, empathize, offer advice and love. When bad shit happens to our friends that we've been through too, we can really step up and help them focus on the good, instead of on the bad.
Because in the end, all that really matters, is the good shit.