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A Year Ago Today

I think people underestimate the pain of breakups. Because the experience of a romantic breakup is so incredibly universal, I think people take for granted the pain it can cause, the extremes we go to avoid that pain, and how it can be a catalyst for the rest of your life.

A year ago today, I sat here on the couch and my life changed. I didn’t know it would be changing. There were no signs, no “indications” I was always on the lookout for. One day, the man I was in love with very simply, and in a flurry of tears and barely coherent statements, got up and left, and then disappeared.

At this point I can see how familiar this story seems, how it looks like another “Modern Love” story (Oh God, I hope not.). But this story has a happy ending, one that is happier than I could have imagined. Looking back, I can see how this is exactly what was supposed to happen, and how the choices I made led straight to this happy ending.

In a breakup, when you’ve been left, you’re supposed to move on; cry for a day or two and go find another “fish in the sea.” In a breakup, judgment is all that’s left. Think of how we think differently of divorced people than we do of widows. It’s absurd, when study after study shows us that, psychologically, the grief is very similar.

When my boyfriend left, I grieved as though he had died. In a sense, he had. I’ll certainly never see or hear from him again. If he’d really died, though, I wouldn’t have had to deal with the fact that he chose to leave. I wouldn’t have lost all his friends and I could have looked at pictures of him as long as I’d wanted to.

When someone dies, we have permission to grieve. Even in our death-averse society, when someone dies, people know you’re grieving. No one judges you if someone has died. They give you the space you need.

On Susan Elliott’s amazing website, she describes the stages of grief more in-depth than I’d read about them before, at least in relation to a breakup. I at least felt less than crazy in feeling similarly to how I felt when my father was killed, years earlier. In analyzing grief this way, I knew that I had permission to feel what I felt, and that I had to face it head-on.

This grief was monumental, and what came after was, as cliché as it sounds, an incredible gift. The first step was giving myself permission to grieve, and then making an active decision that this grief was going to make me better.

This is part of a four part series, the rest of which will be published later this week.

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Categories: relationships
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  1. May 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm
  2. May 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm

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