A Loss That Isn’t Mine

My ex died and I’m having a difficult time processing it.

We only dated a few months back in 2019. It didn’t end badly. Since then, he’d become a truck driver, gotten married, had gastric surgery, started a podcast with some of his childhood friends, made more music, did a couple travel assignments as a CNA… he seemed to be doing well.

One of his songs popped up on my Spotify back in March and I reached out to see how he was doing—we still did that on occasion. It was a short exchange on IG. He told me about his travel contracts and some news about his dad, we wished each other well, and that was it.

I was thinking about him a few weeks ago as my aunt was asking about entertainment for her sister’s surprise party but hadn’t reached out yet. Sunday, I decided to see how he was doing. Before I sent him a message, I saw that he hadn’t been on IG in months, which was unlike him since he was a singer and was constantly posting content. And I noticed the podcast page was inactive in his bio. For some reason, I felt the need to look through his wife’s page, and that’s where I found her post about losing her best friend. I then went to his best friend’s page (idk, in case I was reading plain English wrong) and his post from July confirmed my ex had died. I couldn’t find anything to tell me what he died from, but his best friend had seen him in the hospital just before he took his last breath.

I was shook. Like, walking around the house in circles not remembering what I was trying to do shook. I had been fairly happy that morning—I was headed out soon with my parents and brother to wrap up our weekend family staycation—but that news made me want to crawl back in bed and disconnect from everyone.

But why? He and I weren’t particularly close after we stopped seeing each other. Everything happened so fast at the beginning. We connected quickly and then spent a lot of time together. I met his family, he met mine; I spent a lot of time down in Largo where he lived. It was good until it wasn’t, but it was never bad, it just wasn’t working out. We stayed friendly. I don’t know why I feel hurt by him not being anymore.

And it’s still difficult for me to think about—him not existing anymore. It’s weird. It feels unnatural. He was in his mid-30s.

I want to cry for him. I want to tattoo a burrito on my wrist (his nickname for me). I want to DM his wife and ask what happened to him. But he wasn’t mine. This loss, really, isn’t mine. We dated for a few months three years ago (though, let’s be honest, 2020-2022 has felt like one unending year) and he’s been dead since July. I have no rights to the story of another woman’s husband.

Although the loss may not be mine, the grief is. And I’m still unsure of the reason for my grieving. Maybe it’s because no one I’ve dated as ever died until now (that I’m aware of) and nobody tells you how to mourn the loss of someone you once cared about but no longer have a relationship with.

His death makes me sad. The fact I didn’t know until more than three months later makes me sad. The knowledge that my peers are dying (and for reasons I don’t know)…

I’ve learned through therapy to allow myself whatever grief I feel. And I’ve been feeling it. I’m still experiencing flashes of sadness and hurt and anger and disappointment from my breakup a couple weeks ago and now I’m grieving on top of my grief. But I’m letting myself feel the things instead of shoving them down.

How My Mom Inspires Me

I wanted to execute a special brunch for my mom for Mother’s Day, but she had to work Sunday. For the previous two years, my cousins and I had done a themed Mother’s Day Brunch for our moms together, but I wanted to do something specifically for my mom and I. Because she had to work, we ended up having Mexican food (her favorite) for dinner Friday night instead. I got her a card, bought her some of her favorite dark chocolate covered almonds and that was that.

Everybody loves my mom. Growing up, my friends always loved her, the guys I dated loved her, and she’s always been the favorite aunt. Her coworkers love her, her students love her, strangers love her… she’s a pretty awesome human being. She’s a powerhouse at her job. She’s smart, loving, caring, strong, good with her money… she’s a planner, she’s creative, she’s funny, and she often has no filter. My mom is my best friend.

As a person who has never had a lot of friends, I’ve come to depend on my mom for a lot of things, and she has become the person who understands me the most. Struggling with anxiety the past year, she has shown me what it looks and feels like when someone acknowledges a struggle I’m having, even when they don’t understand it, and makes adjustments for themselves so as not to make me feel worse. I haven’t fully opened up to her about all the things I’ve struggled with over the years, but she knows me better than anyone else and she makes me feel seen.

My mother has a special way of connecting with people. Whether it’s people she’s leading, people she’s teaching, or people she’s taking care of, my mom has this unique ability to make people feel understood. She calms chaotic situations with seemingly little effort, and is able to resolve conflict between people simply by being there. I’ve certainly seen her get upset, but I can’t remember ever hearing her yell at someone. She is the glue that keeps our extended family together… she’s the glue that keeps our nuclear family together… and sometimes she does it at the risk of her own wellbeing.

When my grandmother died several years ago, my mom internalized so much of the stress from funeral planning, packing up my grandparents’ house, and wrangling her feuding siblings that she developed Bell’s Palsy. That was a stressful situation in itself, especially not knowing when it would go away, but she did eventually recover. She was also reminded that she needs to take care of herself in order to keep doing the things she wants to do for everyone else, and I’ve seen her implement practices to keep her stress low and take care of herself ever since.

And I don’t want to applaud her strength without making room for her vulnerability. The thing about a lot of moms is that they feel the need to be strong even when they don’t feel like it. The kids can fall apart, the man can fall apart, but she has to keep herself and everyone else together. I think there are plenty of moms who don’t feel like there is space for them to be vulnerable and take time to heal. I don’t just admire my mother’s strength, I admire her ability to walk away when things are no longer good for her, say “no” to things she doesn’t want to be part of, and refuse people who try to overstep her boundaries.

My mom is my safe space, and I lover her for that. Even more, I admire my mom for the woman she is outside of her husband and children, and I am constantly inspired by her.

Writing My Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I want my life as a writer to look. I’ve been thinking about how much writing I should be doing, what kind of writing I should be doing, when I should be writing, where I should be writing, who I should be writing for, what kind of income (if any) I want to earn from my writing.

Part of me feels incapable of committing myself to any kind of career, part of me is afraid writing will become less fun, and part of me doubts my writing would be profitable in any significant way. I deal with a lot of self-doubt at times, and not just about my writing… I have to change the narrative. Because, honestly, if I never write anything else on “paper,” I am writing my life. Every day, I am writing my story.

It’s been pretty boring lately… a lot of she wakes up, gets dressed, sits at her desk, works for 8 hours, makes dinner, watches some TV, journals, and goes to bed. Every day, the same story. Some days there’s a little more adventure… she goes to the furniture store to find a chair for her new home office space, she meets a really cute salesman, she spends more on a chair than she wanted but decides it was worth it, she goes home and can’t get the salesman out of her head. What does she do next? She wakes up, gets dressed, sits at her desk, works for 8 hours, makes dinner, watches some TV, journals, and goes to bed.

Recognizing that I can change the story is powerful. However, I’m not particularly good with change. The redundancy of life gets comfortable after a while, even when it’s not exactly welcome. I can get reckless with characters in a story because I know I can change the narrative at any moment and make everything comfortable again. Being reckless in my own life isn’t so simple. But here’s the thing… what I’m referring to as “reckless” is really just taking a chance. What if I started viewing myself as a character in one of my stories? What if, as the writer of said story, I made my character (me) take more chances? What if I stopped being so afraid of getting my feelings hurt?

Of course, as in any story, there is a higher power controlling the events that take place, but it is possible for me to take more control of the narrative. It’s possible for me to shape myself as a character, push myself toward action rather than complacency. What kind of life do I want to write? I guess I should start by writing myself as a writer… as an active writer… as a self-publishing writer. The story doesn’t move forward if I don’t move it forward.

I’m sure there are some flaws in this idea of treating myself like a character in one of my stories, but I haven’t pinpointed them yet. I’m intrigued by the idea, though. In general, I create situations for characters in my stories to do things I typically wouldn’t do myself. Their hurt isn’t as tangible as my own, so I take bigger risks with them. I’m interested, now, in discovering what’s possible for me if I stepped outside of myself a bit and started writing my life differently.

We’ll take some small steps toward that. First, though, I have got to get out of my own way in finishing this book. Keep it simple. That’s what I keep telling myself. Yet, every time I get to the next step I make it more complicated than it probably needs to be.

What kind of writer do I want to be? The kind who isn’t afraid to write. The kind who doesn’t get stuck in her own head. The kind who rips herself open so that other people can feel her words in the pit of their stomach. I want to be the kind of writer who gets a little messy… but for the greater good. You know?

Happy Writing!