grief

I was once told it was curious that I’m both a writer on a website that anyone, anywhere can access, and also highly introverted. While I don’t find the two concepts contradictory, it interested me that one could immediately reach a conclusion that introverts are not willing to share life’s details with an audience.

For people with a tendency toward introversion, the internet may be the most beautiful invention in the history of inventions. I’ve said before that this space allows us to be alone as introverts often (but not always) like to be, but together in our aloneness. I sit in my chair and you sit in yours — or perhaps you lay on a beach or stand in a line at the grocery — and we get to make a connection.

At the beginning of 2012, I went through something I never imagined I’d experience: I was discarded by my best friend, when he learned I loved another man, romantically, more than I loved him, platonically. A best friend, who, in life’s spectacular irony, is a spectacular extrovert who became the best friend of this spectacular introvert, mostly through words exchanged over a computer screen.

There’s a lyric from that Sunscreen Song (ubiquitous of early-2000s high school graduations) about the real troubles in life being “the kind that blindside you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday.” That lyric about sums up how I lost the then centre of my world.

One day he was there and the next he was gone, with little more than a handwritten letter that outlined the faults of our friendship and my being, mailed with an epistolarian’s precision to arrive on my 26th birthday, and signed with a flourish: with a demand never to contact him again.

It was a bizarre and confusing and hurtful time that writing would have helped to heal. My first inclination was to take to my then online home and write through the experience, to lean on others online as I had before. But I knew I could never do that. The end of this friendship was not something to publicize and ruminate about in sordid detail. So I turned to my family and my partner and those who hold me close, and they helped me (try) to make sense of something senseless. And I wrote in my mind many responses to his birthday letter that I never mailed, something that took more self-control than I imagine I possess, even all these years later.

I am proud of this. That I grieved quietly, and privately. Grieve, I did.

The stages of grief are curious; all theoretical constructs are only theoretical until you live through them, and then, once lived, the construct makes sense in a click. I learned that grieving transcends physical death from this earth to deaths of all kinds, including friendships. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression — each step took me a long time to wade through, and at times took my breath away.

Sometimes still, sadness creeps in. When I think of how much my then-boyfriend now-husband and this friend would enjoy one another. When I see an old photo of an old adventure. When I remember all the meals we shared and trips we took and stories we cowrote. I’m sad when I wonder if I should have ignored his demand to cease contact, said to hell with that, and emailed and called and texted anyway. But honestly, I was so shellshocked for so long that it never crossed my mind to disobey his orders.

Sometimes still, anger creeps in. It is a furious rage that someone I loved would yank his love out from under me, like a rug, with a swift pull. When I run into a friend I lost with this friendship in the grocery store, and we regard one another with a long, sad stare. When (thankfully, preserved) mutual friends contact me to say this person is embellishing our shared past online, and implores me to correct the record. I’m angry when I remember, unprovoked, how good our friendship was, and that it may have been saved, if only love wasn’t so damn complicated. If only I didn’t love someone else more.

Now, mostly, happily, acceptance is the status quo. I have found the other end of grief.

Here and again, curiosity gets my best, and I check in on his purposefully public life. I see happier photos and stories and someone in a better place, and I am not sad or angry, but full of relief. I sometimes wonder what I would say or do if I passed him in the street. It’s never happened since that day when the life I knew crashed down, quietly, all around me… some idle Tuesday, as the lyric goes. I’d rather not prepare a script.

Not every little tragedy ends with a tidy resolution, and mine is no exception. In the Hollywood retelling of this story, we cross paths in a coffee shop and spend hours catching up and wonder how we ever spent these years absent our friendship. We repair the bridges and credits roll. Alas, these scripts aren’t neat and this life isn’t film reel. But if I may find a silver lining or a tiny grace of losing my best friend — an experience neither glimmering or graceful — I am proud to have become kinder and more expansive through an ending that didn’t make sense. In time, even good has risen from my grief, and I do hope, from his.

(Photo: my own, taken in a hot-air balloon on a hot summer day, 2009)

 

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