It’s been one year since B and I ended our relationship.
“The end” was a gradual unraveling that took several months. A great deal of unwinding and various matters to be sorted out. The house. The stuff inside the house. The money. The dog.
August 11, 2018 was the official last day.
That was the day we sat side-by-side on the couch in his new apartment—a space designed for one, not two. We tied up a few loose ends. We cried. We held each other one last time, cried more, and finally, with great agony, peeled ourselves apart.
The very next day, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Hawaii.
I figured a change of scenery might help to soothe my pulverized heart. Saltwater and sand. Sea turtles and sunshine. Definitely couldn’t hurt.
I landed at the tiny airport late at night—starlight, a soft tropical breeze, and the sound of Coqui frogs all around.
A friend picked me up. Asked how I was doing. All I could do was sob, heave, choke, mucus running down my face. There were no words to express how I felt.
She understood, and told me, “There is no rush.”
There is no rush to “get over it” and be chipper and cheery. There is no rush to “get out there” and start dating again. There is no rush to be “okay.” No rush at all.
She didn’t know it, but those four words—there is no rush—were precisely the words I needed to hear. I’ve remembered those words daily. All year long.
A few days after I moved to Hawaii, we got slammed with a hurricane of historic proportions. The strongest cyclone on record. Trees fell. Homes flooded. Power down. $42 million in damage. The street running perpendicular to mine became a roaring river, emptying into the sea below.
I boarded up my windows, then recklessly stood outside in the thick sheet of rain. Rain like a liquid wall. Like a solid mass. Rain like I’ve never seen. Thunder shattering the sky. I stood there, drenched. Sobbing. Laughing. Thinking, “Is this actually my real life?” Realizing, “I have control over almost…nothing.”
We plan, and God laughs, am I right?
. . .
A month or two later, I met with a Hawaiian healer and she told me, “Grief is like giving birth to a child. You’re giving birth to a new life—your new life. Your next chapter. Just like childbirth, you are not in complete control of the experience. You don’t get to decide, ‘the baby will be born at precisely seven p.m.’ or ‘I will be done grieving exactly three weeks from now.’ The timing is not entirely up to you. Yes, you can do things to alleviate some of the discomfort—you can breathe deeply, try to relax, meditate, visualize, hold someone’s hand—but ultimately, the process takes as long as it takes. It might be three hours. It might be thirty. Surrender and let it work through you.”
It is what it is.
It feels how it feels.
There is no rush, and,
It takes as long as it takes.
. . .
Friends ask, “How are you doing?”
One year later, I am still grieving. There’s a lot more space between each wave of grief (hours of calm in between waves, instead of seconds) but the waves still come.
One year later, I still think about him every single day, at least once. I still cry. I still feel a thousand different emotions. I still have questions that will probably never be answered.
One year later, I am not—not even a little, not even .0001%—ready for a new romantic relationship.
Some days, I judge myself very harshly (“Why can’t I just be ‘fine’ already? What’s taking so long?”). But in my compassionate, patient moments, I remember, “There is no rush” and, “It takes as long as it takes.”
“When you love big, you grieve big,” another friend said to me.
And I loved him very, very big.
. . .
Of course, nobody enjoys being in pain.
When grieving, we want to know, “What can I do to feel better? What steps can I take? How can I lessen the distress so I can navigate through the day—so I can work, earn a living, keep a roof over my head, get some sleep, eat a vegetable once in a while, you know, function? And, so I can heal? What will help?”
So many things have helped me.
Yoga and meditation.
Driving my old VW bug convertible with the top down.
Walking. Running. Sweating.
Music. All kinds. Heavy metal. Reggae. Chorale. Classical. Dubstep. All the sounds.
Laying in bed while mom sat nearby.
Watching the sea for signs of whales.
Braiding my friends’ hair.
Purchasing a semi-financially-irresponsible number of massages because sometimes, dear Lord, you just need to be touched and soothed by another human being.
Laying across Grandmother Rock and asking for guidance. (I got bitten by a stingy, acidic little ant…does that mean something? Ha).
Asking dozens of people, “What is the point of life? Why do you think we’re here?” and curiously listening to their thoughts. Turning my attention towards big, cosmic things—bigger than my own individual pain.
Writing. And not writing.
Drinking. And not drinking.
Cookies. And kale.
Being with people. And being alone.
Less tech. More nature.
Reading memoirs written by Holocaust survivors. Restoring perspective. Remembering that things could be one trillion billion million zillion times worse. Remembering that human hearts are incredibly strong and resilient.
Mental reframes. Telling myself a new story about what’s happening and why. My favorite reframe: “It’s not a break-up. It’s a break-upgrade. This is a chance to upgrade and improve every aspect of my life.” (One of my next books will be called The BreakUpgrade.)
Making a daily checklist. Creating positive new routines.
Small moments of beauty—lemon slices in my water, a flower by my bed, gold hoop earrings, looking up at the sky instead of down at a screen.
Trying to find the humor in everything. Laughing in bewilderment at the madness of it all. Complete silliness. Mama Hotdog!
These things, and many other things, have helped me.
This last year, in particular, I have learned that there are many forms of healing medicine. Sometimes you need a boxing class. Sometimes you need to ignore all of your emails and go to the beach and swim next to a turtle. Sometimes you need to order various leotards from Amazon at 2 a.m. in the morning for some inexplicable reason, and it’s all okay.
. . .
If you are grieving a loss of any kind, I wish I had the perfect advice, recipe, or seven-step process for swift healing. I don’t. All I can offer is my own story, which is still unfolding.
All I know is you’re not alone.
All I know is you will laugh louder than ever, and cry harder than ever, possibly all within the same afternoon.
All I know is being near/in the ocean helps. Salt water and tears are so cleansing.
Well-intentioned people may urge you to “hurry up” (“Just go on date, sleep with someone new, c’mon, hasn’t it been long enough?”) but you don’t have to do this. Your internal soul-clock moves at its own pace, nobody else’s.
When you’re ready, your hut (heart + gut) will tell you. You will know.
Until then, breathe, hold a friend’s hand, surrender, let the waves and contractions move through you. It’s all happening. Lava cooling into rock. New earth being born inside your cells. What seems like a “loss” may eventually feel like “more than before.” This might take awhile. Tiny steps forward. One day, the ice will melt. Try to take good care of yourself. You’re doing a great job. There’s nowhere to be except here, nothing to do except this.
There is no rush.