Lali was the love of my life, I believed. When she died, eleven years ago last February, I became part of the club no-one wants to join. Whether we’re open about telling people we meet what happened to us or not, we usually recognise each other by our eyes.
We look stunned but in pain, like we’ve cried too much. Often there’s a shell around us. We may be desperate to be touched but the way we carry ourselves suggests otherwise.
The only people who understand what we’re going through are the other members of the club. They know there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do or say that will make things better. Which contradicts what I’m about to write but, if you’ve experienced the kind of loss I have, I hope you’ll forgive me.
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Like you, perhaps, I self-medicated until it was either stop or die. I had flings not relationships, and platonic friendships which I believed were safe. They weren’t. Although I missed her, I used the memory of Lali as a weapon and a shield. I followed a spiritual path until I understood again that we’re born to be with another living human being, despite knowing we die alone. When I began to make myself interested in women other than Lali, it was obvious that both they and I were trying to force something into life that wasn’t meant to be.
And then I met someone. Ten years to the month after Lali died, Erika and I began our relationship.
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I felt compelled to write this post because in the past couple of weeks I’ve read the stories of people incapable of finding new love after their partner died. I understand this completely. Before she passed (and after) Lali told me she wanted me to find someone else. For the first few years of being alone, she – a memory – was more real to me than any woman I met. It also felt dishonourable to want to be with another woman, as if I was betraying Lali’s memory and cheapening her suffering. Even when I was feeling these things, I knew they were ridiculous but it didn’t help.
I don’t want to patronise anyone who’s a member of the club by adding to the platitudes you’ve had spouted at you. But it does seem to me that, as someone wrote, grief ‘hurts as much as it should do’. By this I mean that, for me, there was a time to mourn and when it ended I knew, as scared as I was, it was time to come back to life.
Those of us who lost the person we chose to spend what we thought would be the rest of our life with have another choice to make. We can either stay frozen or dive back into being fully alive. I chose to try again, or something chose for me. And I want to tell you that it is possible to mend a broken heart. You can give all of your heart to one person and all over again to another. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be a better partner than you ever were before, precisely because of everything you’ve learned and lost.
Fall in love again after loss and you absolutely know you have to live in the moment because it really is all you have.
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Last week I went back to my apartment with Erika, to continue the process of clearing away that part of my past I no longer need, to throw light on some of the shadow. She placed her open bag on my work table and the ring I bought Lali all those years ago fell off the shelf and inside.