September 23, 2017

My Inexplicable Reaction To An Ex's Death


The morning started off like any other weekday morning. I got ready for the day, had a hearty breakfast, and promptly left for work. I prefer to be at work an hour before everyone else just so I can have a moment to myself. There is always a lot of commotion throughout the day, so it's nice to start the day in a peaceful manner.

As I scanned through my emails that morning, my heart immediately sank when I read "Sad news" in one of the subject lines. My email inbox is typically inundated with work-related updates, new partnership opportunities, and some spam mail, but a month ago, I got some unexpected news - my college boyfriend had passed away.

I have felt a bit lost ever since and haven't been able to fully shake it off.

His name is Jeff, and he was only 29 years old. He was always full of life and did anything to make people laugh. We had a rollercoaster relationship (the highs were really high and the lows were really low), and after 5-ish years together, we decided to part ways.

We didn't speak to each other for a long while, but after a year or so, Jeff reached out to me and a friendship started to organically develop. Everything was simple, innocent, and indicative that healing had happened post-breakup. 

Looking back, I don't think we ever had an actual conversation, but I would get updates about his acting pursuits, and I would send him updates about significant happenings in my life. We truly wanted the best for each other, and it was a good way to make sure we were both doing well. It helped us both to further justify our breakup as well.

It wasn't until I started dating my current boyfriend (now fiancĂ©), Evan, that I thought to separate myself from Jeff completely. I figured it was the right thing to do, and Jeff seemed to understand and respect that.

Fast forward 5 years, my meager friendship with Jeff became more absent as my relationship with Evan got more serious...as one would expect, but this is the part that confuses me. Feeling a deep sense of grief or loss seems strange, and I still can't make sense of what I feel or why. Due to the circumstances and the time that has passed, I feel like I have no right to be sad. I have no intimate knowledge of him or who he was in the last days of his life. I have no real connection to him anymore, but what I do have are these inexplicable and conflicting emotions. 

I always sensed that Jeff was battling depression, but I had no idea he was suffering so deeply. He never allowed me to see that side of him. My heart breaks every time I think about him going through hours of convoluted thoughts and emotions...unable to leave his bed...tossing and turning...mulling over every detail of his life's grievances...crying...getting angry...then crying again. I keep thinking about how alone and how hopeless he must have felt. It didn't have to be this way, but unfortunately, more and more people are turning to suicide these days. I wish Jeff didn't let his mental illness beat him, but maybe this was his way of beating the mental illness? ...by stopping his mind all together?

When I was dating Jeff, there were a lot of people who didn't understand my relationship with him. They didn't understand why I stuck around for as long as I did. They didn't know what we had gone through as a couple and frankly, they didn't need to know. He was my best friend in college and I'm so grateful for the times we shared. I wish I had the privilege to see him find his happiness and feel excited for him. He was such a light of a person, and the world feels dimmer without him. 

It's such a tragic end to such a young life, and I hope any one of you reading this will practice being more kind, more patient, and more attentive. I wish I noticed the signs when we were dating. I wish Jeff and I had been better connected these past few years. I wish I would have known about his struggles, so I could try and talk him out of taking his own life. I wish he would have contacted me if he needed help. 

Through all of this, I've learned that you never stop loving someone. You either always will or you never did in the first place. I suppose that's why you can still be affected...even after all these years. You never forget how much they fought for you and for the relationship. But you also remember why it ended and why you had to get out. 

I also learned just how severe suicide is and how much it affects people. Even the word itself generates so much attention, but why don't the words mental illness or depression carry the same weight? The actions and behaviors leading up to suicide are often minimized or go unnoticed, and it shouldn't be that way. Mental illness and depression are serious conditions that affect everyone differently, and Jeff's passing has brought upon the realization that we need to do better as a society.

If the future is anything like the movie WALL-E, the world will continue to become more isolating and robotic. Human interaction and intimacy is so necessary for our survival, and we must work together to truly connect and be present with each other. We need to do our best to support each other.

On that note, please take some time today to reach out to people and let them know that they are loved. That the odds of them being born is about 1 in 102,685,000 (that's a 10 with 2,685,000 zeros after it). That living and life can be hard, but that doesn't mean it's not worth it. Hopefully it makes their day, week, month, or year and maybe even change the outlook of their life. Every little thing counts. 

RIP Jeff.

xo,
jenn
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