There are many types of loss. Each loss type doesn’t have a guide book or road map, you have to navigate it yourself. Some have support groups and others just meet up at the bar to drink their sorrows away.
When you leave a relationship you mourn the person you once were as you learn to come into your own. At 27 I found myself divorced and dating was hard. I was seen as baggage, instead of an option. Divorce carried a stigma, in some people’s eyes you are branded as damaged goods and nothing more. You get passed over and passed up for the pretty young thing whose heart was barely broken.
But the thing is, beauty lives in the broken. It’s the brokenness who makes us into the person that we are. It’s the cracks that prepare us for the next relationships. With time my heart healed and I dipped my toes in the dating pool. (Yes, I did go through the obligatory post divorce hoe phase.) I went on dates with divorced men and a lot of bros. I was so invested in dating apps that I didn’t realize I had an option standing next to me.
Charlie, Charlie a dear friend who was eleven years my senior who I had known since college. He knew about my marriage and everything I had gone through. He would tell me “mouse, you are beautifully broken.” To the world I was damaged, but in his eyes I was perfectly imperfect. His heart healed mine.
Charlie was a once in a lifetime love. He was the man that peeled back the layers and loved every broken bit of me. He was the type of person that met you at your level and did not judge. Instead he listened with kind eyes and gave advice from the heart. He spoke softly and roared with laughter. Charlie believe all problems could be solved with board games and whiskey. And if they didn’t solve your problems, well at least you had a good distraction for awhile.
Charlie made the decision to call Minneapolis home and he asked me to be his wife. On Valentine’s Day he was working a case in upstate New York, this was to be his last work trip for awhile. He called me after he finished with his client to tell me he was on his way back to the airport. That was the last call I had ever gotten from him. You see Charlie didn’t make his flight, he met a drunk driver instead. One persons choice changed my life forever. Charlie died two days later from the injuries he sustained in the crash. His light went out at 40 and my heart was broken once more.
Nothing can prepare you for seeing your fiancé in a casket. Nothing can prepare you for sitting in the front row of the church and getting up to give a eulogy. It’s hard to find the words to describe a life well lived. It’s hard to find the words to describe a love like his. All I know is that Charlie died loving me. I was his world and for a brief moment he was mine. His love is a love that I will cherish and honor until my last breath. For he healed my broken heart in more ways then he could ever imagine.
I took Charlie’s death pretty hard and retreated into my own little world. The land of what if and what could have been is a dangerous place to live. Even though your world stopped, the world around you keeps on spinning. Sooner or later you have to break the fog and rejoin the land of the living. Slowly the days turned in to weeks and the weeks turned in to months, and my heart it began to heal. After a year went by I felt strong enough to dip my toes into the dating pool. I was cautious at first and built walls so thick not even the most intriguing date could break them. AKA I was a hot ass mess that no one wanted to be near, let alone date. My walls protected me and the darkness she kept my secrets in. I went on dates with a lot of duds until a Marine fell into my DMs on Veterans Day.
At first I was cautious and on our 3rd date Jay said to me “you don’t know this yet, but I am going to marry you.” That would have been a red flag to most, but I decided to see where it would go. Six years later Jay is still by my side. He is kind and he listens to me banter on about nothing and everything. He makes me laugh until I can’t breath. He has been my rock in the darkest of hours and he believes in my dream of motherhood. He believes in me and loves me the same way Charlie did.
Jay allows me space to grieve and to remember Charlie. He understands that if Charlie didn’t die he wouldn’t have a seat at my table. I openly share memories with Jay, Charlie’s art is on the walls of our home. His message in a bottle and the last jar of sea glass he collected is safely tucked away in my closet. Charlie’s memory is alive in our home for his love healed my heart. And in someway deep down I think Charlie knew he wasn’t meant to be, so he prepared space in my broken heart for Jay. Charlie made sure that I would live to love again, and for that I am forever grateful.
Dating tips after loss:
1. Give your significant other the space to share stories and memories about their departed spouse/fiancé/girlfriend or boyfriend. Remember that even though that person is dead, they will always always be apart of your significant others life.
2. If your significant other is divorced do not pry for the reason why. Let her/him tell you in their own time as it can be hard to open up & trust people. This can go for regular breakups as well.
3. If your significant other’s divorce was due to an abusive situation, do not attempt to understand it. Just accept them at their level and know that the slightest things can be a trigger. This can go for regular breakups as well.
4. Allow your significant other to grieve. Grief isn’t a one and done type deal. It’s like the ocean and the waves hit you when you least expect it. Just give them a hug and tell him/her you are there if they want to talk about it.
5. Give space so that your significant other feels comfortable honoring their loved one’s birthday, anniversary, death date or any other date with meaning.
6. Do as Jay & Charlie did, do not judge, do not question, just take his or her bags and set them down on the floor. Accept their baggage as your own and love every inch of their beautifully broken heart.