I think that losing a relationship is a lot like grief. That person who was once a huge, constant part of your life is no longer there, gone, usually very suddenly and sometimes without warning. You know you won’t see them again, you know their journey in your life is over. I felt I had no right to grieve the end of my marriage because my husband was still alive, but the feelings I was experiencing were grief, there was no other way to put it. I was mourning the loss of the man I loved and the life I thought I had set out in front of me, I was grieving the future life I would no longer have. Although the feelings were grief my reactions and actions needed to be different. When a significant relationship in your life ends some rights get taken away, you have no grave to go to to mourn this huge loss from your life, it seems wrong to share and remember happy times you once shared with this person, especially if the relationship didn’t end in the happiest way. But why is this? Why do we deny ourselves the chance to grieve and to remember? Because it’s too painful or because it’s not socially acceptable?
On my second wedding anniversary I was on holiday with my family. Everyone, family and friends, were prepared for how difficult this day would be for me, and as always rallied around to protect and support me. Our marriage had only ended 6 months earlier and now I was faced with the first big “anniversary” since we had split – does it get much bigger for a broken-hearted woman than her first wedding anniversary after a split?
My answer is no!!
But I was prepared, I had been fully prepared for this day since July 1st. I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to get up early, I wanted to go for a walk along the cliff, on my own, as the sun came up, I wanted to write a letter and throw it into the sea – I was still desperately searching for some sort of closure and end to these feelings, plus I had seen this done in all the movies where broken hearted women seek closure – so it had to work, right?
My first obstacle was trying to convince my mum that my plan was not to throw myself off of the cliff mid way through my walk. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was on this walk with me, hiding behind trees and bushes prepared to grab me if I decided to fling myself off. I was in a lot better place than people gave me credit for, my healing process, on the surface at least, was pretty quick. I was in a lot happier place, on the surface, deep down I knew I had work to do, but I was ok. But I understood their concerns and worries for me, especially on this particular day. I turned down all their offers to come with me because I just needed to do this, as with a lot of this process, on my own.
The second obstacle came as I got up at 6am and set off on my walk. Like much of this story the romanticised version was short lived as before I could set off on my walk I was tasked with securing the sunbeds for the day ahead. You know typical brits abroad type scenario; we wanted 10 sunbeds & 3 umbrellas, in exactly the same spot as we always had them. So to get this ideal brits abroad set up, someone needed to get up at 6am to cover the 10 beds with towels, books and other various items of clothing – ensuring the beds were secured 5 hours before we would actually need them!
So even though today was a day I had planned to make all about me and have people tread on egg shells around me, whilst I sulked all day, crying into my mojitos “Why am I such a failure???”
The baton of sunbed security was passed to me, as my Dad so kindly put the night before – “Well you will be up anyway, you might as well get the beds.” This was true and seeing as I was trying to enforce my strong independent woman vibe I couldn’t say no. But I did not envision this day starting with me battling with a sunbed on top of a pile of 20. Anyone who knows me knows I am built like a 10 year old boy, with unfortunately skinny arms, but somehow I managed to grip the very top sunbed and flip it off, sending it crashing to the ground with an almighty thud with reverberated around the silent hotel. The other 6am sunbed securers were not impressed. By the time I managed to get all 10 in the right position and covered in towels, hats, books and tops it was closer to 7-7.30 before my sullen, self-indulgent walk started – and the sun was already bloody up, my movie moment was ruined.
Thanks Dad, thanks a lot!
I walked the length of this cliff in Menorca, which ran alongside our hotel. I walked until I found a cove. It really was beautiful, there was no one around, the sand hadn’t been stepped on yet, and there was that familiar holiday smell in the air. I sat by the edge of the water dangling my feet in. This was a real good for the soul, self-love moment, I felt calm and at peace for the first time in the last 6 months. I was chanting in my head breathe the good shit in and the bad shit out. I might as well of started bloody humming.
I finally felt peace…
For about 3 minutes until I noticed a man doing the same walk as me, along the cliff heading for MY cove. In that split second I decided he was a mass murderer and was going to murder me and leave me on the beach, or even worse throw me into the sea – and I hadn’t even written my letter yet or taken a moody photo for Instagram.
I decided that 2019 was not the year I would be murdered by a serial killer on a remote beach in Menorca, who had set out to ruin this day even further for me. So with slight annoyance I picked up my stuff and started the walk back.
On my way back I found a little ledge overlooking the sea. Here I wrote a letter to my husband and to the old me. As I wrote this letter in my girl power book (yes I took it specifically on this holiday for this exact reason.)
I realised how much I needed to get out. For the last 5 months I had bottled stuff up and asked myself hundreds of questions, which I never got the answers for. I cried as I wrote it and realised actually how little I had cried over the last 6 months. Crying about this situation became a hot topic in my therapy sessions, where I realised the reason I don’t cry over big things is because I am scared if I start crying I won’t stop – I know I have mentioned before my inability to lose control, here is a prime example. So instead of crying about my marriage ending I would cry about the fact I couldn’t find a matching sock, or if my ice cream was too frozen, or that advert where the dog gets left by a bin by his owner. Still crying, just not about any of the significant changes in my life. But in this moment I let myself cry – I cried for him, I cried for me, I cried for the future I envisioned no longer existing, I cried for my wedding day which I celebrated 2 years ago to this day. Crying in that moment made me feel so much better, it was like I was letting out feelings which had been gnawing away at me for months.
I can’t remember what I wrote in this letter but I know I wished him happiness, I know I wrote that I hoped he was happy or would find the happiness he deserved. This part shocked me, I realised after all that had happened, and despite all the hurt and anger I still felt towards the situation, I still wanted him to be happy – I still wanted him to be ok. I had said this to anyone who would listen but finding myself writing it in a private moment, essentially to myself, I realised I actually meant it.
And here was the closure I had been looking for in a variety of different places up till now. I looked for it in; him, dating apps, random men, alcohol, nights out, parties, pity parties for one. But the closure I was so desperately looking for had to come from within me.
It is easier as time goes on to forget all the shit that went down between us and then you are just left with memories of this person, who you knew and loved for a substantial amount of time. I knew what he did was wrong, he knew what he did was wrong, but if I only took the negative with me I knew I would damage myself, I would become an angry and bitter person (more than I already was) and I wasn’t prepared to do that to myself – I realised my closure had to come from letting go!
As I finished my letter to him I wrote thank you, I am not sure I fully meant thank you at the time but I do now and I knew, finally, that acknowledging all the good we had was not going to send me running for the edge of the cliff, it was going to give me the closure and peace I had been searching for for 6 months. Once I finished the letter and re-read it for spelling mistakes (obvs) I ripped it up and threw it into the sea.
At that moment I felt closure – not from the relationship, or the hurt, or the betrayal, but from my relentless questions I kept asking myself. I knew I would never get the answers to these questions and they also weren’t important anymore. The closure I needed had to come from me and my acceptance of this situation. I knew in this moment, on my old wedding anniversary, I was finally ready and ok to move on from this – unbeknown to me I had also given the universe permission to start letting people into my life again, as I finally had accepted what had happened and began to let go.
The very next day someone slid into my DMs who changed my whole outlook. We have been good “friends” ever since.
Grief, caused by whatever situation, is like an empty hole, it bursts a hole in your soul and your person, like a crater. I once believed that over time grief just goes away, you forget that huge crater left behind by a significant absence of a person. But what I have realised is it actually doesn’t go anywhere, it stays with you forever, but what you do over time is fill that crater with new stuff, just like putting flowers at a grave, eventually beautiful things fill up that hole. That crater left behind by grief has to stay with you, because it is part of you, it’s the foundations on which you build the new you. I knew I had a choice either leave it bare and empty and a constant painful reminder, or
acknowledge it being there and fill it with something new, exciting and beautiful.
I made sure that I acknowledged this day, privately and publicly. The 29th July 2017 was one of the best days of my life. I had an amazing party, surrounded by the best people, wearing the best dress of my life. I decided that I would celebrate and remember this as a celebration of an amazing 12 years, up to then. I know, over time, the memory and significance of this day will fade, I know new memories will take over and in 10 years time this date won’t hold as much significance for me, one day this day will just become another day. But for now, when it still does mean something to me, I will acknowledge it. Because I have made the choice not to have my memories tainted by a negative experience. I will not erase this moment from my life.
So today, on what would have been my 3rd wedding anniversary I will be surrounding myself with people who have and will always be there, either over the phone or face to face. I will drink tea and laugh and be happy. I am sure there will be moments that will fill me with sadness, this is to be expected, but this will be short lived as I remember how far I have come and how much that girl has grown over the past 3 years. And how much braver, stronger and kinder she has become.
Grief is different for everyone – how we deal with it, how we accept it, how we process it. But what we must all remember is we have control over it, it may not always feel like it, all of the time, but it is our crater to fill with what we see fit.