Feature photo credit: Flickr user Michael Van Vleet via Creative Commons
A week before Valentine’s Day, I lost two great loves of my life: my dear great-aunt, Nellie, and a boyfriend of nearly two years. There seemed to be a greater weight on my shoulders in the midst of it all with the impending holiday looming ahead. The week started with hearing of my aunt being very suddenly and unexpectedly placed on life support; to an anti-climatic break-up that involved polite gestures, no tears, and general formalities that you share with a stranger, all respectively on UC Berkeley’s campus; to finally heading to Texas for the weekend to pay my respects to my family and to hug my mom.
No doubt, that week was one of the longest in my life, full of tears, regret, anger, and a general sense of loneliness that I couldn’t quite attribute to just the break-up alone. Even though I’m still in a state of recuperation, and find myself mourning these loves of my life daily, I can’t help but to draw so many parallels between deaths and break-ups. Break-ups are, after all, really just deaths of relationships. Especially this recent break-up, in which I’ve had to completely cut this person out of my life. For my sanity alone. The whole painful process included excommunicating my ex, which took the form of blocking them on every social media outlet and avoiding certain areas around campus.
All of the photographs, concert tickets, train vouchers from when we were in a long-distance relationship, everything, was shoved into a tiny little box and placed carefully on the top shelf of my closet. Unlabeled. Hidden. And completely Scotch taped up. Who knew two years of your life could fit in a small cardboard box? Of course, it’s foolish of me to think that getting rid of someone’s belongings and Internet existence would actually delete them from my life, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t help.
Once someone is gone from your daily routine, someone who used to be a huge portion of that routine, it actually does start to feel like they’re really gone, like that relationship is buried six feet under, along with every kiss, every late-night text message, every song that we listened to on our long drives, or tender moment in the early morning. It’s all just gone, slowly becoming a distant memory of something that was great and beautiful and real, but devastating. For me to grow, for us to grow, it had to die, and stop being “us.”
And that’s the thing about death. Losing someone helps you find yourself. The way you deal with a death, something so inevitable but equally scary, can show you who you are as a person.
In all of college, I have lost three very important people in my life; my little sister, my grandmother, and now my great-aunt. Grief has become a large part of my college experience and I’ve had to learn how to cope with it while also worrying about midterms, papers, and a social life. Not only have I lost these people, but I have gone through two serious break-ups. It’s as if I’m in a state of perpetual mourning, fragmented by the loss of loved ones.
It all started with my Freshman year of college, when I lost my sister to a tragic car crash that left me so shocked, confused, and broken, that I could only respond by lashing out against my body in detrimental ways – including having sex with random men after drinking until I couldn’t think anymore. My grandmother’s death, months later, only rehashed feelings of despair that I couldn’t come to terms with on my own. Now, as I look back on the extreme loneliness I felt, I realize how much I’ve changed because of these experiences and how I’m able to healthily – albeit sometimes still with large consumptions of alcohol – grieve my lost ones. This time around, I immersed myself in my studies, and am able to actually talk about it, to the point that I’m sharing this grief with all of you. Plus, therapy can do wonders for your soul.
Every once in a while, I put on a bracelet that my little sister made for me. It’s this pink bracelet, beaded, very simple, but when I put it on, I’m reminded that her small fingers meticulously picked every bead out for me. Often, just the thought of it, brings me to tears; yet, they are happy tears, as I marvel at how lucky I am to have had such an amazing person in my life, even if it feels unfair how short our time was together. The next time I see my ex, I have a feeling that it’ll be like seeing a ghost; but, everything inside of me wants to smile at the thought that I had such an amazing love in my life, even if it had to end.