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Demons & Angels

April 23, 2020

Grief is lonely. People can only meet you where they have met themselves. 

I was 25, he 26.

We were high-school sweethearts, each other’s first love.

He was handsome, intelligent, incredibly athletic, wildly funny, and insanely loved. 

On the outside you would think he had it all, but on the inside there were struggles with the package. Struggles a high-school relationship could never begin to navigate on its own, but boy did we try. 

Our relationship was filled with magnetic highs and grueling lows. For years our relationship danced to a bittersweet melody. We loved each other so deeply that we clung to the highs, our nails dug deep. We would both say we felt the force of the universe constantly pulling us together anytime one of us would stray. I think we believed it would never let us fall. 

The universe, our little safety net. We thought it could last forever. Always leading us and our love back to the light. Yet somehow dusk always came. 

Over the years of a decade a separation finally came. A move that would put miles between the two. Someone had to get off the roller coaster. Moving forward out of love and seeking a fresh start would be short-lived.

As a darker struggle was slowly brought to light, an addiction became exposed.

Suddenly the miles fell away. After the addiction there was no longer “lovers or exes,” there was just love and friendship. There was compassion, there was vulnerability, and there was strength. 

Moving into this newfound space was astonishing. The level of care and respect we had for one another. The passed mistakes that washed away. And we let them go, without looking back. 

His addiction changed us both entirely, and what I could never have predicted was the depth at which I would fall. Deeper in love. Deeper in loss. Deeper in life. 

It is breathtakingly beautiful to watch someone lay out all their internal demons and face them dead-on, one by one. The 12-step program is a beautiful seed to watch bloom. It’s painfully poetic. It offers hope. Addiction has no rules and embracing sobriety has no limits. 

Suddenly there we were, back on that magnetic high. This time different though, an unfamiliar space. The rawness that vulnerability has the power to create is liberating. It’s like looking at love and life with a new pair of specs. Together we were beautifully broken, but the glass was sharp. 

As anyone who has experience with addiction first hand, or loving someone with addiction, you know all too well that it can and does change in an instant. Addiction is a disease and it’s real. 

The opioid crisis is real. It comes for all families no matter your race, your class, or your background. It was a Sunday evening for him, it was a Monday evening for me. 

On Sunday, February 11th, he would take his last breath, and on Monday February 12th, while in the middle of painting my kitchen, one phone call would leave me gasping for mine. 

But I just talked to him.
But I just talked to him.

The loss of my best friend has been the most excruciating suffering I have ever experienced. There were many days I felt myself drowning. 

Grief is powerful and it knocks you off your feet quicker than you can blink. It’s blind navigation and it shows no mercy for you to find your grounds. There’s no right or wrong way to cope. It exists with you, and you with it, dancing to a bittersweet melody. 

The biggest shock factor for me was the “grief web” (as my grief counselor would refer to it). The web of people that surround you, the ones that don’t show up, and the surprising ones who do. It was a confusing thing to sort through. Feeling like a mid-20s widow, without the marriage; but a decade of love, memories, and a plan for a future in its place. A future that would now never come.

Grief is lonely. People can only meet you where they have met themselves. 

I discovered the true discomfort the majority of people feel, when facing a person who is suffering loss. The difficulty people show just trying to hold eye contact with you. Watching every word they say, as if they fear triggering you. As if for one second your mind actually wanders to a different state of focus, other than the constant shadow of death.

It took some time, but eventually I found comfort and healing with a wonderful woman, a grief counselor I was lucky enough to connect with. I call her my earth angel. 

I think one of the biggest hardships about grief is that there is no preparation that could ever prepare you for its entirety. 

Grief will always be awful, but you can find ways to make it manageable. You can learn healthy tools to set you on the path for positive healing. You can have hope. You can learn to smile again. A real genuine smile.

I have recently dipped my toe in the waters of poetry. An expression of writing I have never worked with before. I use it to reflect on different memories and stages of my grief. The words come quick and effortlessly at times, waves washing the shore; the memories of the first year so painfully etched into my heart.

i am divine love i am divine love
a nourishing embrace
mind body soul
the root of our existence
intertwined as one
stay grounded in yourself
the healing will follow
you are divine love

Reflecting back on my journey of loss and healing, I am so proud of myself and how far I have come. There’s an empowerment that comes with the gratitude of healing. I feel stronger. I feel more grounded in myself. I love who I am because of the things I have overcome. 

If there is anything I feel passionate about wanting to share with my own experience of loss, it would be to encourage as many people as I can to reach out and ask for help. You are not alone. You are seen and you are heard. You are loved and you are held. Take up as much space as you need. You are safe. 

Let yourself move through the discomfort with grace. Surrender. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

There you are.