When you enter the world, you’re wet, naked and poor in most senses of the word. This is unacceptable to your greedy little instincts, so you begin to gather things for yourself almost immediately. My mother, my nipple, my blanket, my chew toy, my shaker without which I won’t allow to sleep.
As you grow, you attach different levels of fondness to the different things you encounter, from toys to books to friends, lovers and eventually, that person you feel should be yours forever and ever amen. But Happily Ever Afters are rare and sometimes things don’t work out. What happens when you have to walk away? When love is not enough?
Loss is hard to accept. To acknowledge that grief is going to blast through you and remain sane enough to envision a time when you will not be hurting, that’s even harder.
When the loss is permanent*, say the death of a parent, friend or spouse, you feel a terrible helplessness and it is this feeling that pulls you away from the lip of insanity. You realize that whatever you do, however much you weep and starve and curse, your person is dead and you cannot bring them back.
Then there’s the flavor of loss that I call reversible loss. This is where your mind tells you over and over again that if you say the right thing, your ugly situation will disappear and you will be back in the zone of comfort, normalcy.
It could be the loss of a job (right before a promotion, no less) where you are sure that if you explain your contribution to the company hard enough, the boss will welcome you back your desk.
It could be the loss of a partner with whom you have built a flamboyant castle of dreams, a castle that is now disintegrating, wisp by wisp like so much cotton candy. In the case of lost love, even if you are the one who has broken things off, the feeling of “I must take my words back right now and return to my relationship” can be overwhelming. Woe unto you if your partner has also made their mind to move on because you’re going to be stuck with self-loathing and regret for a while.
People with broken hearts are always looking to commiserate with somebody. That’s why there are so many threads on reddit on this subject, and so many songs. That’s why I’m writing this, to be honest.
I asked some wonderful people how they dealt with the loss of a partner that they still loved. My exact question was:
Have you ever walked away from a relationship with somebody you still love? How did you do it? What was your day 1, 5, 9 10, 20 like?
This is basically sadporn. Proceed with caution.
Nagasha: The same. Weighty. Heavy hearted. Except some days were heavier-hearted than others. But they all carried the same dull ache. Day 1, 5, 9, 10, 20. They were all the same.
Immaculate: Day 20 feels like you made the decision to walk away only moments ago. You can barely believe its been 20 days, it all feels like yesterday.
Kirungi: It’s been a year since he walked away but stupid me, I’m still trying to walk away…it can be that hard.
Nswaswa: Year 1 was so painful that even booze could only numb but never stop it. Year two is better, though just seeing a missed call from her is agonizing and even more so when we actually speak. But going apart has been like removing a bad tooth- the pain of extraction and healing time are worse than the bad tooth pain, but then you feel better and even if you loved that one (or still do) you know life is better off without.
Diana: Grief. It’s just like grief. It is grief. Except that with a break-up, when you think you saw them on the street, you probably did. And then all those times you wondered what you would say have suddenly materialised into an actual situation…
Nada: I cried a lot the first fifteen minutes. Parked the car, smoked a cigarette. It rained and I was on the road by the car, and then it was all tears everywhere. I think that thunder broke something in me. It hurt, I drove back to Kampala hardly being able to breathe. Day five was worse, and day twenty was particularly bad because we bumped into each other. And soon he was gone forever. That pain never really leaves you. It lingers inside your mind waiting for a girlfriend to pose a question like yours, to hit back full swing. But now I take a deep breath and carry on.
And finally, Amanda:
Walking away from a relationship when you still love someone hurts. I listened to the script, Adele, Lady Antebellum, I re-read those love letters. Yes I was one of the lucky few who received those precious missives.There was a permanent lump in my throat for a while I tried to cry and failed. I never cried, which I found strange. We were young and inexperienced maybe even a little reckless. We were each others firsts and even though I am past him I know there will never be one like him. He literally snuck in and stole my heart,the good-looking thief! But we got full closure and that helped we talk occasionally and we are both good.
Loss is hard to accept, especially if you’re listening to Toni Braxton on a loop. If your heart is a mess right now, know that you’re not alone. The world knows your pain and if I were able to sing songs, this would be a crazy track, just for you. Feel better. I already do.
Here’s some of the stuff that’s helped me feel human again:
Warsan Shire’s Seven Stages of being Lonely
Everything by Soley:
Almost Everything by Little Dragon, especially Ritual Union
Of Monsters and men (this is an entire album)
Almost Everything by KT Tunstall. Heal Over especially
Nneka’s Restless (OMG this video). I think I can watch this on a loop because it’s been a couple weeks
Do share the sounds and tricks that have made you feel better after one of them nasty break ups.