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Love's Labour Lost

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 10/24/2001

I am a 22-year-old woman who a little less than three months ago lost the love of my life to a random act of violence. I am having a very difficult time letting go of all we had or could have had together. My friends and family tell me that everything will get better and that I will find someone else. I think this is all bull. Maybe they came equipped with a handbook that told them how to deal, but I think maybe I missed that bestseller. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate their help, but we didn't break up. He was murdered, and I don't think that the two can be compared. I hope you can help.

Lost My Love

Dear Lost:
You have my deepest sympathies. People mean well, it's just that as a culture we're pretty stupid when it comes to other people's grief. It makes us nervous, reminds us of our own vulnerability and mortality. We want to make it go away, leave us alone. It's hard enough when the death is expected, as after a long illness, and we can fall back on the time-honored "he's at peace now," or "her suffering is over," or some banal religious platitudes. But when death is unexpected, sudden, and violent, we have nowhere easy to go, and it makes us especially clumsy and oafish. We want to say something comforting, something soothing, something that will ease the pain, but there's no way to make sense of the senseless, and too often our efforts only make things worse.

My guess is that no one wants to hear you talk about him. They're embarrassed and uncomfortable. They make you feel like you should be over it by now, like there's a time limit to grief, like after a couple of weeks any visible sorrow is unseemly, like you're wallowing in it. They don't understand that all you want is someone to listen, someone who won't try to fix it, because it can't be fixed, but who will help you keep him from disappearing as if he never existed. He did exist, you loved him, and you have a right to grieve. Perhaps it would help if you kept a journal, at least for a while. A journal is completely nonjudgmental, has infinite patience, and can absorb any feelings you put in it without question or hesitation. You may also want to find a support group--no one can understand how you feel better than someone else who's been through it. Your grief is compounded by anger, so, if a support group is not an option, I strongly suggest professional help. As justified as your anger is, if it's not dealt with properly, it can consume you.

Time does help. The human spirit is remarkably resilient, and eventually you will come to accept the unacceptable--if not the manner of his death, at least the fact of it--and your love for each other, your grief, and your memories will all become a part of who you are forever, as inseparable from yourself as your skin. The pain will ease, and although you'll never forget him, nor should you, eventually you'll be able to think of other people and other things. It's too soon to think of it, probably, but you could meet someone else to love. In any case, he won't be a replacement; he'll be someone else. When and if this happens, remember: It's not a betrayal of your lost love to go on living; it's what all of us who have dealt with the pain of losing ones we love, under whatever circumstances, have had to learn to do.

I really like this man I've been dating for a few weeks, but he won't really talk to me. I want him to tell me everything that is going on his life because he is so sweet and loving and I really want to get to know him better. I also feel like there's something on his mind, but when I ask him he just says no. He told me a little, but I know it's not all. How can I get him to understand that I really care and he can confide in me?

Want to Know

Dear Want:
Slow down, sweetie pie. Give the man a chance to get to know you a little better before you start prying into all the nooks and crannies of his life. It's up to him to decide what he wants to tell you, and when, and your aggressive demands that he expose his deepest feelings to you after what amounts to a pretty short acquaintance could send him running. He could have any number of perfectly legitimate reasons for not wanting to spill his guts to you so soon, and if you really want to get to know him better, you'll respect his privacy. An easy familiarity is not the same as true intimacy and trust, which take time to develop and are worth much more in the long run.

Of course, if what's bothering him is potentially dangerous to you, that's a fair question to ask and have answered. Otherwise, lighten up.

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