Grief brings a bittersweet birthday this year.

My birthday is coming up at the end of this month. Although I’m very excited about it, I’m also dealing with some feelings of sadness and grief. Josh’s birthday was only a few days before mine, so we always used to celebrate it together on a day in the middle. It was our tradition for all the years we were together.

He would have turned 30 this year, and he always dreaded turning 30. Last year he forgot how old he was and started musing about how awful it was to be turning 30; he forgot he had one more year to go. 😛 Part of me smiles knowing that he didn’t have to leave the 20’s that he wanted to stay in, but the other part of me grieves deeply because I know he would have grown so much and enjoyed life immensely in his 30’s. He had finally found happiness and a new life to explore, and then it was cruelly snatched away.

Christmas is going to be hard too. Christmas day was the last day that I saw him conscious and got to talk to him; the next day he went into the coma and he passed away a week later.

Grief is hard. Even when everything is generally going well, it can pop up at a moment’s notice and hit like a brick in the face until the newly uncovered emotional layer is effectively processed. It’s often confusing because there are lots of happy memories mixed in too, so I can feel both happiness and sadness simultaneously. I’m doing much better with coping with it, though. And the medication has made a massive difference. But sometimes I still cry because I miss him. He was my best friend for almost a decade, and it still feels strange not being able to message him on Facebook to tell him about the funny things the cats are doing, especially since Facebook occasionally makes it feel like he’s still around by recommending pages that he’d liked when he was alive, or reminding me of past photo memories. Pinterest still suggests him every time I try to send a pin because we used to share pins to each other all the time. Even though we weren’t a couple anymore, he was still my dear friend and we’d been through a lot together. Losing him has been like losing a piece of myself.

I suppose all death is like that, at least when we lose people who are a significant part of our lives. They’re gone, and we have to adjust to living without them. I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore, he’d had long drawn out battles with cancer before and had dreaded that more than anything, but it’s still hard to get used to this new reality.

This year is going to have some very difficult “firsts”. First birthday without him, first Christmas since he died, first anniversary of his death… I still find it hard to browse the comic section at Chapters because he loved comic books and that’s where he always was when we shopped there. It’s like he’s still there just around the corner, looking for more Spiderman comics. He gave me several Batgirl comic books as a parting gift when we separated, and I can’t open them without getting very emotional. He’d written a letter in the front of the first one, and I forgot about it one day and I was looking for something easy to read. Instant waterworks. We may not have been very compatible romantically, but we were best friends and we’d always supported each other through our changes and even through our separation. This is what he wrote:

Laura, I know you’re not a big comic reader, but I thought Batgirl might be a literary character that could provide you some inspiration.

See in this new series, Barbara has recovered from a life altering difficulty and feels she is ready to take things on her own again. She has to convince family, mentors, friends, and at times that she is able to take care of herself, help others and face challenges on her own.

As you enjoy and discover your independence, I hope Batgirl’s journey will aid your own as you show yourself and others that you’re ready to do awesome stuff on your own.

Barbara was wheelchair bound for many years and literally had to trust herself to stand on her own two feet. Gaining independence is like finally getting out of the wheelchair. Trust yourself and you’ll do great.

This is a character who is funny, witty, intelligent, kind, honest, authentic, sexy, and badass. She’s good willed and the kind of friend you want to have, but she’s not a pushover. A female character who is strong and soft at the same time. You have a lot in common with her.”

You can probably see why the waterworks start whenever I open that book. I’ve managed to read part of the first book, but I’ve never been able to get very far without feeling too emotional. So, they sit on my shelf waiting for the day that the pain has healed enough for me to read it all. It’ll happen when I’m ready.

But I’m far stronger than I was before he died, so although I know there will be more emotional moments like this, I also know that I’ll be ok. I may need to momentarily hide myself away on some of these occasions to grieve, but it’s something I’ve been preparing myself for and I know it’s just part of the process.

There’s a time to laugh, and a time to be sad. A time to smile, and a time to cry. A big part of emotional maturity is learning to accept this and not beat ourselves up for experiencing difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Stifling emotions hinders growth and healing. Acknowledging them, and expressing and managing them in healthy ways, is essential for getting through grief. So today I’ll let myself cry and watch sappy sad movies and look at old pictures of happy memories, and then tomorrow I’ll get up again and face the world a little bit stronger.

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Saying Goodbye.

I’ve put off writing this because it didn’t feel real. But it’s time.
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Josh, you’re gone. You’re not coming back. And that thought is so hard for me to wrap my head around. No words I can write can fully express the void your death has left.
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I watched you struggle with your health for so many years. When we started out, I knew that there was a chance that this day could come. This was my greatest fear all those years, that the cancer you’d already battled twice in different forms would come back a third time and take you away for good. On January second my worst fear came to pass; a deadly disease finally took you. My one small consolation is that you didn’t know your life was ending when you went into the coma. You went in like you’ve always been, a fighter.
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We may have ended our romantic partnership a while ago, but our friendship spanned nearly a decade. We went through so much together, there are so many memories. You were the one constant in my life through so many major life changes; you were the one who was there for me when so few others were. You were there when so many others walked away after my beliefs changed and I came out as LGBTQ. I will never forget that. I don’t know how I would have endured the rejection and judgment without your support. You showed me how to think for myself, you taught me how to question things that others accepted without question. It’s a life skill I desperately needed to learn.
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You were one of the best people I’ve ever known, and now the world doesn’t get to really see you in the way you deserved. The world is a much darker place without you in it. Despite the grief and loss that I’m experiencing now, I wouldn’t change any of it. What you brought into my life was worth the pain I feel now.
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Love takes many forms; it’s not always romantic. I still loved you, even if it was a different kind of love than we started out with. I suppose a part of me always will.
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I don’t want to say goodbye. It brings too many tears, and I’m already running low on tissues. But if I don’t, I’ll keep convincing myself that you’re just busy, that I’ll get a text any day now. Or that I’ll run into you downtown and we’ll catch up on life like we always did. I’ll keep trying to pretend that this was all just a big mistake, even though deep down I know it’s not. It’s become impossible to pretend anymore. And yet the thought of adjusting to this new reality is so hard to bear.
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Goodbye, Josh. You were loved.
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