Grieving an ex can be one hell of a complex situation – just ask Sami Lukis who is still trying to come to terms with the complexity of her emotions after learning that one of her exes, whom she had a very serious relationship with, had passed away.
Welcome to our series, The Love Diaries – a space for you to share your experiences, advice, fairy-tale endings, setbacks and heartbreaks. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences with love – from the woman who cheated on her husband with a work colleague, one woman’s temptation now the love of her life is finally single (although she’s not), and the woman who forced her husband to choose between her and his girlfriend.
It felt like an out-of-body experience as I read the text from a mutual friend: “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. Tom died yesterday. It was a car accident”.
It took a beat for the words to sink in, and then the shock hit so hard, it made me feel physically ill. My ex-boyfriend, Tom, was dead.
I’ve only had a few serious relationships in my life. Tom was one of them. There was even a time back then when I thought he could have been The One.
We’d talked about marriage, babies, all of it. Despite our undeniable chemistry, I came to the painful realisation that Tom may have been the right one, but it wasn’t the right time.
It took the mother of all heartbreaks for me to walk away. And it took all my strength to stay away, even when he tried to reconcile a few months later.
When I heard he got married a few years later, I couldn’t resist stalking him on social media, but the profile pic of him and his stunning wife, both radiating pure joy and happiness on their wedding day, made my heart ache.
He did reach out a few times over the years but I always rejected his Facebook re-friend requests. I couldn’t bear the thought of watching his happy family life unfold on social media, with his beautiful wife, who wasn’t me. And his gorgeous kids, who weren’t ours.
I don’t think I actually ever got over him, to be honest, but as time passed, I did reach a point where I stopped thinking about him every day. I eventually managed to grieve the loss of that relationship and the life I’d imagined sharing with him.
And now, 10 years later, I’m grieving his loss all over again.
I’m painfully aware that grief can be hideous and heavy and complicated and unpredictable. But the death of an ex is a different kind of mourning altogether.
It’s something I can’t seem to wrap my head or my heart around. Mainly because I don’t know if I’m even entitled to be grieving his loss at all. Did I lose that right when we broke up all those years ago?
There’s no official etiquette guide for dealing with the death of an ex, so I searched online for advice from other people who’d shared a similar experience, and the one thing they all seem to agree on is that it can be a pretty isolating experience.
It’s difficult to even admit you’re having an emotional response when an ex dies, because society doesn’t regard it as a legitimate type of grief. I had no place in his life when he died, so why should there be a place for me in his death?
Maybe that’s why people don’t reach out to offer condolences or kind words like they would if it was a family member, or a current partner, who’d died.
Tom’s passing has also forced me to dredge up all those old feelings I’d tried so hard to bury. He wasn’t the perfect partner by any stretch. He made some terrible choices during our time together, which hurt me deeply.
The relationship ended badly, and I was angry, so I shared some things about him which probably should have remained private.
Truth is, he wasn’t a terrible person. He just wasn’t the right man for me. And now I feel sick knowing I’ll never get the chance to apologise to him for the lousy things I said. And to tell him I only wanted to hurt him to make myself feel better. And to convince myself I was better off without him.
It was immature. And stupid. And I’m so very sorry.
I also wish I hadn’t unfriended him on Facebook. I’d love to know everything that’s happened in his life over the last decade, and to scroll through all those happy snaps of his handsome face with his happy wife and their happy kids, living their happy life. I’d love to know that he was living out his own happily-ever-after when he died.
Yes, grief is hideous and heavy and complicated and unpredictable. But it also reminds us that life is precious and fleeting. And it teaches us some valuable lessons: To appreciate the life you have. And the people in it. To be kind. And speak your truth. To say what you mean. And mean what you say.
And if you really care about someone, don’t wait until it’s too late.