Good Grief, Charlie Brown

I had to borrow the title from one of my most loved books as a child. I don't think I read much apart from Charlie Brown books for the whole of primary school. It may explain a number of things about me really! Anyway, I've just returned from another visit with Melissa. For those of you tuning in late, she's the psychologist helping me work through all that has happened in the last 2 years. And today we hit on something I had been wondering about. Grief.

It was recently the second anniversary of 'the break up' and although this sounds like ages, it's only been 6 or 7 months since I last saw the Ex. I've been feeling like everything I held in to get through 18 months of hatred and threats have finally come to the surface and I am exhaling. Trying to let it all go. Better out, than in, as they say. As I was recounting the panic I felt last week at discovering my Ex is now delving into the online universe (is it wrong to Google your Ex?), she said my distress was natural. 'You're still grieving'. My friend Trish, has suggested the same thing.

I was wondering if what I've been feeling would just lessen in time. I'm stuck between feeling like this has gone on for ages, and in reality only getting space from the old relationship recently. But it also begs the question: how long do you grieve? I have friends who's parents have died, and I have lost a friend. I have seen that grief can last years. But is death different to the death of a relationship? Is there a difference when the other person is still out there somewhere?

I've also chatted to another friend, Stephanie, about the end of friendships. I'm beginning to think everyone has an 'ex' friend out there somewhere too. And again, these can be intense relationships that hurt you when things turn sour or are one sided. Maybe there is some clever calculation that can tell you your grief will last X number of months, based on the length and intensity of relationship. And even though I'm tempted to Google to try to find a grief calculator, I guess it's something that is quite personal and specific to each or dead.

I wonder if closure plays a part in the grieving process. If there are things left unsaid, does that prolong how you feel? Like many things I've contemplated over the last couple of years, I think closure has to be something within yourself, rather than with another person. I have come to realise that you will never get exactly what you need from someone else. You need to reconcile how you feel within you, no matter how hard that is. And that's the point I'm at now. Working through things, letting stuff go, grieving...for however long it takes. Because it's what I need to do. So like Charlie Brown, I'm glad the Doctor is in. Good grief, indeed.


Andrew S. said…
Hi Andrea.

This is so hard. I can only speak of my own experience, of course, but here goes.

Some of this you already know. I have two daughters, both in their mid to late twenties. Neither of them have anything to do with me - for reasons that are unknown to me, strange as that may seem. One hasn’t spoken to me for twelve years, the other for six. My ex-wife, with whom I used to stay in touch, hasn’t spoken to me for over two years now, again for no reason that I know of. During these years there have been other friendships, some of which have not gone as well as hoped for – again, as you know. These things are all still there and come up from time to time, either unprompted or triggered by some event or memory. But these episodes get fewer and further between and – generally – diminish in intensity, to the point where they may be deeply regretted but no longer as painful as they once were. But what sustains you – me – are the friendships that do continue; the people who fill my new life. Without these I think it could be pretty bleak – and would have made the reality of retirement totally different – if not impossible – for me.

The year of my separation also saw me leave my former occupation of nearly twenty-five years, my mother died and I changed address five times. A friend said to me that any one of these events was a life-shattering experience – and I was doing all three in the one year! I went to counsellors for different things: change of work; marriage counselling; parenting; personal. These psychologists were all extremely helpful: as you know, having someone to talk to and reflect with is just so helpful and strengthening. But, on the other hand, I did entertain suicidal thoughts.

But with time I got through it. I’m not sure that it ever goes away – for me, anyway – but it diminishes to become the background noise of who I am, although every so often the volume gets turned up on one of the tracks. I hope this doesn’t sound clich├ęd, but look at what you have now and how far you’ve come. The rest probably won’t ever go away completely but, without it, would you be married to this lovely man now?

With love,

Andy said…
Dear Andrew

Thank you so much for this candid and heartfelt response. I am so touched by it. I guess this is part of being open and honest in this online world. I love it when others feel that they too can share their own experience or thoughts.

What you have written rings true, and I guess I wanted to give myself the best chance of it all resting is as comfortable a place in my mind, as I could. If I didn't talk to someone it would linger and cause even more hurt and damage than it already has.

I love your music analogy, and it speaks to me. And I'm glad to know that time will be the best healer. I just need some more distance between me and the break up. It is true, that if I hadn't gone through it, I wouldn't be where I am now. Who I am now. And with the lovely chap I gloriously find myself married to.

It does make me count my blessings, and I am grateful for finding myself amongst some wonderful friends. I'm glad you do to. The next coffee is on me.


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