Coping With Death When Your Ex Passes Away

First loves; they are as they are portrayed. Nothing is better than those first feelings of true love for another person.  It’s magical, it’s hypnotizing, it’s wonderful. Those relationships sometimes blossom with time and last forever. And sometimes, as was my case, they don’t. But my first love is something that shaped my life and who I am today. It will always be a part of my life, as it is my history. On April 12, 2016, my first love passed away. With his unexpected passing, I didn’t really know how to feel other than complete and utter shock. I was shaking, felt sick to my stomach, and shed more tears than I thought humanly possible. This man had been a part of my life for 11 years… a third of my life. His passing meant that a part of me, and all of our life together, passed away with him too.

I was 17 and had never had an actual boyfriend. He was my first. I thought I knew it all, and he was who I wanted. In my young mind it was going to last forever (just ask my mother). A month after I turned 18 he called me up at work and asked if I would marry him at 4 o’clock that afternoon. I said sure. In a small courthouse in a small town in western Indiana, I wore a black skirt and mint colored sweater to our little wedding. I literally went from my mom’s house to my husband’s house overnight (I know, I was crazy). For 10 years we made it work as best as two young kids could. We ran a small farm in the middle of nowhere and I truly enjoyed the lifestyle of raising cows, ducks, goats, and donkeys. My career in education began because of that life. I have so many friends to this day because I met them while we were still together. He was best friends with my brother, only a year my junior, and was best man at his wedding. He walked my sister down the aisle on her own wedding day. He helped me take care of my Mom when money was tight as she tried to raise two teenagers on her own. We didn’t have much, but he was more than happy to give any extra when it was needed. He was a genuinely nice guy.

We had our spats like all couples do, whether married or not, but over the years, there was a distance that continued to grow. I began to notice that he was easily bored with everything after a few years. He had what I called a 3-year window. He’d begin a new job, hobby, or find new friends and two and a half years later, he’d start to get bored or something would always go wrong that was never his fault. Yet, I continued to try and be supportive and make it work.  I never looked at our marriage with divorce as an option… until it was the only option.

I do not in any way, shape, or form wish to speak ill of him at this time. However, I will be honest as to what led to our end. He began drinking heavily, quit his job and refused to find another one, and quit socializing altogether. He became paranoid and controlling. He expected me to have a cell phone, and to answer it the second it rang or he’d leave very hateful and hurtful voicemails. On the other hand, he didn’t want to have a cell phone. He would disappear for hours on end never letting me know he was gone, where he was going, and I had no way to reach him. In hindsight, I know he had to have been depressed for years. Looking for someone or something to fix his problems. I worked 15 hour days to fix our problems, thinking that if I could just pay the bills it would be enough to fix him. I took care of everything around the house so he could sleep all day and stay up all night playing video games to keep himself happy.  He slowly turned back into a person that needed a mother more than a wife and in September of 2010 I couldn’t be his mother anymore. I left and never went back.

The next few months were rocky as I made my way on my own for the first time in my life. I didn’t speak to him for 3 months. In December, he invited me to dinner and asked if we could give it another shot. I explained to him what I needed, expected, and wanted from him as a partner. He looked me straight in the eye and said “I don’t like this independent person you’ve become,” to which I replied that it was officially over.

Fast forward a few years and life for each of us settled down. As family members and pets we had together began to pass away we would let each other know through a phone call. For the past 3 years, we spoke 3 or 4 times a year. Catching up, putting the past that didn’t work together behind us, and just making sure the other was ok. I thought he was ok as he would laugh when we spoke or recall nice memories. Sadly, depression has a way of truly masking itself and after his battle with this disease that led to other problems, his body simply shut down.

I did see him in the hospital before he passed, and I was fortunate enough to see him while he was awake and could talk to me. When discussing with my husband if I should go or not, he simply asked if I would regret it if I didn’t. I said I would. I will forever be thankful for his support and that I was able to see my first husband before he left this earth. I wish he would have reached out for the help he deserved. I wish he could have thought about all of the people he touched in his 37 years on this planet before he made these choices. However, calling him selfish isn’t fair, as he was simply sick with a disease that is sometimes impossible to see.

It’s terribly sad, but that is what depression does. It takes hold of you and doesn’t let go. It’s something you can keep silent, well hidden, and covered… even from the people who love you most. It is said that love is blind. Perhaps it is.  When someone is depressed, they cannot see the love that others have for them. Depression is a silent killer and it’s one of the saddest kinds. It’s an ugly illness and is not something to be taken lightly. Sometimes the ones who are suffering the most try to laugh the hardest. It is their way to cover over the pain that we can’t see.

I ache for his parents having to bury their only child. I ache for the sadness he lived with. I ache for the pain no one knew he was in other than himself.  He is no longer in pain, and as I spoke with his Father the other day, that is the one thing they are finding comfort in. I know he was my ex-husband, but he was my first love. His family was my family for the 11 years we spent together, and my family was his. In the end, all he ever asked was that he knew I was his friend. I hugged him as best I could through the wires and tubes attached to his body and told him to take care of himself and make his life worth something. He passed away shortly after with his parents by his side.

Grief is something you simply cannot prepare for. You don’t know how you will handle it when it hits, and sometimes you just have to let it happen. With his death, he takes our complete past with him. In exchange, I’ll keep a memory spot in my heart open for him always.

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