Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

To those that know me, this piece of writing might seem out of the blue and out of context. For me, it really isn’t and this has been a long time coming. Even though my ex, Justin, passed away four and a half years ago, I still have my days of grief that are worse than others. And those feelings came rushing back when my sister asked me to talk to one of her friends whose boyfriend had also recently passed. Sadly, I can relate to the situation all too well. I don’t talk about this much. I’m a person that has a tendency with situations of grief to shove it down with brown. I always want to be perceived as a strong person. But in situations like these, it’s only human and of the absolute essence to express your emotions. So here it goes.

Justin was my first love. We met at the grocery store we worked at and started dating my senior year of high school. We had broken up a couple times, but overall we dated about four years. When the times were good, they were fantastic. Justin was hilarious, intelligent, energetic, very straightforward, the life of the party, a good friend, and very strange in his own unique way. I remember fondly him wearing this pseudo leather American flag jacket that I only had seen on middle aged redneck dudes. Justin also introduced me to a lot of great things in life, like the X-files, ukulele music, various video games, different kinds of humor, Five Guys, and comic books. We were dating while my brain was still developing, so I owe him credit for helping shape me into the woman I am today.

When we broke up, we remained friends for the most part. I am an adult who firmly believes that just because a relationship doesn’t work out doesn’t mean that you have to cut ties entirely. However, I do have one major regret to this day. My boyfriend after Justin was not here for being friends with exes and was furious when he found out I met Justin after work for a drink. From that point on, he banned me from seeing Justin. As a result, I was unnecessarily shitty to Justin. When my boyfriend and I broke up, I reached out to Justin and apologized profusely. Luckily, Justin accepted my apology and we went back to being friends with him again. Our last conversation was tentatively making plans to grill out together. And god dammit do I wish I wasn’t flaky at that time and actually stuck to those plans.

One October Thursday, I was doing clinicals at a local hospital and had a thumping migraine. Migraines are a very rare occurrence in my life. My supervisor sent me home so I slept it off. When I woke up, the migraine was gone however something still didn’t feel entirely right. I ignored my intuition and went to hang out with my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I had gotten a missed call with a strange voicemail from one of my good friends. We are not talking on the phone kind of friends either, so I immediately called her back. She had broken the news to me that Justin had ended his life the night before.

After I got off the phone, I sobbed uncontrollably. Not only because he had passed on, but to think that he was so miserable that he had to end his own life. I knew he had his demons, but damn. And to think of his poor family, to think of his sister he was incredibly close with. To think how many lives he had improved but couldn’t see it himself.

My friends, family, and boyfriend were super supportive in the early stages of my grieving process. I have a good friend whose ex also committed suicide so she was great to talk to in terms of being able to relate. A few months had gone by and all of us friends pitched in in order to give Justin the memorial he deserved. I was pretty nervous about going to the memorial though because I was worried Justin’s family held feelings of animosity toward me. But I sucked it up and drove in with a couple friends. Much to my surprise, his family gave me giant hugs and told me how grateful they were that I made it. I also had bonded with another one of his ex girlfriends because she told me she had similar feelings about attending the memorial. It was nice to see old but familiar faces and tell old Justin stories. Everything was going great until his aunt cornered me. She initially told me Justin had admitted to her a few months before his death that he was hearing voices and thought he was schizophrenic. Ok? It gets worse. She proceeded to tell me he committed suicide by gunshot and described to me in detail his death scene. That information still haunts me to this day. As soon as that conversation ended, I abruptly told my friends we had to go. Once I dropped them off, I was so upset that I drove into a construction site and didn’t even know it.

After that point, my grief really began to spiral. I was drinking a lot more because I couldn’t deal with the pain. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my feelings, so I just kept them to myself. Hindsight is 20/20, but I really should have been talking to a professional at that point. At that point, I also had to do clinicals two hours away and didn’t have my boyfriend as a rock. Life was pretty rough in general at that point. I was even starting to get really angry toward him. In my mind, it was “how dare you do this. All you’re doing is hurting everyone around you, including me. How fucking selfish are you?” I was feeling this way more and more, until…Until he started showing up in my dreams.

When Justin first started showing up in my dreams, I didn’t really know what to make of it. I would wake up and start crying with tears of mixed emotions. I was happy in one way because I got to hear his voice and spend time with him. And of course I was sad because I would wake up and realize that it was just a dream and he really wasn’t around. After he started to come around in my dreams more and more, I was really starting to enjoy it. I was also flattered that he chose my brain to come into. Poor Justin! Haha. The dreams were pretty fun too and lucid in nature. We would smoke cigarettes, debate topics of science, play video games, and all the fun stuff we used to do as friends. When he told me goodbye at the end of the dreams, I knew it wasn’t for good. I always looked forward to the next dream.

After a couple years of Justin regularly visiting my dreams, he broke the news to me that he wouldn’t be able to visit me for awhile. I didn’t question it, but this news broke my heart. Side note, I usually don’t remember my dreams when I’m drunk but I remembered this one. I remember distinctly because it was Thanksgiving the next day and I woke up in tears of devastation. Once he broke that news, I hadn’t seen him in almost a year. I didn’t see him again until I got engaged. A few days later, guess who showed back up? I remember being so elated to see him. I also remember that whole dream he was hitting on me and kept trying to get me to fool around with him. When I told him to back off, he would laugh and say, “Yeah I know. You’re going to be a married woman. In all seriousness, congratulations. I am happy for you.” And then things were back to normal. Well, my normal. He was coming into my dreams again and I was so happy.

Sadly, I haven’t seen Justin in my dreams in almost a year now. The last time I saw him was the night before my wedding. I don’t know whether it was related to me getting married or not, but he had explained to me that this was the last I was going to see of him for good. I’ve never told anyone this other than my sister for the first time this morning. But let me tell you, what a strange mix of emotions I was feeling when I woke up. I was grieving all over again yet super excited to be marrying my best friend and the love of my life. But can you see why I didn’t mention this to anyone? The timing was really strange and didn’t want to make it seem like I had doubts of marrying Arlo or that I was secretly in love with another man.

Yes, I am happily married. But do I still grieve and miss Justin? Absolutely. What pains me the most is that I’m having more trouble picturing his face or the sound of his voice. From time to time I also think about what he would be up to in life if he was still alive. In a sense, I’m grateful that he’s not around for all this coronavirus shit.

I have to say, I do feel a lot better now that I have written this. I should have done this four and a half years ago. I hope that by writing this I have helped people realize the beauty and the therapy of writing in order to hash out grief. Time does not heal all wounds, our grief will never go away. But at the end of the day, you still have to face it and cope with it in a healthy way. Goodbye Justin, we all love and miss you dearly.