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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Crumb

The Person I Used to Be

Updated: Mar 11

Six years ago today Megan died. I didn't know, of course; not yet. No one knew until the Tuesday after. Tuesday, March 14, 2017: the worst day of my life. I can remember every detail of that day up to the point when I crumpled into a heap in the corner of my office, shattered in a way I didn't even know was possible. Somehow I drove myself home. I called the people I was supposed to. I seesawed between sobbing uncontrollably and staring into the abyss as I sat on my couch. Days later the coroner would confirm she had actually died on Friday, March 10, probably in the morning, a result of a neuron misfiring in her brain. It's very likely she was dead instantly; no suffering. Karina, her dog, licked her head over and over again, willing her to wake up. All of us were Karina.

I would probably use the term “life partner” to describe my relationship with Megan, but I don’t because that conjures up romantic relationships for most people and I do not have the energy to try and explain how much she meant to me while also trying to explain that not everything has to fit into our stupid, neat little boxes of how we want to categorize people. To this day, even six years on, I still don't have a name for my pain; a way to describe it to others who want to put it in that neat little box. We all understand death of a spouse – hell, we even have a word we call those people. We have a word we call children who lose their parents. We don’t have a word for those who lose their best friends. We have very little in the way of grief resources or acknowledgement that the loss of a friend to some (many?) is just as devastating as the loss of a spouse or a family member. We don’t seem to have the capacity to understand that the term “soulmate” just might mean something other than blood or romantic connection. Just as no two people are the same, nor are any two types of relationships, no matter what we call them. All grief is grief; none more devastating than another.

One of the most beautiful conversations about grief, in all its glorious discomfort, is that between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert. They discuss how the death of someone inherently changes you, makes you a different and better person, but the sick irony of it is that you cannot share who you've become with the one person you want to because they're dead. There's the before you: the person you used to be; and the after you: the person you are now.

The person I used to be did not have to consider trying to explain her relationship with Megan, she just got the pure joy of experiencing it. The person I used to be did not have to give a eulogy – two, actually – at the age of 33. She didn't have to think about how grief moved into her body on March 14, uninvited, and stayed for an indeterminate amount of time, long after she'd worn out her welcome. The person I used to be did not know anything could be this painful. She did not know that there would be a time when all of life’s joys would no longer feel like joy and the indescribable fear that the day Megan died, so did part of her soul. She did not know that when you lose someone you will feel as though there is an elephant sitting on your chest, restricting your breathing and keeping your shattered heart from trying to put itself back together again.

However, the person I used to be also did not know that a sense of purpose could be constructed from all this. She didn’t know that there was a difference between moving on and moving forward, until she was forced to move forward. I will never move on from Megan – she will be with me forever – but over these past years I have figured out how I can allow my body, my brain, and my heart to grow and stretch and learn to accommodate

this new reality. I learned to redefine my limits to create a space where I can love Megan even in her absence.

I still think often of some advice a friend gave me soon after Megan's death. He's a gem of a human, a contradiction of terms in all the best ways. He lost his mother a number of years before I had met him, a loss that was extraordinarily devastating for him. When I saw him for the first time after Megan died he hugged me and said: “The thing about losing someone is that it sucks, for a really long time. And then one day, it sucks less.” He's not wrong.

We love forever, which means we grieve forever. But I am delighted to report that it's true - one day it stops sucking as much. Grief evolves, slowly, but it does. It evolves from what was a gut-wrenching sob that keeps you from getting out of bed in the morning to a happy nostalgia that can bring peaceful tears to an otherwise painful memory.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

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