It is December and this always leads to the ALL important hunt for Great Christmas Light displays. I remember a house a group of us went to over 10 years ago, but I haven’t been back to it in years, so I asked a friend if she remembered WHERE it was. After a series of back and forth texts, she sent me the location, I saved it in my phone and in my mind this was complete. And then she sent me this text, “We also took Josh there.” And without a blink of an eye I fell off an emotional cliff into a pile of grief.
I have discussed Josh’s suicide with the friends who knew him, I have privately written about how much I miss him, and I have processed his death in counseling; so I truly believed I was DONE with feeling the HARD feelings. Then I have an instance like this one, that comes out of no where and leaves me emotionally raw. This time it sparked instant anger. I have been doing food delivery for the last 5 months and I have had an AMAZING amount of time to process other things emotionally while driving. Since I am in this journey of feeling the feelings I had to spend some time between deliveries asking the hard questions.
What’s going on? Why is this feeling so intense? Why did this surprise me? Why am I angry? What am I feeling? What is the connection?
In the grief class, they talk about honoring the person’s memory, but accepting that things will never go back to how they were before the loss. So I started to think about my friendship with Josh. How we became friends, what we talked about, what we did together.
Then I began to think about the last time I saw him. And that brought the tears because I had a genuine care for him that was deeper than most. I wasn’t aware enough to recognize the difference between romantic love and a deep intimate friendship love. So when I saw him for the first time in 4 weeks (I had been on a work trip), my heart swelled, my face lit up, and I desperately wanted a hug. In that embrace I said, “I missed you…” but in that moment I felt a deep revealing vulnerability that embarrassed me. So I quickly attached the word “guys”. I have been protecting myself from being really vulnerable with someone ANYONE for years and it is a habit that dies a hard slow death. So instead of telling Josh I missed him and venturing down the road of what that meant, I made it shallow and superficial. This is one of the only things I Truly regret about my relationship with Josh.
In my continued reflection on my relationship with Josh, I began to wonder if there are other relationships in my life like it. I have found if I can detect patterns it helps me make connections to feelings and potential hang ups. Determining whether there are beliefs or attitudes in my life that need adjusting.
Although I quickly realized I didn’t actually find a pattern, but rather the lack of pattern that caught my attention. I realized there wasn’t a single male friend I had been close to since Josh. No one I was truly myself with, no one I trusted, no one I felt free to talk with about anything, no one I had shared my hurts and struggles with. At least not in the way that I did with Josh and not in a way that made me feel safe and cared for.
As I arrived at this emotional realization, it became clear to me that I had done this on purpose. I had made an internal vow to never trust someone with my heart again. That I would strive to intentionally distance myself from any guy that seemed to care about me unless I knew FOR SURE that they meant it.
As a result of this internal vow, anytime I would detect ANY caring or loving feelings I would back away in fear. I would find some reason not to trust them, not to REALLY open up, not to be vulnerable around them for fear I would be hurt again. It wasn’t hurt by rejection (with which I am very experienced), but this catastrophic fear that some how I had allowed myself to care about and care for me would leave me. WOW… What an insight! What an irrational fear! What a way to live my life so separated from people who care.
I haven’t arrived at a place of knowing what to do about this revelation yet. But I know it is coming up because I have a new guy friend in my life. And I find myself constantly fighting with the want to share and the fear of the consequences of developing a deep friendship again. There is such a normal and natural comfort I have with him that I have not experienced since my friendship with Josh. So stumbling upon this realization was quite unsettling and unnerving. So much so that I needed to write it as best I could. Now to ride the emotional roller coaster that follows, including the occasional emotional hangover.