missing my friend three years later

It’s been exactly three years since one of my favorite people in the world lost his battle with cancer. Since I’ve posted about him many times in the past, I won’t bother to refresh your memories as to who he was, except to say he was my boss for almost two decades, only so much more. He was my closest friend for about ten of those years and probably the person with whom I spent the most time since we worked and had lunch together nearly every day. He was the person who made me laugh more than anyone else. He brought out the best in me, but accepted the worst in me. He was my sounding board, my words of wisdom when I needed them, a frequent shoulder to cry on, my figurative GPS when I lost my way, and my confidence when I struggled to feel worthy. His friendship changed my life and his death brought me to my knees.

I’d never experienced loss like this before and I had no idea what to expect. In all honesty, I never gave it much thought. Grief isn’t something that can be anticipated or prepared for until you’re immersed in it and by then, it’s too late. I legitimately never imagined a time when Alan wouldn’t be around, and so it never even occurred to me to gauge how long it would take to go on with my life without the near constant yearning to see him, talk to him, laugh with him, and simply exist on the same plane. I’ve read many books where a character loses someone she loves whether a parent, spouse, lover, sibling, or friend. Typically, the character is an emotional mess for approximately one-to-two years before coming to terms with the loss, accepting it and moving on the best they can. At that point, they are usually able to think about the person without crying. They can embrace the good memories without breaking down and asking “why?”

Where am I in the process compared to these fictional characters? I’m not even sure. I haven’t come to terms with the loss yet. Most days, I still have to remind myself that it’s real—that he’s truly never coming back. And I continue to ask “why” on a regular basis. At the same time, I’m frequently able to summon up a memory without crying. In fact, I mention his name in conversation each and every day because it brings me comfort. Usually it’s at work. My new boss, Deborah, adored Alan as well and we joke about him all the time and repeat “Alan-isms” often. I’m unbelievably thankful for those moments when we laugh about him (and sometimes “at” him) and grateful Deborah and I are in this together. His picture is in both our offices and we’ll point at it and say, “Isn’t that right, Alan?” or “Do you agree, Alan” and then we’ll predict what he would have said in response. These moments make me smile, but they also leave a lump in my belly and an ache in my heart when I remember (again) that he’s not really there. He’s not going to jump out of the wall and say, “It’s not a matter of if you’ll make a mistake. It’s a matter of when,” so we just have to say it for him.

I still think about him numerous times throughout the day, but I’m able to focus completely on my work, my writing, and whatever other activities I’m engaging in (exercising, socializing, marketing, reading, dating etc.). I couldn’t do this when he first passed away. At the same time, something will frequently be said that will drive my thoughts to him. For example, a phrase will be uttered that he used to say, or a memory will pop into my head, or a venue will be mentioned where we went together—it doesn’t take much. It’s anyone’s guess whether the memory will warm my heart or fill it with the familiar pain.

Random things make me sad. I wrote four books before he died. I’m writing my eighth now, which means at some point soon, I’ll have written more books after he died than I did while he was alive. That hurts even though I’m certain he’s proud of me and wouldn’t want it any other way. He bought me many electronic devices as birthday gifts. They all have a limited shelf life. Once they all break or have been upgraded, I won’t be able to say “Alan bought this for me.” I hate this for reasons that having nothing to do with buying my own devices!

Before he passed away, we texted to a ridiculous degree. Nearly every random thought in my head was shared with him because I knew he’d “get” it. If I was waiting in a doctor’s office and bored, I sent him a text. If I witnessed something funny, did something stupid, or just had time on my hands, I texted him. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself when he was gone. I hadn’t a clue where to put those thoughts. Of course, I have other friends, but the esoteric nonsense we exchanged was so particular to our friendship. My solution was to write him notes on my phone just to get the thoughts out. I still write him notes, but with much less frequency. Rather than several a day, I can go entire months without doing it now. And then sometimes I’ll send three in a week again. But I’ve learned to live without communicating with him constantly. (I do talk to him sometimes and, no, he doesn’t respond…at least not the way he used to.)

Two years ago, I posed the question whether grief was a process with a beginning, middle and end or if it was a permanent condition. From my own experience three years in, it’s permanent. The severity varies from day to day, week to week, and sometimes month to month, but it’s always there. I can’t hear about someone else’s loss of a loved one without acknowledging my own ongoing pain. I know what these people are in for and my heart breaks all over again—for them and for me. I feel their loss deep in my gut because I know it’s an ache that doesn’t really have an end.

I might not have come to terms with Alan’s death, but I have accepted that I’m never going to wake up one day and no longer miss him. I’m not really sure where that leaves me, but to borrow one of his favorite phrases, “it is what it is.”

photo (5)

My late, great best friend and boss of almost two-decades. I miss him every day!

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Comments

  1. Meredith, you were very fortunate to have such a dear friend. Last week was 3 years since my mom died. I still talk to her and miss our long phone calls each weekend. Because we lived a thousand miles apart, I wasn’t used to seeing her each day. So some days my mind will think, wonder what Mom is doing?… in the kitchen fixing dinner?… watching her shows? Then I immediately remember and it still hurts. Seems like yesterday I got the call yet feels like forever since we talked. I still have bad days or moments.

    Thinking of you. Cherish your memories. Its all we can do. Hugs.

    • It’s crazy how we can momentarily forget they’re gone!

      You’re so right about cherishing the memories. I really do. I just wish we’d had time to make more. I’m sure you know what I mean. Thank you for your comment – thinking of you, too.

  2. I’m sorry to hear you are still in so much pain. The grieving process is different for everyone–it depends on your relationship, whether you’ve been through grief before and so many other factors. It took me four years to come to terms with my best friend’s death. I stopped traveling –one of my biggest passions–because he died while I was on vacation and I missed the funeral. Then two things happened. A former coworker asked me why I stopped traveling. She hugged me and said, I’m sure he’s watching down on you begging you to live your life and be happy and not let his death stop you from continuing to live. It shook me to the core! I also went for a psychic reading and he came through. She told me things about him no one could have known, like what I said to him while I was sitting at his grave by myself.

    I could point to those instances as healing me but I think at that point, I was ready for acceptance.

    You will get to acceptance too. It doesn’t mean you ever stop missing Alan, is means you accept the loss. I still go to my friend’s grave every year for his birthday like clockwork. And no one has ever taken his place as my “big brother”. I talk to him now without crying and I smile and laugh and tell him about my life. And I travel twice a year 🙂

    Loss forces you to come to terms with your spiritual or religious beliefs. I am certain my friend is not really gone and he’s on my life journey with me as my guardian angel. Alan may not be here physically but he has never left you. He knows about your life and is guiding and loving you from the other side. He doesn’t want you to feel pain or never get over the grief. He wants you to be happy and live the best life you can 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience, Elke. You always make me feel better!! Sometimes I worry that I don’t want to accept it because it means I’m letting go. But I do live my life the best I can despite missing him every moment. And I absolutely believe he’s with me from the other side. I’ve had too many experiences since he’s been gone not to. Thank you again – crack pizza soon!!

  3. A really beautiful, well-expressed post. ❤

  4. So so sorry for the grief and pain you’re still feeling. I think you’re totally right that it is a permanent state… it just feels different later. Today is the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. I don’t cry every day like I used to, but the pain is still lingering. Hugs to you because I know what you’re going through! ❤

  5. Meredith, this is exceptionally written, and though I know you so well, I feel like I now have a much deeper understanding of your pain and grief. I am so sorry. What you have been able to accomplish since Alan’s passing is astounding, and I love you so very much.

  6. Maureen9596@att.net says:

    Sorry for your Loss. This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing. I am sure that your friend is watching over you.

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