Getting Over The Death Of An Ex

You know that guy you casually dated for a few months a few years ago? That guy you really, really, really liked but you didn’t know how he felt so things just never worked out for you two? And then after things ended, you were both really awkward around each other but you always wanted another chance with him? Imagine if he died, completely unexpectedly. This is what happened to me. A guy I casually dated for a couple of months named Zack died in a car accident two months ago, and getting over him has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can’t help but think that I am obviously not the only girl who’s ever been in this situation. So how do you get over the death of someone you had a very complicated history with? Here’s my story:
Zack and I knew each other in high school and when we ran into each other a few years ago, we started talking, resulting in what should have been just a one-night stand. Instead, we eventually started hanging out again last winter. Zack had basically every quality that I was looking for in a guy: he was cute, funny, very friendly, dedicated to his work (as a martial arts instructor and fireman), and similar to me in a lot of ways. I fell for him hard, but for some reason, our casual dating never turned into anything serious. We tried the whole friends-we’ll-see-where-things-go thing, but it got awkward because I was really hurt. That feeling came out as anger and soon we stopped speaking. Zack was truly a great guy and while I know he would have been nice to me if we spoke, things were just awkward. I ignored the happy birthday I got from him on my b-day, and the very last time I saw him, I went out of my way to avoid him.
When I heard the news that Zack had died in a car accident, all I could think about was all of the things I had done wrong in the past year — how many times I had the opportunity to approach him, how many times I could have made things right. Since we had ended things I had never gone very long without thinking about him. I had feelings for him up until I met my current boyfriend. Every time I had gone to the bar we always went to together, I hoped he would be there. I had always, in the back of my mind, hoped for us to make things right one day, and I never had any doubt that we would. I had always thought I just needed to get over my feelings for him and get the guts to say I wanted to be friends with him again. As dramatic as it sounds, I really did wait too long, and now I’ll never have that chance.
This is what I’ve learned the past two months for anyone going through this the same situation:
Realize you have a right to be heartbroken. When I saw all of his ex-girlfriends at the funeral, I felt stupid for being so upset. Those girls were with him for so much longer than me, and I felt like I didn’t have the right to be as sad as I was. I now know it’s silly to think that — I can feel however I want to about Zack, regardless of the fact that we never made things official or were as close as he was to other people.
You have to think about the good things instead of focusing on the bad things. For the first few weeks, all I did was think about the arguments we had. Once I finally started letting myself remember all of the good things that I had made myself forget in trying to get over him, I realized how happy I was that we had spent time together. I had thought that remembering the cute things he said to me or how much fun I had with him would make me even more sad, but I was wrong. Focusing on my regret was what was really making me miserable.
Hold on to some things, but don’t be obsessive. At first, I couldn’t stop reading Zack’s Facebook — I read every single wall post he got after he died. Reading those were torture. You can’t let yourself get sucked into that, because when it consumes you, then you’ll never feel better. But there are some things you should never let go of — I have one of his favorite sweatshirts that he gave me, and I know I’ll never get rid of it. I also have a pair of socks he got me (it’s a cute story), and messages from him that make me smile.
Don’t keep everything inside. I usually find myself not wanting to talk about Zack, but that’s because I assume it will make me even more sad. And while it does make me sad to talk about it, it kills me to keep everything inside. Take advantage of your close friendships and tell them exactly how you feel as often as you need to — it’s hard, but in the end, it will be like a giant weight was lifted off your chest.
Find a way to apologize that will give you closure. When someone dies who you were fighting with, it’s really hard to get over because you never got to apologize or tell them how much they meant to you, and that’s all you want to do. But you need to face the reality that you will never be able to — and you need to find another way to do it. For me, it was writing a seven page letter to Zack that explained everything. Figure out a way to feel close to the person in some way and tell them how sorry you are.
Learn to forgive yourself. This is what I’ve been trying to do, and it’s extremely tough. It’s only been two months, so I’m obviously not there yet, but eventually, I hope that I will be. I’m more angry at myself then I can explain, but at the same time, I realize that the past is the past, and I’ll never be able to change it. You need to accept that you might have made a mistake, but you need to move on.
Every day is a challenge when getting over death. Little things remind me of Zack all the time, and not one day has gone by where I haven’t thought about him. Going to the bar we used to go to is nearly impossible for me to do without going home to cry. When a close friend of his told me that Zack used to say that he really liked me and really cared about me, I felt more pain than I can express. For those of you who haven’t experienced this, I hope this reminds you to always tell the people you care about you’re sorry for that stupid fight and you love them — don’t have regrets.

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