My Ex-Boyfriend Died Before I Could Get Closure

I mourned my failed relationship — and then I had to mourn him.

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The message popped up on Facebook on a Saturday afternoon. "Hey Becca, please call me, it's important." 

Immediately my heart started hammering in my chest and I tasted metal in my mouth. The message was from the best friend of my ex-boyfriend, and I knew before I picked up the phone and made the call that something awful must have happened. 

Seconds later, those feelings were confirmed. 

My ex, my fun-loving, fitness-obsessed ex was dead. He was only 32. 


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A million questions, rational and not, flooded my head: What the hell? Are you serious? Is he okay, though? What about his cats? Where is he being buried? Is his family here?  Will there be a service? Who was with him? Was he in pain? Did he know what was happening? Was he scared?

But my heart wouldn't let me ask any of them. 

Because why ask a question when the truth immediately overpowered them all: He was dead, and nothing was going to bring him back. 

I found out a little bit more over the next few days while I tried to process the loss.


After working out (as usual for him on a Friday), he went to hang out with some friends. He then suffered a massive heart attack brought on by a congenital heart condition with no symptoms.

There was nothing anyone could've done. It was one of those things, one of those unthinkable, irreversible things. 

For the better part of a year, this man was a big part of my life. I fell for him, I fell pretty hard, and since he had just moved to New York and just gotten out of a serious relationship, his feelings for me weren't as intense, weren't as sure, and this is ultimately what led to our breakup. 

I have dated some truly awful men, and after our breakup, I always talked about Feliks (because that was his name, the name I said I wasn't going to write down because for whatever reason seeing his name written out has this terrible effect of turning me into a sobbing pile of goo these days) with pride. 


Because he wasn't awful. Because we just wanted different things. Because he was smart and kind and funny, and yeah, he tugged me around a little bit, but when it mattered, he was there. 

Regrets are pointless and evil. They are also insidious. They slip into your brain and threaten to eat up all of your good memories, replacing them with revised thoughts of the past.

Instead of all the times we laughed and cuddled and goofed around regret has tried to make me fixate on the tears I cried on the subway home the night we broke up, or the time I spotted him at a restaurant in my neighborhood, got drunk with a friend and passive-aggressively texted about him because I was a butt. 

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I wasn't a good ex-girlfriend. I was hurt and disappointed. 

I asked him to give me time and to give me space, and he did that. 

I just didn't think that time and space would extend into infinity, and, thanks to death, it has. 

Grief is weird and unique to each person experiencing it.

Mine started with a feeling of guilt: There are so many people who knew him better, who loved him for longer. I am not entitled to this sadness and disbelief weighing down my wings. 

I finally shared this with a mutual friend of his who said it best and said it simply: "You are just as entitled to mourn him as was anyone who loved him."

I think of spooning up together in bed, a cat purring at our heads and then realize that that time isn't just over, it's relegated to a dark, nothing place. I cannot go back there. It doesn't exist anymore. 


I think it might be too soon for me to write about this in a final way, the way you read so many other women on the internet writing about grief. They've all got beginnings and middles and ends, and I can't see wrapping this up neatly and leaving a moral for the reader. Nothing other than "loss is hard". It's hard when you lose someone the first time, and that loss just makes the second one, the real one, the permanent darkness of the ultimate loss even more difficult. 

Maybe this is an essay about regret, about how heartsick I am that we never reconnected as the friends we could have been, and how that was partially my fault. 

But even that's not true.

During the holidays, we started talking again, just a little bit. I turned to him when my cat died, and the very last text message I received from him was advice on how to deal with a loss.


He texted me: "Of course. What sucks is there is no real normal, but you do move on. The first week is basically the hardest — when the absence is visible."

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He was right. 


There are things your heart and mind will never be in concert over. The death of someone you love, whatever state that relationship was in at the time of their death, is one of those things.

I have days where my brain understands that he is dead and days where it doesn't. I have days where my heart understands it and days where it doesn't. These days don't ever align, except for maybe brief instances and those are the moments where I falter and fall to my knees, felled by the immeasurable power of loss.

I have lost friends before, too young. I have lost family. It doesn't get easier. It doesn't prepare you. But it does change you.

I am aware that I have to work a little harder to open myself up to other people. I am aware that my smile is not as easy. I do not walk around with a cloud over my head, instead, I have a small storm inside my heart, raging against the things that should not be, and the hurts that we cannot possibly survive but we do survive. 


Sometimes, every so often, there is quiet in that storm, and that is where I would like to keep Feliks. I would like for him to be in the quiet place in my heart, that remembers, accepts, regrets nothing, and loves. 

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is an editor, freelance writer, former Senior Staff Writer for YourTango, and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek. Her bylines have appeared in Fatherly, Gizmodo, Yahoo Life, Jezebel, Apartment Therapy, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, SheKnows, and many others.