A little under two years ago, I had plans to hang out with my boyfriend at the time. We had set a time to meet up around 9:30 PM. After hours of waiting, and still no response on his end, I decided to drive over to his apartment to find out what was going on. Something just didn’t feel right. I walked up the stairs and knocked on his door, called his name, waited. I turned the doorknob and it was open. I started to walk away, but half way down the steps something pulled me back and I went inside to find the body of my boyfriend–he had been murdered.
How I Was Affected
At first, I didn’t feel scared, I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t feel anything. I walked outside and collapsed by the tree outside of the apartment. Lights were everywhere, sirens were screaming, a police officer was holding me up by my arm talking in my ear. I didn’t cry, in fact I couldn’t cry, for the next few days.
The next few months were filled with fear. I was afraid to be alone. I couldn’t be in my apartment alone, walk alone, sleep alone. I spent the next three months sleeping in my best friend’s bed, only really okay to go home when the sun was shining. My sense of safety and my trust in people and the world in general had been shattered.
I was so angry, at so many things–at the people who had done this, at him, at myself–for not being able to do something more.
Once I got past the anger and shock, all I could feel was the sadness of missing someone so much. The realization that someone I had seen everyday for the past year, who I had shared intimate times and details with was not around anymore. I was scared I would forget his laugh, his smile, the conversations we had. I missed the security of feeling happy and safe. I missed the time when my biggest worry was getting my homework done on time. I felt that it had all been ripped away from me in the most brutal way. For the first time in my life I actually felt that I would never be happy again, that this experience was the end of life as I knew it, and in some ways it was.
How I Coped
The best decision I could have made was to start back at school in August, just a little over a month after the tragedy. It has always been a goal of mine to be a good student and graduate from an excellent college, so by continuing to set small goals each day with the larger goal of graduating on time, I was able to keep focused on what mattered to me most. I relied on school as a way to keep me stable, to keep my mind off of the sadness and anger. I wasn’t in denial of what had happened, and I certainly wasn’t ignoring it, but it was nice to have something to work towards. Being able to complete that first semester, and doing well, to me was a means of understanding that the tragedy had not swallowed me up completely–that I hadn’t allowed it to dictate the rest of my life.
Going back to school to continue doing what I loved allowed me to recognize not only my own strength, but also to have the support system of all my friends, who were also dealing with the loss in their own way. At first, I hated the feeling of people looking at me, because in my eyes they were all looking at me wondering if I was okay, how I was doing. I felt helpless. Accepting the help of others, but also beginning to rely on myself again was the hardest part. At some point I realized that I was going to have to make a conscious decision to be happy and accept that others wanted to help and ask how I was doing because they genuinely loved me, not out of pity or because I was weak. I would not be in the place I am today if I didn't have the support of so many around me.
Journaling was also a big help. In the times when I felt like a burden to others having my journal to sit and write in to get out whatever I was feeling, without having to rely on others was a wonderful thing. I have journaled pretty solidly for the past few years, which helped also because I was able to look back and reread memories of times we had shared together.
I was also lucky to have the help of a wonderful therapist, which I met with pretty much immediately after the death, and continue to even now. She really helped me gain an understanding of what I was going through and helped me work through everything that I could not process on my own.
Where I Am Now
Nearly two years later, I feel the happiest i’ve ever been. That is not to say that I wish it had never happened, that I wish I could rewind the past two years and erase that memory, that I could still call and talk to him. I still have overwhelming moments of anger and sadness, but they don’t consume me. I still miss him, but I can now look back on those moments we shared and smile. I can think back on that horrible night and remember, without being forced to relive it.
Mostly I feel proud. I feel proud that I was able to return to school, able to keep connections with my friends and family, and make many new ones that I will cherish forever. I took each day in the healing process one at a time, and I viewed each day as an accomplishment. Even simple things, such as taking my window air conditioning unit out by myself felt like small victories. Each task I completed on my own, or each time I was able to reach out and accept the help of others empowered me.
The tools I was forced to call upon while healing, have stuck with me to this day, and I see them affecting other parts of my life as well. I feel steady and confident about my relationships, my future, my abilities - more than I ever have before. I feel the stronger than ever before and am constantly amazed at my own and everyone surrounding me’s ability to function in the face of an unbearable tragedy. So in some ways, the death of him was the end of things as I knew it, but also the start of many wonderful things.