Do NOT go to social events where he is expected.
My ex and I were invited to this baby shower weeks before. The couple attended our church. The mother was a woman I’d known since elementary school; my ex and the father got along really well. So we responded that we’d be in attendance.
That morning, I questioned whether going would be good for me. My mom insisted it’d be a needed distraction because I’d be around friends, and have a little downtime without my daughter. My mom even bought a gift for me to take since I had no money. So after crying through most of the morning’s church service, I went to the baby shower.
I arrived at the park on time. I blotted my face in my car mirror, gave myself a quick pep talk, and slowly walked toward the party. As I found a place to sit, I quietly greeted the people I recognized, not stopping long enough to have a real conversation. Since none of my close friends had arrived yet, I sat near the party, but by myself. I was already fighting back the tears. Everything was a reminder.
Oh, they have macaroni and cheese. He loves macaroni and cheese. Oh, and they made it with real cheese. He’d be in seventh heaven.
Look how tidy this park is, and how close the parking is to the playground. He’d have loved that efficiency.
Oh the weather isn’t too hot, nor too cold. This would have been perfect because he hates being hot or cold.”
This was going to be a mess.
Thankfully, a few minutes later, two of my close friends arrived. One of them, K, had only a vague idea of what had happened. I hadn’t told her in detail because she had a newborn and toddler at home that she was reasonably preoccupied with; I didn’t want to burden her. The other, A, was one of the friends who had shown up the prior day to comfort me.
K and her husband came to sit with me. They searched my face, trying to gauge how I was feeling. I gave them a weak smile and asked how they were. They humored me by answering. But ultimately, being concerned about me, they wanted more information about my ex’s whereabouts. As we sat on the bench at the party, I started to quietly tell her what happened. And that, my dear friends, opened the floodgates.
At first, I was just quietly sniffling, with a little tear here and a little tear there. I had sunglasses on, so that was okay, right? Wrong! Because as I continued speaking, all the sorrow and confusion came back. I was heaving and gasping and full on crying. At the sight of that, A tiptoed over to us and encouraged us to step away from the party to talk so that I didn’t make a spectacle of myself.
We walked over to the park’s playground, while I dabbed my face with my now foundation stained tissue (because apparently, I thought I’d only need one square of Kleenex). I gave her an account of the prior day’s events. She asked questions to help process it; she listened, and she comforted. The more I talked, the more calmly she listened, the less I cried. So eventually, we rejoined the party. We made plates of food and ate together. I played with her children and talked with her husband.
But as more people began to arrive, more people began to ask where he was. And it became too much. I was okay telling my close friend where he was and what had happened. But I was not comfortable yet telling acquaintances. I had to get out of there. So I thanked the host, congratulated the mother and father, and sped away.
Everyone processes things differently. I found that I had not processed or mourned what had happened enough to go to these types of events just yet. People are going to ask because it’s a common question once you become part of a duo. As a private person, I want people to only know what they need to. So answering that question required deliberation. And I was still too traumatized to do that. If you’re like me (emotional, private, and even socially anxious), maybe wait a week or two or thirty before going to special or social outings where that question will need to be answered… repeatedly.
Did you avoid social events? Are you still avoiding them?