Last night I walked around downtown Grand Rapids, feeling like a ghost who was haunting the city. You don’t have to die to leave your life behind; people do it all the time for different reasons. You can build up an idea of who you are, what your identity is, and have it pulled out from underneath you like the tablecloth in a cheap parlor trick. You’re left suspended in air for that brief moment before—like Wile E. Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon—you realize with horror that you’ve been defying the laws of physics. Then when you finally hit the ground, it doesn’t feel like you’ll ever get back up.
People will ask you how you’re doing. Some will mean it. Some will just be making small talk. Some will get angry that you’re not grieving the same way they would be grieving. They will think you’re making a mockery of grief, and a mockery of them. There’s no one right way to be a ghost, though. There are angry poltergeists wreaking havoc on the physical world around them. There are melancholy apparitions rattling their chains as a warning to those who would follow in their footsteps. There are ghosts who don’t know they’re ghosts until the final plot twist at the end of the movie. These are all perfectly legitimate ways to spend your new afterlife, and at different points you may be each one of those things.
What I’m getting at with these tortured analogies is that the relationship I was in for ten years is at an end, and I don’t quite know what to do with myself yet. There are the infamous five stages of grief, and I’ve been through almost all of them more than once. Denial? Check. Anger? Most definitely. Depression? You’d better believe it. I’ve even felt acceptance at times, although once you feel it that doesn’t mean it can’t go away again. The only stage I haven’t been through is bargaining, because there is legitimately nothing left to bargain for.
I won’t get into the specifics of why my ex-wife left me, because that’s her story to tell. It wasn’t malicious, though. There are no bad guys in this story. Death happens all the time, whether it’s the end of a life or the end of a relationship. All you can do is make sure you really feel it. It will hurt like hell, but it’s the only way to get through to the other side. The traditional idea of a ghost is that it’s someone who is unable to move on because of unfinished business. That’s sounds about right. I’m trying, though.