Archive for June, 2016


My ex-husband is dead.  He died 18 months ago but I didn’t find out about it until last week.  Strangely, I had thought about him, something I hadn’t done very often anymore, unlike the years right after our divorce.  Funny also, that my present husband, Mitch, asked me that evening if I ever thought about Gregg.  I told him I did sometimes and I had thought about him just that day.  I confessed that a few years ago, when I was going through a time of personal questioning, I “Googled” him and learned some interesting things about he and his siblings.  Also, I learned that his dad passed away.  Mitch decided to check him out online, another odd thing.  Mitch told me to brace myself, that he thought Gregg died.  Gregg was only 3 years older than me.  How could this be?

Since learning this, I have been completely self-centered.  I have not shed a tear.  I am not sure what to make of my emotions, but I am disturbed by them.  When we divorced, I felt that I had both ruined Gregg’s life but also freed him.  I was a strong-willed, spoiled woman that couldn’t be tamed.  However, I allowed myself to become a shell of myself in my relationship with him.  I believe that I allowed that to happen because I did not want to stand up for myself.  Ours was not a healthy relationship.  I accept responsibility for my part in that.  I do not regret divorcing Gregg.  It was the best thing for me.  Was it the best thing for him?

Gregg wanted to be a preacher, a minister.  Most denominations do not allow divorced men to become a pastor.  So, in effect, I took away that dream.  Gregg was bi-polar.  He had a psychic break and that was the event that led to our divorce.  I could not see myself being able to handle that in a relationship that I felt already turned me into a different person.  I didn’t believe that he would stay on his medication.  I asked for assurance.  He could give me none.  It was selfish of me.  But at that time, I felt beaten down and I couldn’t find the strength to help him.  I could only help myself. That haunted me for years.  But is it inconceivable to think that I could affect his future so greatly?  That the loss of me meant that his life was miserable?  Certainly not.  I don’t have that much power.  You can say I wronged him, but what happened from then on was up to him.  We either give up or we make lemons out of lemonade.  So I chose to believe that his life turned around once he was outside of my toxic environment.  We spoke once after our divorce, via phone.  I was scared.  He sought to ask forgiveness and to make amends.  Sort of like a level in a 12-step program.  I mean that with all respect.  I thought it was a good thing for him.

Now, reading between the lines of the obituary, I see that he never managed to overcome his mental illness.  “He was a man of extremes”, it said.  The family stated in lieu of flowers to donate to nami.org (National Association of Mental Illness).  He looked great in the photo attached to the obituary.  He was handsome, thin, and smiling.  I guess the smile shouldn’t have been a surprise.  I do remember him smiling much of the time.  Many people told us we were a handsome couple, but I didn’t believe them.  I don’t consider myself pretty.  We were both very overweight.  But he was handsome and clearly not overweight in that photo.  And he appeared happy.

But if he was truly happy, why did he die?  Did he develop an illness?  Did he kill himself?  What happened?  And into this thought process that should have meant feelings of sadness and compassion, I wondered, “was it my fault?”  Did I cause this?  Did I ruin his life? Did I cause his death?  Could I have saved him if I had stayed with him?  What arrogance, for me to think these things!  Probably in the grand scheme of things, I was only a minor blip.  The woman who did him wrong.  The one he could easily forget.  Or did I secretly hope that I had broken his heart completely?  That life never was the same again?  Again, I know I do not have that power, but being so selfish and arrogant, those things crossed my mind.

I was surprised when I mentioned this to an older work colleague, that she asked, “Did his family not think to let you know he died?”  That was one thought that did not pass through my head.  We did not have a good break-up.  It was fast and clean.  Kind of like amputating your foot.  Nothing left but phantom feelings of a limb.  My lack of communication with the family was brought up.  My ignorance of his illness and what to do, I regretted.  Gregg himself commented on my family’s making fun of a mentally ill member of our extended family.  I hadn’t seen it that way, but he had.  Obviously, I was not the best person to be a part of his life.  My family situation seemed to be too stressful of an environment for him.  He believed it was too stressful for me and we were planning to move away when he snapped.

Another perspective could be that he was trying to separate me from everything that I knew, a common pattern of the abusive.  I would like to state now that Gregg never hit me.  I believe his words to have been verbally abusive.  I was fearful.  When I remarried, Mitch commented about how I would flinch or cry at unexpected times.  I focused on verbal abuse until I decided that I did not want to be a victim.  I did not want to identify myself as a victim or act like a victim.  I wanted to be whole and free.  So I forgave and moved on-slowly, painfully, and with trepidation.  Yes, I looked back.  Yes, I questioned myself.  I took on strong female role models.  I tried to be fierce.  I tried to be confident.  The truth is, I am not and it is not because of Gregg.  In my innermost being I am shy, scared, and self-loathing.  The trouble is with me.  I came to that conclusion within a year of our divorce.  I remind myself of that periodically.  I allowed it to happen because I did not fight it.  “We are only victims if we allow ourselves to be.”  McCarthy Green.

So why now, after all this time, does Gregg’s death unnerve me?  Is it because he died so young?  Is it because I don’t know why he died, but am making an assumption (true or false) that he killed himself?  Is it because I lost all connection with his family and that I was not informed hurts me?  Is it because I feel responsible?  Is it because I do not know how to react?  Is it because I am curious?  (gossip)  I have not cried.  Instead I am in this strange place of not reacting, not feeling, not addressing my issues.  Should this be a time of innermost contemplation?  What should I feel?  What should I do?  Is it because he died far too young?  Or is it because someone that was an integral part of my life for 8 years is now gone and his passing leaves a hole in my life and that makes me sad?

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