The ‘What If?’ Factor


Recently I had another birthday and I’m now officially smack dab in the middle of my 50’s. It’s been an interesting decade, thus far. And, of course, in a few months I’ll put another imaginary ‘tick’ on the imaginary calendar in my head and write- Brian 6-years died by Suicide.

It’s not that I’m worried I’ll forget about it, but for some odd reason those who have been through complex grief, tend to measure time, going forward, with references back to the traumatic grief (be it a death, divorce, breakup…etc.). It’s as of time was different before the trauma. And well, it was.

So, this year (6-years since Bri flew our earthly plain) I started thinking about life a little differently. I started wondering what my life would have been like, who I’d be and where I’d be if I’d never met him. It’s not that I’m regretting it, but let’s be honest, I was a very different person before the whole Brian episode, and I emerged a whole new person afterwards.

Let’s rewind 6-years and 3 months, shall we?

It’s January of 2015. I’d just been dumped (via text no less) by a guy that I’d just spent (hard earned) cash on for a Christmas/present trip to the West Coast of Vancouver Island to go storm watching. I paid for the hotel/ferry/food, etc. To be fair, he did drive, so there’s that. I also made him buy me lunch on the way back; he never would have volunteered so I simply told him this is what was going to happen. Yeah, I was being a bit bitchy, but I was also being taken advantage of by someone who chose to earn just barely above minimum wage because he wanted to be a ‘minimalist’.

If you’d seen his apartment, he was anything but. He was a hoarder and a bit of a jerk. Okay, he was a giant jerk and on New Year’s Eve ditched me with a cryptic text. I wasn’t even upset, just relieved. Moving on, then…

Despite getting dumped on the last day of 2014, I was really in a good place in my life and had all of my ducks in a row. I was in good shape for 49, I was debt free, and I was making some decent money in my job which I really liked. All in all, I was happy just being me. There were cool hobbies that kept me busy, I had my cat Zephyr (best kitty EVER), a really nice place to live and I was even saving money to buy my own condo.

Life was good! Then I met Brian, and nothing was the same ever again – but that’s another story that you’ll find in lots of older blog posts.

So – had I carried on and maybe not even dated…just hung out with me/myself and Z (the cat), where would I be today? I certainly wouldn’t have become a Life Coach because that had never crossed my mind; I didn’t even know what a Life Coach did and had never heard of it. You can cross out life counselling too and if you’d have told me that this would be something I’d love doing, I would have informed you that you’re very mistaken.

There is a lot of:

~maybe this would have happened…

~or perhaps I’d have met this kind of person …

~and what if I’d really buckled down and went into a whole new direction…what would that look like, today?

These are great questions and as I ponder them, the sky is really the limit. I had a plan, you see. Well, I sort of had a plan, but it was a good one! I was starting to write this sitcom about online dating. Brian and I worked on it a little bit, but I actually started it about half a year before and it had a great plot! It was also really funny. Think ‘Friends’ (but not roommates) with the twist of online dating. I had 7 people who were infinitely different but who’s lives intertwined in the most interesting way. All of them were single (some had previously dated or even been married) and all of them would hang out about once a week to talk about their dating woes. Online dating, of course.

These characters had dimension, real problems and challenges – heartbreak/ache and they were diverse in ethnicity and interests. It wasn’t just fluff and silliness.

I felt that I had a lot of experience in the dating department, and I had some great stories to tell that I could incorporate into my seriously awesome characters. I mean, nearly every single person alive in North America has had ‘some’ experience with online dating. I even signed up my elderly mother several years back! She’s off it now, but there she was on a senior dating site!

My point is: people could relate and there still isn’t anything out there like this. Please don’t steal it, I still may do this. 😉

I had also started two other manuscripts (both very different) and maybe, just maybe, I would have finished them. Now, I am under no delusion that anything would be worthy of publication and I have no idea how to pitch a sitcom, but at least if I finished any of them, it would be an adventure and an accomplishment.

Then there was photography. At that time, I was seriously thinking of taking a proper course. While I would never be a wedding photographer (I have no desire to take pictures of people) I was pretty good at other things. I still am and have recently put more effort into it.

On the other side of the coin – who would I have met? Pete wasn’t looking at that point (at least I don’t think so) so I could have ended up with someone completely different, long-term. I might have even married! I kind of am (common-law) but he has no desire to march down the aisle and share his last name with me. I’m okay with that.

The one constant that I truly believe would not have changed is my current 8-5 job. Regardless of meeting Brian or not, I’d definitely still be working for the organization I’m currently with. I’m doing exactly the same job as I was 6-years ago, just with a much (MUCH) better company for more $$ and nearly zero anxiety. I love my current job but the game plan into retirement would have looked radically different had I missed that opportunity on Match.com with one Mr. B. Caffelle.

The most important change I’d have missed out on is learning to be so much more empathetic and compassionate. It’s not like I wasn’t before, but I wasn’t ‘enough’ – if you know what I mean. When I read about someone dying by suicide, I didn’t even blink. I didn’t care. It had nothing to do with me so why should I give it a second thought? Mental illness? Yeah, so what? Again, at that time – not concerned. If it wasn’t present in my life, I didn’t think about it. I’ve changed that tune, drastically and my typically judgmental self isn’t so judgmental anymore. There is a lot more inner reflection and awareness. It’s ongoing; I’m far from perfect and need to still work on a many aspects of my life.

I also learned to love someone without asking for anything in return. Brian never told me that he loved me (oddly, on his last day on earth, I believe he tried to) or showed it, and he was always apologetic that he couldn’t return my feelings for him as he was convinced his heart still belonged to his ‘ex’ girlfriend. This made things very awkward for me; what does one do in this situation when a) you’re in LOVE and b) the person you’re in love with is planning on killing himself? Had I walked, would it have made things worse or better? I’ll never know. What I did know was that I simply couldn’t leave.

When we (his best friend and former wife and I) waited with him at the hospital to be checked in to the psychiatric assessment unit – he turned to me and, said:

“Well?! How do you like me know?!”

Quietly and shyly, I answered: “I love you.”

In the end, she, the ex-girlfriend – not the ex-wife, (yup it’s as complicated as it sounds) didn’t want anything to do with his heart or any other body part of his for that matter. In fact, after all of his efforts to meet up with her for what he said was to say a proper good-bye (but really secretly try to win her back) she cancelled on him and then sent him a very cold text to leave her alone and never contact her again.

Had she been interested; he’d have dumped my sorry (but cute) ass as quickly as he could have managed it. Probably in an email. And that, would have been that. If she’d still been with him today, he may very well be alive – but his suicide ideation went far beyond this woman so I’m certain that it would have surfaced again, just in another form and for a different reason.

I lost a bit of myself during that short affair and afterwards. I don’t think I’ll ever get it back. I used to be romantic in a sweet but authentic way. Don’t misunderstand. I do love the man I’m with, but I didn’t ‘fall in love’ with him. Ever. I just felt one day that I loved him. I somehow bypassed all of the infatuation/honeymoon fun part. And now, 5+ years into a common-law marriage, I can’t even begin to wonder where I’d go looking for it. That part of me seems to be frozen in the year 2015.

I do, however, feel…settled. That’s something I’ve never felt for long. I feel settled in my work, my love life and in my future. It’s peaceful for the most part. You can’t put a price on that.

For what it’s worth, I think had I never met him, I’d still be okay at this tender age of 55. I believe I would have figured my life out, either way. My path would have headed in a new direction, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – just a different thing.

Still, this trauma I carry with me wouldn’t exist, yet I would never have experienced the bliss of post traumatic growth, either. It’s really quite something to walk out of a raging fire only to find yourself a better human being.

It has been and continues to be a journey.

Next year, I’ll mark year 7. I don’t know if I’ll feel much different but maybe, I’ll be a little lighter in spirit, a little less sad and perhaps I’ll not miss him and all of the possibilities I’ll never know (including all the ones I’d have had if I’d never met him) as much.

I’m curious about the me I would have been, now, if my life had taken a different path without Brian, but it didn’t, and here I am.

Time to continue to move forward with the life I do have – including all of the terrible and beautiful post-suicide trauma that makes me everything that I now am. Each year I let a little more go. I feel a little less devastated and somewhat more grounded.

Time does heal. But not completely; if you look the scars are very much there, yet they start to fade after a while. I am not ‘over it’ but with it. What that means is: I’m choosing to live and move forward alongside this complex grief and trauma. It’s a part of me. It’s remade me into a softer, kinder and more aware, human being.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s