How To Go On After Your Soulmate Dies
“He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began.” — Leo Tolstoy
The term “soulmate” dates all the way back to Plato. It is a generic word for a close loved one. But the phrase soulmate itself was first recorded in 1822, when the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in a letter, “To be happy in Married Life . . . you must have a Soul-mate.” In today’s vernacular, the word soulmate has come to assume a much more intimate nature. A 2016 soulmate is a more mystical co-mingling of heart and soul into a “twin flame.” Those who are soulmates today are destined to be together for eternity.
Peter and I always felt we were each other’s missing half. It was as if we were pieces of a puzzle that had come together and fit perfectly. Peter was the mirror to my soul. He was the person who was my cheerleader. He wanted me to succeed and I, in turn, wanted him to flourish. We were one organism that functioned as an integrated unit. He was the key to my lock and I gave him the key to my chastity belt. (I had to inject some humor since the tears were wetting my keyboard.) We felt safe in our love and we allowed each other to function at a level of honesty and honor without pretenses. We attained a level of comfort and security that gave us a safety net that not many couples share. We were inseparable companions enjoying our daily rituals of check-in phone calls and texts and anticipating when we would be home to share stories of our day. It was our verbal ablutions and we cherished them daily. We desperately wanted to grow old together and keep our life rhythm pulsing. We both felt privileged to have shared such a rare intimacy and kindness toward each other. We felt grateful to share a sense of humor and perseverance about life. We were truly soulmates.
It is said to lose a parent is to lose the past. To lose a child is to lose the future. To lose a spouse, is to lose the present. I feel as if I have been robbed. Something irreplaceably valuable has been stolen from me. I have lost my present with the death of my soulmate and the grief is dreadfully painful. I feel as if a limb has been amputated. Part of me has been torn away and I am flailing to find a sense of equilibrium and right myself to move forward without crashing. It is the most heart-wrenching experience of my life, and by the nature of its overwhelming power made me question whether I wanted to go on. The dilemma of losing a part of you is that your relationship has been abruptly severed, and you are left to sift through the emotional debris and extract your self from your missing coupledom.
My grief is a byproduct of the intense love I shared with Peter. We were lucky to have found each other and shared a whole lifetime together. To quote Jules Styne in his musical Funny Girl:
“Lovers are very special people.
They’re the luckiest people in the world.
With one person, one very special person.
A feeling deep in your soul,
Says you are half now you’re whole.
No more hunger and thirst,
But first be a person who needs people.
People who need people,
Are the luckiest people in the world.”
After Peter died, I felt that my whole was diminished to half. My “other half,” my “better half,” was suddenly gone and part of something attached to me died too. The couple that we were, was completely gone. I had to decide if my life was now half empty or half full. In the beginning, I was emptied out of all feeling. I was mourning the couple we were and the empty half I had become. I was insecure in my decisions. My confidence was shot and I felt inadequate to face the future. I lost my unconditional best friend and partner who shared my confidences and my feelings. I was bereft of that champion and I flailed around for many months in insecurity and self-doubt.
But as time moved on I knew I had to restore my view to “my life is half full, not half empty.” I hoped that if I changed my attitude to my life as half full, I could begin filling up the half of my life that was unfulfilled. It gave me the room for expansion and growth and looking toward a new beginning in my life.
I began to assess my attributes and took stock of the inventory of my soul. I strived to find the best me that I could view so that I could become whole in my own company. I had to stop swooning at the Hollywood sentiment in Jerry McGuire’s “you complete me!” Peter and I did complete each other. I had to turn this phrase upside down and find the real me who would be enough to satisfy and complete me on my own.
But I know for the sake of my family and friends I must find a life without Peter. I must find a safe haven through my mourning process. Mourning is the driving force that makes the journey of grief move forward. I vow to remain in the pain of grief long enough, but not a day longer than necessary. But I also vow to stay in the process of grief for not a day less than I need. The only way I can adapt to my new life is to heal from the inside out.