Blog written by Ania Grimone

Where do I begin. Today I met a man I used to love. 27 years ago he asked me to marry him and I said yes. I remember a sense of doom as I said it, rather than the elation and excitement which would normally accompany such request. I loved him. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

Little did I know it was almost the last time we spoke. What followed was a series of circumstances, some of which involved a crime committed against me, my cowardice in admitting to it, a betrayal by people I loved , who were meant to protect me but did not, lack of communication,  and our utter inability to handle something that was so beyond a scope of an ordinary 20 some year old man and a woman. Neither of us really could comprehend what was happening. We were brutally separated by circumstances left to imagine the part the other played, feeling abandoned, unworthy, betrayed and with a sense of deep longing.

But life goes on. I managed to pick myself up and continue. Create life which was  at times more or less satisfying, forging relationships, sometimes more or less intimate, I became a mom, which saved my soul. But there remained a part of my heart untouched by others. Reserved for a man I loved and lost without understanding why it had to be this way. There were years I didn’t think of him. I moved to US, I got married, had a son and a career. There were moments when I heard a name,  played tennis or saw someone’s smile when my heart would twitch, but I would stuff it behind the wall and move on.

That is, until I received an email 3 or 4 years ago with a simple name of a train route we used to take from Paris to Fontainebleau. My heart stopped. The intensity of all that I felt took my breath away. Do I dare respond? It was less about me and more about what that meant for the life I had. Would resurrecting the feeling take away from people I had in my life? Would it be a betrayal? Could I risk it?

And yet, I had to. The pain I carried with me for so long didn’t just have to do with life I didn’t get to have, it had to do with  the need to know, with a need to say “ I am sorry “ and with a need to be heard, to bring closure.

We did that. We spoke and filled the gaps in understanding and it helped. It set me on the path of healing. We spoke sometimes, joked around, gingerly shared the details of our lives and created a semblance of a friendship. Then two years ago I went back home and we decided to meet. I was a no show. I ran. Again. I could not bear meeting with the past. He was hurt, but shortly we settled into the rhythm of short check ins, texts and assurances that we still occupied each other thoughts.

Fast forward two years and we finally met. I had no expectations and yet I hoped that we would spend an afternoon laughing, reminiscing the good times, walking on the beach and… not sure what else.

What I did not expect was an avalanche of feelings. I felt shy of the initial  scrutiny. I know he felt the same. The hesitant, awkward moments when we compare the image we carry in our hearts to this person standing in front of us, ravaged by time and life, triumphs and sorrows. The unexpected surge of tenderness. The moment when you see the stranger in front of you, but you are able to look beyond the changed body and hints of cynicism and see the person that you once knew. The same man I loved, at the same time altered beyond recognition. The paroxysm of feelings competed for a place up front and center in my heart. Feelings which I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but promptly hid behind a polite smile.

The meeting was at once satisfying and deeply disappointing. It felt like a funeral of sorts. A true end of an era. And I realized again that this was grief. When you must let go of that which you cherish, because there is no other way. When the truth and the finality has finally hit you and you feel the gut wrenching sadness, the loss,  the injustice, the helplessness, and the choking red white rage.

And your heart breaks and the wall you constructed falls with it. And you realize that there is nothing left that needs protection and safe keeping. I feel so utterly vulnerable and exposed. I feel like I am walking through a rubble, looking for keepsakes, but those too are buried.

So what now? Grief takes time, but in the midst of it, I know I have a choice. I can chose what  I will cherish and bring with me as I move forward with my reconstructed heart. What will I use to strengthen me, to inform me, to empower me, to enlighten me and to weave into my life from this point on?

I must also chose what I will leave behind. Willingly, courageously, intentionally, so it will no longer hinder me and make me give only part of myself to the ones willing to love me now.

I feel that as I burry the past, I myself am rising from the dead. And with every wave or pain and regret I get to strengthen my resolve to not let the past rob me of what is yet to come.