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Valentine's Day: On love and loss

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Reflections on love written by WAY member Catherine on Valentine’s Day...

I recently read an article claiming that we only really experience three types of love in our lifetimes: a first ‘idealist’ love which we try to make conform to a fairytale; a more realist ‘we will do anything to make it work love’ in which we seek to turn a blind eye to the lows, because we know the highs are so much better than what we had previously; and the ‘knock you off your feet because it’s so right’ love...

Although I was unfortunate enough to have experienced the idealist love in my past, the arrival of Allan in my life meant I bypassed all the heartache which accompanies ‘realistic’ love and skipped straight to the intoxicating intensity of an assured love that I knew would dominate the rest of my life.

From the very first instant Allan entered my world it was as if a whole new dimension had been unlocked: It was as if everything I had previously mistaken love to be was an illusion because all of a sudden I had an new appreciation of what love really was and it was beyond anything I could have imagined. I think Bob Marley commented on the nature of this type of love when he said,

Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you have never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more… You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are.”

I used to be greatly comforted by the notion of the depth, intensity and infinite nature of true love that can exist between a man and a woman because with the discovery of Allan, I had found it. I had absolute certainty that nothing could undermine or threaten the nature of our love because it seemed that I had found the holy grail of relationships, and with us both having experienced ‘lesser’ love in the past, we were wise enough to guard it to ensure that nothing would threaten the nature of what we had found in each other.

“I don’t think there is anything in this world that can prepare you for the sharp contrast of when death means that all the love you once had for someone suddenly has nowhere to go.”

Being in love is such an intoxicating experience: every time Allan even so much as glanced in my direction, neither of us could help but respond to the connection between us with a smile; there was never any danger of going to bed angry because we knew the power of effective communication and no matter what circumstances we faced we seemed able to use humour to navigate our way through any issues: Laughter seemed to punctuate so much of our time together and with the ready-smiles and with the effortless laughter and affection that emanated from our togetherness we just knew that the beauty of what we had would keep us together for the rest of our lives. What neither of us envisaged though was how death would seek to challenge these notions….

Seven years, one month and thirteen days after we first got together, Allan died in a road traffic collision when a driver turned right into his path as Allan was cycling his usual route home through a local tourist destination.

I don’t think there is anything in this world that can prepare you for the sharp contrast of when death means that all the love you once had for someone suddenly has nowhere to go. It is widely accepted that the price of love is grief and it has taken me many months to be able to come to terms with how grief has changed the very essence of who I am.

Whereas once, long ago, the certainty of my love for Allan (and his love for me) would have permeated  the very fabric of my day providing me with countless opportunities for me think of him and smile, now I have just as many occasions when my thoughts turn to Allan and I try my best not to cry: Although in the past I may have been able to commandeer conversations by recounting the many sweet things Allan did which demonstrated his love for me, people aren’t quite so indulgent in hearing about the instances in which my day-to-day life still reminds me about my now deceased partner.

There was no deterioration of the relationship I had with Allan, no reason why my love for him should have ceased, and yet even mentioning his name these days can cause furtive glances between listeners and the general disapproval that I am somehow broken in some way because I have not yet ‘moved on’.

Allan died when I was thirty-seven so I can somehow understand how concerned family and friends may feel that with half a lifetime still in front of me I was young enough to somehow contemplate a future with a different love. When I myself consider the prospect of nearly forty years ahead, which now will provide a huge chasm of aching loneliness and grief, I understand their concern: believe me it is not a prospect I relish. However Allan is not and never will be replaceable. No matter what age I would have been when Allan died, it would not ever change the nature of what we had in our relationship or the consequences of what death has done. I understand that episodes of your life can be likened to a series of chapters in a story and that my life isn’t over yet. What I am still trying to come to terms with though is how Allan only seemed to be a chapter of my life when I wanted him to be the whole story. And that is not a comfortable sentiment to come to terms with.

My love with Allan was all consuming in the nature of what it was and how secure it made me feel:- how could having a person by your side who believed in you and championed everything you ever did not be transformative? He was interested in me and what I had to say and even if his opinion differed, he respected me enough to be mindful of these differences and sensitive in the way he expressed contrary views. Although we had the strength of relationship for him to challenge me when needed, he also had the understanding of my character to know just how to do this without undermining me. And his presence by my side filled every moment with him with such deep contentment and happiness that now my days feel empty and devoid of purpose. I ache with loneliness and time expands with such bleak menace now Allan isn’t here to share my life, but I struggle to know quite how I am meant to respond now he is not here?

If Bob Marley’s words are to be believed then only once in my lifetime will I be fortunate enough to have anything close to what I had with Allan and if the love I had with Allan is the very epitome of what love can be does that then mean that from now on if I do chose to let a new partner come into my life I will somehow have to accept a love that is second rate? How can I ever expect any future relationship to compare and is there any possibility that a potentially new love interest would be happy to enter my life in the knowledge that although Allan died the love I have for him did not and that I still regard the love I had with Allan to be the greatest love I have ever experienced. There is also the small matter of the fact that had fate not somehow intervened then Allan and I would still be together to this day.

Valentines is a very tricky concept to contemplate right now… I feel isolated enough from the world without everywhere being littered with references to how lovely it is to be in love. I know the truth of this and I and don’t begrudge anyone who is lucky enough to still have the person they love by their side I just wish it was me. I miss my love.