Dear Dr. Archer,
I noticed some of my trusted friends like you on facebook, so I thought I'd write. I know I have to talk about it to someone, but haven't had the time.
My boyfriend died in August from cancer. We met in November of 2008, and broke up in January of 2011. We fell madly in love, which is very rare for me; he said it was rare for him, too. It was a special time, although it was very tumultuous. When I ended it, he was devastated.
The relationship was not good; he was an alcoholic and very, very jealous to a sick degree. He was, however, very magnetic and handsome. He was a successful artist, but his life was falling apart. He was becoming abusive and I had to end it when I realized that it was not going to change.
It was wonderful to be mutually in love, so it was very sad for me to have to end it. Very, very sad. I have a daughter, and though I really loved him, it was the right thing to do. I was very careful about our time together, and he was always on good behavior around my daughter.
He mentioned that the doctors found tumors in February of 2011, but later told me they were nothing. He was sending me nasty notes, telling me all about the gorgeous women he was dating. I knew inside he was hurting, but I ignored him. He then began to beg me to come back to him.
In mid April, he found out he had less than six months to live. Of course I felt terrible that he had been sick and I was ignoring him, and that still haunts me. I didn't know!
After that, I was with him until August 2, when he died. My daughter had two weeks with her dad in the summer, and it happened to fall on the last two weeks of my boyfriend's life, so I was able to spend every day with him.
I have so much pain, anger and guilt! My phone keeps pocket dialing him, even though I don't have his number, and his name and cell phone number will appear on my caller ID. Very strange. Even my closest friends don't know what to say and I have never healed from our breakup, let alone his death, even though we were together when he died.
Maybe I just need to talk to someone to let it out. Just writing this has helped. There are so many levels to this.
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend. What you did for him tells me you are devoted to those you love, generous with both yourself and your time, selfless and truly a lovely person, inside and out.
I can understand your torment; however, I want you to look at things in a different way. Your actions reveal that you think enough of yourself to not let someone beat you down. Many will put up with abuse in the name of love, and eventually become so worn down that they have no self respect and no self worth.
And despite the love you had for this man, your daughter was your priority, which is often not the case. He may not have been abusive in front of your daughter yet, but if you would not have taken control of the situation, she most definitely would have been caught in the middle, and it would have been damaging. You got out just in time.
And lastly, despite having the opportunity to turn your back on someone who hurt you, you were there for him when he needed you most. That, J, let him know before he died that you truly loved him. What a gift.
You may be carrying pain, anger and guilt, but instead, you should be comforted, knowing you did the best you could for you, your daughter and in the end, him as well. You handled yourself perfectly, and although guilt can be a powerful part of the grieving process, you should never feel guilty for doing the right thing. And you, J, did the right thing.
I'd like for you to read a letter I received from Jennifer, a mom who lost her child. She, also, was consumed by guilt, but there are some things that we just can't control. Please read I Miss My Little Boy So Much! I Feel Like Such A Failure
; I believe you will recognize many of your feelings in Jennifer's letter, and it may help you heal.
You may also want to read After His Wife Died, Rex Is Having Regrets
. Please know that death can bring very intense emotions, because it's so final. With time, you will begin to feel better and realize you were gifts to each other for a short period of time.
Be patient, you will heal. Again, you did the right thing; there's no need to feel guilt. Every time you feel this way, hug your daughter, and understand most importantly, you did right by her.
Now, about the cell phone calls -- that is, indeed, very, very strange. There are some things in this world that cannot be explained, and as much as I hate to admit it, I really don't have all the answers.
On a practical note, make sure his number is deleted from both your contacts and call log. On a deeper note, perhaps in some way this is a message that all is well. Keep us posted, J. All the best.