Steve K.

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Funerals for the Living
Black Cat
The amount of music produced surrounding lost love says a lot about how humans move on from broken, hurting things. I'm not sure of everyone's experience, but in a way, I use music for the same reason sometimes. I'm sure it all fits into the spectrum of grief, probably the depression stage. I never really fully thought about failed relationships passing through the stages of grief. Maybe I'm weird, but I've somehow separated friends-who-break-up from I'm-breaking-up, like one was hard, but two was easy. I could see what stage a friend was in the break-up process, and I thought I could see myself quickly through the same, but I think I was blind to it.

[Sorry if this discourse is a little morbid, but I couldn't help drawing the parallel.]

In that consideration, the end of a friendship, especially the romantic type, go through a melody of depression. The few times I've been dumped there was always a stage I went through in almost every case where I listened to depressing music. [I say few here because how few girlfriends I've had, not because I do the dumping. I really have the bad luck of being the one dumped.] We find our choice of favorite moody music at the time, and play it on repeat.

Why repeat? I would venture to say it's because we are in a state of release. We've wanted things to go on, but now realize we have to put the relationship to rest. We've tried to bargain, but despite our efforts at the negotiating table the situation hasn't changed. The exit sign is blaring and we can't resist its call any longer. We turn on the music and replay what we loved about the relationship until it doesn't hurt any more.

You might say this is the funeral of our relationship. We're reflecting on the life of the relationship and how great it was, but the crank is turning on this coffin in front of us. We're playing music that reminds us of it all, and soon we'll bury that too to be silenced until some time in the distant future.

After we get beyond that stage, hearing the songs get increasingly irritating. We turn off the music because it reminds us of the past. It's strange; we get past grieving the relationship only to begin grieving the music by which we grieved. Eventually, we finish grieving the music, and it becomes nostalgia of an old story for which we only remember the good parts. The music drew out the good parts we wanted to repeat, and puts it as a refrain at the end.

If you know anything about memory, you know we remember the beginning and the end better than all the stuff in the middle. Unless you had a really terrible experience, I'd imagine you had good memories to go along with the painful end of a relationship, and eventually you did (or will) recall that story by the good things you've gained from it. I think in this stage of depression and music we reflect on those things in a way to help us remember all the good things about it. Of course, the loss tends to overshadow the reflection we go through.

There's a reason I think this melodic concert is the funeral, the depression of our grief, and not another stage of grief.

It's not denial; we spend fully in the relationship pretending it's not actually dead. We keep on running through the motions because we don't want to believe things are over. We don't visit the hospital because we don't want to see the truth of that phone call.

It's not anger; that stage is spent coming into reality and trying to figure out what went wrong. We begin to blame ourselves or the other person for where things are today. This is before the imaginary solutions come to light. This is where we just found out that the relationship flatlined. This is where we find out the circumstances of death; not who did it, but how--the relationship detective is drawing the chalk line; who killed or wounded it, and whether they had an accomplice are still unknown.

It's not bargaining; now that we found out how it failed, we move on to the trial. We present our case to the other on what we or they could do to prevent a funeral, if the relationship is repairable, or why it is already dead. We play the "if only" and "I promise" games. If there's not a lot of hope or resolve to fix things up, it'll move to the funeral pretty quickly. The more value we place on the relationship, the longer we bargain. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it pretends to work. Until the trial is over, this is where the relationship sits until we accept a guilty plea (it's dead) or an innocent plea (it's alive).

It's not acceptance; once we get past depression, the grieving is over and we accept that the relationship died. We move on and live our lives. We start new relationships and incorporate this failure into how we live the rest of our lives.

It's clearly the depression stage. The trial is over; the doctor has given the call; the mortician has embalmed the relationship, and we're off to attend the funeral. This is where we give up and admit to ourselves that it's all over. Hopelessness comes over us and we fall into the depression of losing the relationship.

Like photo albums, the memories roll around in our head. Our friends are the insensitive, impersonal pastors who gives cheap funeral messages in vain attempts to cheer us up. The calls or texts and meet-ups with our lost love are the family who tell the good stories that make us feel a little better about what's happening.

The music we hear accompanies the memories that we repeat in our heads to cheer ourselves up. What was once "our song" is often lumped into that selection, but while "our song" was the highlight of the movie, the collection of songs we play now are the soundtrack rolling in the credits.

Sometimes the bargaining goes on so long we lose track of what's up and what's down. If you consider it a bit, a courtroom is a stale place for the end of something. We can negotiate for so long that we get tired of pouring over the evidence and arguments and papers and pictures and stories that explain why this relationship should or should not continue.

I think I've been negotiating for too long myself. I thought this thing was on the mend and things would turn out very well, a full recovery perhaps. But instead, I believe I wounded things too much and the relationship never made it past the trial and died while we tried to work things out.

I realize this now, not because the actions weren't there; the heart monitor was obviously flatlining. I realize it not because communication was silent; I think I was talking to a beautiful but lifeless face. No, I realize it because of the music.

I've spent so much time trying to negotiate this back to life that I've lost all feeling. I've been so lifeless, emotionally, that I've been waiting for someone to resuscitate my own life. It's been stretched out so far that I've reasoned that the only chance this relationship has is if she shows action toward me. Get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about behavior backing up words. You can say you want something, but you're not speaking truth until you take action. Lord knows (as do a few close friends), that I've tried over and over to look for a pulse only to get nothing in return. It's been years and some friends have given up trying to pry me from that death bed. It probably looks a little like that poor soul who loses their mind over the death of someone.

It doesn't happen very often, but we sometimes lose two great people in a crash. Perhaps we can lose two great people in a failing relationship. You know people who've had on-again off-again relationships. They're at the negotiating table for so long that they can't get out of the courtroom. They've been numbed by the deliberations to the point that they're waiting on a hung jury.

Finally, you snap awake at the funeral home because it hits you. You're hearing the stories and music of who, or what, is in the casket in front of you, and that sorrow comes over you.

The music is playing, and you're accepting that you're no longer dating. The only chance now is a freak resurrection scenario, and usually that's chalked up as a myth. Someday it'll be something you reminisce over with your kids so they don't make the same mistakes as you, and so they don't see loss as wasted time.


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