My narcissistic, alcoholic ex from a long time ago is dead. Why do I feel such a loss? Ask Ellie | Tips

Q: My sad dilemma: My childhood crush finally came true in 1992 and my girlfriend was finally what I had always wanted – ‘crazy love’ which Willie Nelson called an ‘angel too low to the ground’ .

Increasingly, alcohol became his dominant and defining experience. Things got out of hand and I had to choose between being a facilitator or telling his family about his dangerous activities.

I cared more about her living than the fate of the relationship. I was hoping that family intervention could save her.

Then came a death in the family and Christmas and the family had children to consider. I spoke to him once, years later, saying we would spend an afternoon talking about the 20 years since we stopped seeing each other.

Two weeks ago, I learned of his sudden death. Since then, I’ve bounced between deeply sincere grief and memories of the hurt/hurt his narcissistic, alcoholic behavior caused those who loved him. Many of its darkest secrets are known only to me.

My grief comes back in a way much like our last horrible days together. She’s on my mind as much as when we were together.

Why does an ex, like me, have such a sense of loss for the second time around? What can I do?

Still grieving years later

A:The most necessary response to painfully felt loss, including past emotional pain, is to put one foot in front of the other, to move on with your own life, even remembering past love and loss.

Thirty years ago, you were carried away by “Crazy Love”, without realizing in your youth that living it was too close to the song:

“If you hadn’t fallen

Then I wouldn’t have found you

Angel flying too low to the ground

And I patched up your broken wing…

And dragged a while

Try to keep the spirits up

and your feet on the ground.

The songwriter has understood the reality: the angels “with broken wings” fly away.

You lost her trying to save her from alcoholism, seeking help from her family while suffering the pain of her behavior. Yet feelings of loss don’t just go away.

You do the work after acknowledging them, placing them back in the past that you did your best to back then.

You liked it, but she was already lost then. You still have your same good heart and years ahead of you to live and hopefully love again.

FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who promised a troubled child a visit to Toronto if she would “finish school, stop acting/fighting/harming herself” (April 1):

“It seems that the trip is now planned.

“Her mother will be ‘on vacation’ in Spain, but it looks like the girl is going to enter a labor camp. Why does she need to “win” a trip to Niagara Falls by painting “her” room? She’s a guest. Why should she clean the garage of a house she doesn’t live in?

“It’s humiliating and it won’t help this girl’s self-confidence/self-esteem or give her the true understanding of family and unconditional love, all of which she struggles with.

“Every time my family has returned to Northern Ireland to visit, or they have visited us, everyone has been welcomed and treated like family.

“We children had to clean up after ourselves, but we were never forced to do house maintenance disguised as money-making outings.

“To this woman: If you can’t welcome this girl into your home, surround her with unconditional love and allow her to be a child deserving of two weeks vacation, then maybe you should refuse to be her host.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Whenever there has been love in your life, its painful loss should come as no surprise. They are the characteristics of what a life has been.

Ellie Tesher is a Toronto-based Star advice columnist. Email your relationship questions to: [email protected]

Leave a Comment