My friend M routinely stalks her ex husband. They do not share children together, so really, is there any reason to wonder what he is doing now, almost 30 years past their short lived post college marriage?

I’ve been apart from me ex husband 20+ years. Never once did I look him up online….you know, until I did…

A few months ago I wrote to you about getting rid of some big, glossy coffee table art books. I explained to you that thought they should have brought me joy, yet all they brought me was sadness, anger and regret.

I was thrilled to finally rid myself of the burden of these books.

Then I decided to Google my ex.

I found out he died three years ago.

Talk about dredging up sadness, anger and regret…

It’s odd to think about the death of someone who once meant a great deal to you. At one point in my life I thought I loved this person. I thought that I could care for this person and make their problems go away. I thought that this was the person I deserved to be with because of all sorts of issues with myself.

When you think about why you did something that turned out to be very bad for you, you end up feeling a little bit bad about yourself. You ask yourself how you could have been so stupid, blind….you ask yourself how you could have been so wrong…

Anger

Sadness

Regret

This is why the internet stinks. At your fingertips, in mere seconds, you can really find out anything and make yourself feel bad…search engines are a tool and a weapon. And it has to be treated as such. The internet can and does hurt you. It hurts your friends. It hurts your family. Handled incorrectly it hurts everyone.

Am I glad that I know that he’s dead?

Am I glad that he’s dead?

I don’t know. Three months later and I’m still processing my feelings. I’m journaling and thinking and making notes. Maybe this will too become a memoir…a rite of passage…a closing out of the books. I thought that this divorce, these feelings of sadness, anger and regret were long past me. I thought I was over all of this…but I can only wonder if these feelings ever actually go away. I wonder if they are always inside of us and somehow become part of our DNA, if every decision we make comes with the disclaimer that we have once been hurt very badly and we will forever remember that as we take tiny steps forward…

Do we compartmentalize our sadness, anger and regret so that we can live and find other emotions to balance those out? Or do we always fall back on our negatives?

Do we ever really forget? Or do we just learn to move on?

Do we ever get past the emotional damage in our lives, or do we just learn to live with it, like a scar that will not go away not matter what we put on it. It might fade, but there will always be traces.

I guess we can’t erase our past.

We just have to learn from it.

78 thoughts on “Going Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Rabbit hole indeed. I would say yes to every thought, every question you posed. Everything that happens in life, good or bad, becomes a part of who we are. Some learn from it, some keep making the same unwise decisions and putting themselves in environments that propagate more hurt. I’m sure it was a shock to learn of your ex-husbands death. How could it not be. The more someone plays a significant role in your life the more all feelings take root and lurk in dark places waiting to resurface. How we handle that is up to the individual.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. As with everything..there’s no one right way to do it. And who’s to say that if you get out of bed, are a productive person (per your individual definition) and don’t hurt others, you aren’t coping ok? While we all need to search for our meaning, maybe w3 should put limits to our search. Does that make sense?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It makes sense of course, but… in the end does logic win or does emotion? Remember that comment a few posts back on animals and their reactions… Human animals anthropomorphize emotions to lesser animals, which I think in part shows how strong the ties connected with feeling go, both positive and negative. You know that no good will come of searching out info online, but you are compelled to do it. I have this conversation with my oldest all the time surrounding her online habits, and as she points out, it’s like a train wreck. You can’t not watch.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. I try not to look up too much stuff online, because I know it’s an emotional and practical time suck. I have to ween myself off because it doesn’t move me forward. Only holds me back

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It was shock when I first found out. Sadness because it appears he never found the help he needed, relief that I was strong enough to live on from my relationship with him, anger at not having listened to my gut instinct earlier, annoyance that I allowed my mother’s feeling about divorce and failure effect my decisions. Wondering why people have substance abuse problems. Realizing how parents can really screw us up and we have to get past that. How’s that for a start

        Liked by 7 people

      4. been there as well with divorce and my own parental issues (mom). We have the strength to heal. Be patient and willing to forgive yourself as well, for everything you feel.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t know if it’s because I had four kids, but my capacity for “more” is severely limited. All that “more” offered online stresses me out..more ideas, more info, more relationships, more gossip, more recipes, more photos, more data, more drama..it’s like I have no room for it..I can’t handle it. I’m not interested in my old flames, my old schools, my ancient family tree..it’s all I can to to keep my own bush pruned. (Now THAT definitely doesn’t sound right..but you know what I mean. 😂)

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Ok…still chuckling. But yes…I know exactly what you mean. What’s the difference between looking, documenting and actually living…I think we have to find the balance

      Liked by 4 people

  3. A relative of mine spent (and spends) years working on trauma and recovery. She had legitimate abuse at the hands of her biological father and stepfather. I remember her having a book at one point titled Feelings Buried Alive Never Die.

    I do not have such deep scars, but have hung onto the feelings that lingered after interactions with others. In my case, it is because those interactions did not resolve. There was not satisfactory closure.

    I believe one’s reactions depends a great deal on whether one internalizes and retains more than others, but that everyone needs closure. So, this is something you need to address with your therapist. Then, you can feel neutral at the discovery of whatever happened to a person you literally haven’t seen in years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I waffle on this. I’ve seen people go through therapy, never resolve their issues and never feel complete. I’ve seen people not go t9 therapy and have reasonably healthy live. I’ve also seen the exact opposite. I’m not sure there is an answer

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I agree with you on this. My mom went through therapy for 30 years and was never happy with herself. She analyzed everything she did and questioned herself. I’m sure there are better outcomes out there.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. On an old blog I wrote a post about memories like these being something you put in a shoebox on a shelf, like a box of old photos. One must be careful about opening the box for fear of going down the rabbit hole, as you say. But that shoebox is something you always carry with you—you can never metaphorically throw it away.

    In college I dated a man I will call T. We were never officially engaged but he used to call me Mrs. T sometimes. Very long story but my mom and dad found out T and I were having sex, and well they were not happy about it. My parents were super conservative. That was the beginning of the end of my relationship with T. The loss of my relationship with T and my parents’ reaction was a pivotal experience in my life. I was gutted and it took me a time to rebuild my life. In the aftermath my life seemed to spin out of control and I felt very alone.

    I’ll confess I have looked people up on the internet. But when T died, it wasn’t because of my google detective skills. Someone else told me—not sure what their motive was in telling me.

    So there I was after I heard T had died with this reopened shoebox of memories that I could not share with any one.

    This happened years ago—I think old hurts, lost relationships stay with us like a faded scar. Mine was just a boyfriend—dealing with the news of an ex-husband’s death would be very difficult.

    Not related to the post–T passing away seemed like an anomaly in terms of his age. Now that my husband has recently passed away I see I am entering a new chapter in my life where the deaths of those I care about who are close in age to me–are going to happen with an increased frequency. Sad.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s just it. I don’t know how to share this boxful of memories that I’ve now opened. I don’t understand my feelings, so how do I even begin to explain it without causing hurt and such. I’m thinking of you because I know how hard it is.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I think of significant people from my past as jigsaw puzzle pieces. When they’re gone permanently, there are holes that never can be filled. The trick is learning to live your life with fewer and fewer pieces in your puzzle. I’m sorry for your grief. My condolences.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I feel like this also touches on our own mortality. Like, someone who used to be so intimately attached to us is… dead?
    You were close to that person. It was a page in your chapter. As someone who went through a divorce and initiated it (because i feel it’s important to say that), I will be sad when he dies. If he dies before I do. Maybe that’s because we share a child together?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow. This hit home. I was raised by my mom and a loving stepfather. He came into my life when I was very young, so he was always Daddy to me. When I learned the truth, that I had a biological dad out there I was in elementary school. He became the topic of many fantasies: maybe he was rich….royalty…worked for Disney. You name it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oops. I don’t remember ever meeting him, and most of the time I forgot all about him, but then the internet came along and I thought, “I should Google him” but I didn’t. When I finally did a couple of months ago, I learned he’d been dead for two years. It hit me in the gut.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s strange to think there’s someone out there…and then they’re not…even though you really have no connection. Yet…they are part of your life no matter how you look at it. I’m sorry you went through this

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is so thought-provoking because I was recently in the same boat. There was a conversation that popped up with my kids about someone I was best friends with since 2nd grade…Well, until high school when she decided she was too cool to hang out with me anymore and started doing drugs with the wrong crowd. It was like a death to me when it happened because she was my best friend that I shared everything with, and that moment has never left me. I moved on, went to college, got married, and had kids, yet I think I’ll always be scarred in ways. After I got to thinking about her, I decided to Google her a few months ago and found an obituary for March of 2020. She just died unexpectedly at 42. I’m sure it was drugs because it was something she was still doing in her 20s. Then I googled her sister, who I was also friends with at one point in time, and she was recently arrested for burglary. It was likely a good thing that I got away from these people, but at the time it sure didn’t seem that way. The trauma will always stick with me no matter what.

    I’m really sorry this happened to you. Must’ve been so shocking and I’m sad you have all this emotion to deal with now. We can’t just erase the past, and I don’t think we’re meant to. It’s what grows us and makes us who we are. That’s what I believe. ❤️

    Liked by 5 people

    1. We have relationships, and they don’t always end the way we think they should, or they don’t go the way we think they should, and maybe we are better off in the end…but it’s still difficult to reconcile. I’m sorry you are going through this. Processing it all is difficult

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Well, this would be a shock and bring up past feelings that we have closed the door on. I don’t think we ever forget, we just close the file in our brain to things, they get dusty and then something (like you doing the internet search) can trigger us to OPEN the DUSTY file drawer in our brain… suddenly, old feelings pop up.

    THEN we need to SLAM THAT FILE SHUT, never to open again. Sorry you’re dealing with old things. You are not alone, we are ALL processing “old” stuff. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I think it is even more complicated when the person is someone you once cared about but no longer like. The usual response to learning someone you cared for has passed gets all tangled up in other emotions and it makes it so much more complicated.

    Normally, when you lose someone you care about, you tend to remember all the things you loved about them. Sure there may be the pieces you didn’t love so much mixed in, but the focus is still the love. When it is someone you have complicated ties to, all those things that make it complicated also make how you feel when hearing they are no longer there, even if they haven’t been in your life for a while, make your emotional response just as complicated because you cannot separate out those not so sunny memories and feelings.

    It is the same with cutting someone out of your life that is toxic. You may care for them, even love them, but being around them is like walking around with sand in your clothes. When you choose to cut them from your life, there is this complicated mix of sadness and relief and guilt and so many other things, but one of the biggest is that relief.

    I think when you have someone like an ex with an emotionally painful history, there is always a chance that you will somehow cross paths with them again and it sits in a dark corner of your mind. You know the possibility is there, but it is easy to dismiss because it isn’t right in front of you all the time. When that person dies, that spot in your mind is suddenly empty and the possibilities it held are now permanently gone.

    It’s like the situation with the sand in your clothes, except in this scenario you just shook the sand out and put the clothes back on but there were a few pieces missed, a small enough amount to dismiss, but you still knew it was there. Now that sand is finally gone and you don’t know how to feel once that unconscious ache is gone.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s such a good way to look at it…you hold onto things…and then there’s no reason to hold on anymore…yet….we are human…we have memories and emotions and whatever…it’s a lot to process because we aren’t quite sure how

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think of all of this experience you are touching on so beautifully like the little lens machine they use to give us choices at the optometrist’s office. All our life experiences come together in order to see something or relate to someone a little differently because we looked through that lens. Or we hear about something and it’s a little fuzzy but then we live it and all of a sudden we understand. I remember sitting with a friend in the hospital after her dad had a stroke and they had to decide to remove life support. Even with my empathy on full, I couldn’t fathom how she felt. Until my dad died and then I saw that moment through that lens. I’ve been divorced so I understand your feelings of anger and regret but my ex hasn’t died. If that happens to me, I’ll think back to this post and understand your words that much better. In that way, our pasts are bridges to each other, it’s a lens through which we see.

    You did not choose lens 1 (to stay with your ex) but looking through it changed how you see things, probably particularly how you parent. You were curious about lens 2 (why your friend stalks her ex online) so you tried it and unearthed feelings in you that you wish you didn’t have but I bet changed how grateful you are for your current life. And sometimes we have just had too many options, are uncomfortable and then we need to stop (turn off the Internet).

    As always, grateful for your posts that give us a chance to see through your lenses…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for making sense of the things I couldn’t really make sense of. That’s a great way to thin’ about it…the different lenses with which we view things…and how we adjust them, and need different ones over time. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m sorry to hear of your loss and that you are feeling hurt. I think it’s an individual thing, on whether we are able to move on from intense feelings or not. Some of us are not able to entirely let go, but can put them in a box and go on with life. But they are always with us. Others can let go and not look back.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. As I continue to go within and uncover previous traumas and emotional “baggage,” I often reflect upon whether or not these memories (and associated feelings) will eventually fade to nothingness. And, at this point, I have no idea. Some days it feels like, yep, they will; and, then something happens, and, oh, maybe not. It is interesting to ponder, journal about, and reflect upon. I agree with you, LA.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sometimes we wonder if we can save people but sometimes we first need to save ourself. I was reminded of a close high school friend in a facebook post about these times. I remembered how emotional she was, how we went to the Hare Krishna compound in the mountains, and how she waited for hours outside of John Lennon’s apartment. I felt for the times she was going through but inwardly I knew I could not save her and she had not moved forward. She was still most likely an enjoyable emotional mess, albeit my high school friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Do you think too that there is an element of trying to understand how a relationship can go so wrong so quickly? We fall madly in love, committing all, and then at a snap of fingers the relationship can be all over just like that ? Logic doesn’t have to be involved – it just is. Though we move on to make a new and happy life you sometimes can’t help but look back and wonder : why, where, what was the point of it all?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I can imagine what a mix you’re feeling. Someone you once loved but then also had this difficult and upsetting ending to a relationship with. I imagine it’s difficult to even work out what you’re feeling, nevermind understanding where it comes from.

    I imagine you’re remembering the past and how you felt at the time. It must be like re-experiencing the relationship through feelings and memories.

    This may be well off the mark, and it’s only a suggestion based on a very limited insight into your past relationship: In a way I wonder if him passing away has permanently closed the door on something which was in your life too? It’s no longer only a decision you made and on some level it’s stopped being just your choice that you’re not with this guy. If there was some aspect of you taking control and being a strong decision maker with fantastic boundaries, now the boundaries you created will be being tested because they’re irrelevant now he’s gone.

    I do think looking up ex’s or old friends on the internet is some form of punishing ourselves. What are we even looking for? Are we making sure we’re good enough by checking they’re worse off, checking we didn’t make a mistake because now they’re happy? Or just picking at the emotional scab and keeping the challenges of the past open and painful? Or is it the opposite, trying to make ourselves feel better because those we knew before are worse off?

    Now we’re able to look someone up with so much ease, I wonder why do we really want to know and wouldn’t we be better looking at ourselves for the answer first?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get the idle curiosity of wanting to check up in an ex. I’d never had the urge to look up my ex husband before, but I was thinking about him because of a blog I’d written. Honestly, I guess I wanted to find out how he ended up. It’s a weird rabbit hole that I’m glad I’m never going down again

      Liked by 1 person

  17. My Buddhist meditation teacher (a wise woman of 75), tells us students to neither go searching for pain, nor to engage in the mental fabrication which creates it.

    Attachment Theory also tells us that when we feel a loss in the Present, it will trigger memories and connections with previous losses… even if they are long past, possibly from childhood.

    I hear your distress though, so I’m still sending a hug anyway, in case this comment didn’t really help! xx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! You always have keen insight and I appreciate all that you give me. I hadn’t thought if it in that way, so It’s an interesting thought to ponder, but it makes sense! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I can understand having a lot of mixed feelings come up when discovering something like that. I don’t generally look up old flames online, but I have done it. I was labeling old photos recently and wondered about a woman who was a much-admired friend. We lost touch in 1996 while she was stationed in Yemen. I did some digging and found her obituary. She’d been living in Flagstaff from 1996 until her death – just 5 hours away and I’d been through there many, many times. I was really bummed. I got ahold of her twin sister who agreed to talk with me about my friend’s passing. It made me sad that we’d lost out on years of friendship, but I was glad to know more, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People do drop out of our lives, and really, there’s nothing wrong with wondering about them. I guess it’s when we become obsessed that it becomes a problem

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m so sorry! I can imagine that it is a lot to process and to figure out exactly how you feel about his death. But you’re right, the internet can be a weapon. When I spend too much time on it, for any reason, I almost always end up feeling kind of down. Of course there are upsides: I once googled the address of my grandparent’s house, and since it had been for sale the previous year, I got to see actual photos of what it looked like now, and that brought back good memories. On the other hand, I was disappointed that I had missed when it was for a sale and maybe the chance to actually walk through it on an open house, so even that brought some bad feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are always good and bad to things…which is why we have to think carefully if he embark on any sort of search. We have to be prepared for not liking, or not understanding what we find. And thank you. I’m sorting it out, but it was quite disconcerting in the beginning

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I am not sure how I would feel if I found out my ex died. Even though we share three adult children I really know nothing about him nor he of me. I guess you could say I just don’t seem to have feelings one way or the other towards him. It has been 20 years so I guess time heals all wounds. Of course I would feel sorry for my kids if something happened to him but not sure how I would or should feel. Good post, got me thinking!!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. {{{Cyber hugs to you today, friend. }}} I’ve spent some time contemplating what my future looks like. Entrepreneur has renal cell cancer, which has no cure so it’s a matter of time….how much? No one knows. His parents are in their 80s and so are mine. So, feasibly, there’s a chance I’ll lose the majority of them within the next five years. Perhaps journaling about your feelings might help put things into perspective and help you decide what to do with these memories. But, they’ve helped make you who you are today so don’t be quick to discard and file them away. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’ve started reading some books by Melody Beattie. Her first one was Codependent No More which of course opened my eyes to the fact that I am and/or have been codependent in many of my most important relationships, including my now-ending marriage. From that I moved on to Stop Being Mean to Yourself. It’s a little “farther out there” but in the end of it, which I have nearly reached, it’s pointing me back to living my life for myself. This is definitely where I need to be, again, at this time. It was where I was when I met him 30 years ago but at least I remember some of what I was thinking and doing and how I was feeling about my life at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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