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Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey, and a special welcome to anyone who is new to The Grieving Room.  We meet every Monday evening. Whether your loss is recent or many years ago, whether you have lost a person or a pet, or even if the person you are "mourning" is still alive ("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time) you can come to this diary and process your grief in whatever way works for you. You don't have to respond directly to anything written in the diary: share whatever you need to share. We can't solve each other's problems, but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
DIARISTS NOTE-My browser crashed an as a result I lost the second half of this diary :( I'm currently trying to recover it, but don't want to cause any additional delay in getting this up. Please use the comments as a discussion forum, and I'll do my best to get the second half up!
When I was 17 years old, I wrote a poem. The poem was about dream-one in which I was lying on the sidewalk staring up at the sky, with someone beside me. I knew he was a boy my age, but I couldn't see him, or even touch him because I felt paralyzed. And yet somehow I felt like I knew him better than anyone I had ever known in my life, and so did he.

Even at that tender age, I had become a hardened cynic  to the idea of love as anything but a cruel joke. “I love you” was what my abuser said to me, before he did the things that destroyed me. From that point on, I felt broken. It was a feeling only reinforced through the years-as I heard those words again and again, and always from the lips of a man who would ultimately hurt me. I settled for it, because I thought it was all I could get, and it was better than nothing. But secretly, I always held out a small sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe, that dream meant something after all. That the boy who lay next to me on the concrete was out there-my one true love.

3 years later, I thought I found him.

His name was Solan, which to me was a sign-because he was named after the brightest star in the galaxy. 2 days after meeting him, I developed a severe infection in both eyes that threatened to leave me blind. For weeks I had to stay in a darkened room, with blackout curtains and sunglasses on at all times because the slightest hint of light would cause searing pain. I told him this over the phone, assuming he would walk away. We had just met, and who on earth would want to take on the burden of a girl who might be going blind-let alone all of the other burdens I carried with me. To my complete shock, he didn’t. We spoke on the phone for hours, he played his guitar and sang for me, and I began to fall in love with him almost instantly. Perhaps it was the strange sense of comfort that sensory depravation provide-the ability to get to know someone without ever seeing them, and knowing you may never see them at all-never finding yourself searching their face for a sign of disapproval, or anger, things that left me permanently on edge. But for the first time in my life, it felt like love. Or something at least approaching it.

But as it turns out, I did not go blind. My sight returned, an suddenly I was not the blind girl in the darkened room-I was his girlfriend. I could see him, and he could see me. And nothing was quite the same after that.

I wanted so much to love him, but didn’t know how.  He was delicate and beautiful-his hands were soft but for the calluses on his fingertips, built over the years of playing his guitar. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and look over, afraid that I might have broken him, or imagined him. I loved him, but from a distance-like peering through smoked glass. Even when we touched, embraced, I felt like there was a chasm that separated us and try as he might he could never reach me.

One day, the last day, I stood in his room alone-he had gone out somewhere, and left me there thinking I was still sleeping. (He never knew how little I slept). I tiptoed around and looked for things-pieces of this man who loved me, trying to understand him, and perhaps why he did. On his bedside table there was a stack of photographs-nature, the world, the profile of a woman with long dark hair. I traced the outside of her face with my finger, and longed to be her. I didn’t know her name-past lovers were not something we ever discussed, really. But I was sure that she was different than me somehow. I looked at his journal, feeling guilty then but unable to pull back-within it layers of more complexity, the beginnings of songs, words that sprung out from the page. Pictures he drew in the margin that were so beautiful they took my breath away. I looked across the shelf at the top of his bed-filled with spines of books I had never read, or even heard of. I fought back against the tears that sprang to my eyes. There was no reason, no reason in the world, for me to be crying. I should have been happy. The night before had filled with laughter, and music, and at the end of it he had pulled me close and whispered into my ear “I think I’m in love with you, you know”. I had gone to sleep feeling weightless.

 It lasted for a matter of hours. I rocketed awake in the middle of the night, to the sound of a voice that I knew all too well, and dreaded-telling me “you don’t deserve this. He doesn't actually love you He said. "You are broken. Walk away, or you will break this man" he told me.

I never fell back asleep that night. I left without even saying goodbye, and never saw him again.

I found out he was gone by accident, as I was looking through-of all things-my old Myspace account. I looked him up, in search of my own profile, and that's when I saw it. RIP Solan in the profile of one of his many friends. I screamed.

It must be a mistake, a cruel joke I thought. My hands shook as I typed his name, and searched. But there it was.

Solan Thomas Bowen, 28, from Jewett City, CT died unexpectedly on Tuesday September 1, 2009, in Plainfield, CT. Solan was born in Putnam, CT to Thomas Bowen and Saralyn (Sallie Pratt) Bowen on March 7, 1981. He attended elementary school at Lisbon Central School and graduated from Griswold High School, as a member of Chamber Choir class of 1999. Solan's true passion in life was music. At the age of 13 he learned to play the guitar. He was a singer/songwriter and played numerous instruments. Not only did he delight his family and friends with his talent but also fans at various places around the area, including, The Rain Desert Café, Putnam Fourth of July Festival, Mohegan Sun, Gilligan's Island, and Foxwoods Casino, etc. He was looking forward to singing at his sister's wedding October 3, 2009. He also had a remarkable talent for working with his hands: woodworking, drawing, painting and sculpting. Solan was a free spirit, living each day as it came. He was a good friend and confidante to many. He will be missed immeasurably.
It happened almost 4 years ago. And I had no idea.

Learning of his death hit me in waves. First there was shock. Then profound guilt, because I didn't know. And then as I read more about how he died-as I pictured his broken body lying on a stretcher, it rocked me to my core. It haunted me. And irrationally, I blamed myself. Those words that sprung into my dream so many years ago-you will break this man-came rushing back. What if. What if I had followed through on our plans to reunite. What if I had never run away in the first place. If I had done something, anything at all differently it would have shifted the balance of time and space somehow, in such a miniscule way, but it would have changed those 3 seconds that changed everything. His motorcycle climbing up the hill, the van pulling out of the driveway, the two colliding, changing everything in an instant.

I felt at a loss on how to mourn him The traditional rituals of grief stripped away, I was left to sit there in silence holding on to the two pieces of him that I never let go of. A shirt, that still smelled like him and the case of CD's I had selfishly avoided returning to him. What now? I thought. What am I supposed to do?

And I was torn-because at the same time I began spiraling into grief, I was pulled by another force of the universe-I was falling in love. Completely out of nowhere, and unexpectedly, there he was. A man who, as it so happened, was once a boy who felt broken too, who would often lie in his driveway and stare up at the night sky, in awe of the beauty of the moon and the stars. And I knew almost immediately that he was the one I had dreamed of all along.

I didn’t know how to do both at the same time-how to grieve, and to fall in love. These two things seemed to be at odds with each other. So I tucked his memory away. I felt I would find a way to mourn him eventually, I just didn’t know when or how.

And then the dreams came back. For two nights in a row I woke up gasping, the same words I hear 8 years ago ringing in my head. Like a tape played on continuous loop, they played in the background throughout the day-You don't deserve this. He doesn't actually love you. You are broken, and you will break him if you stay.

The third night, he appeared in person. He towered over me, his eyes filled with rage as I cowered in the corner. I felt the room spinning and I had to grip the ground, afraid the earth would open up beneath me and I would fall right in.

And then all of the sudden the room stopped spinning, and it wasn't him anymore. It was Solan. We were sitting on his couch, facing each other.  He knew without me saying a word everything I never had the chance to tell him. Why he scared me. Why I didn't know how to love him. Why I ran away. I started to explain, but he shook his head. Don't explain, he said. You have to listen this time.

There are many videos of him on Youtube, mostly recordings of his music, and one of him climbing into a dryer for some reason:

But there are 2 I could never bring myself to listen to our watch, because they were so painfully close to how I remembered him-sitting on the edge of his bed, singing and playing his guitar. It was too familiar, and I couldn't bring myself to look at him. This is what he was telling me to listen to.

Listen to them, he told me. You have to.

Why? I asked

Because love survives.

So finally, I did.

This is the first song-Solid Ground:

I went down in the pouring rain
To hide the tears and hide my pain
I fell down on my knees
Not to pray, no lord
I needed the comfort brought on by solid ground
Cause for so long you’ve been spinning me around
But I swam through those waves on my own
And I’d rather go without
So to put you in the grave tonight
You have to find your own way down

Letting go. Of the past, of the memories, chasing me throughout my life and barging in on my dreams. Robbing me of any chance at happiness. Telling me I was unworthy of it to begin with.  To put you in the grave tonight, you have to find your own way down.

Solan doesn't have a grave. He had no funeral, but a celebration of his life-and it’s one that continues on long after his passing. His ashes were scattered throughout the world he loved, in the something nature, the forest. Through the spirit of his niece, who bears his name and the same bright eyes and free spirit. Through his music, including the recordings he made in the months before he left this earth. His final songs compiled on a CD-The name “New Road”, is the street sign of the very same road where he left this earth to join another. A circumstance that was beyond my control, I realized. How foolish of me to think otherwise. To stay locked in the past, clinging to this man as my lost love, convincing myself that I could make myself into the girl in that photograph, and everything would be perfect.

The second song-Change:

Shouldn’t be here tonight
But it’s easy and feels so right
As change pulls you under
How can this be so wrong
With the waves crashing down
It widens your eyes
And the turn of the tide brings  it around
Change is coming
Change is coming again

You will not surround yourself
With anyone that’s right for you
Wanna tear yourself down with lies and pass it off as true
As you ponder philosophy the waves will arrive
An questions arise
On an approach that won’t hurt anyone
Including yourself
You feel change is coming
Change is coming

You will not surround yourself with anyone that’s right for you. Wanna tear yourself down with lies and pass it off as true.
This was me. For so many years. It was in that moment I realized, at the end of the day, he wasn't right for me. That's why things didn't work...not because I wasn't good enough for him, but because we weren't right for each other. Because he wasn't the one after all.

I smiled as I saw pictures of him during the last months of his life-as it turns out, he was happy. He was traveling the world, playing his music. And there by his side, a girl like the one in the picture-plainly beautiful with long dark hair. The two of them together look like they were made for each other. The look on his face is one of bliss. His life was cut painfully short, but he packed in a lot of living during those 28 years on earth. And in the end, he found someone who loved him in the way he deserved.

This is how I will remember him now. Not the image of his broken body on a stretcher. Not the last glimpse I allowed myself of him as I left, knowing I would never see him again. Not the fantasy of Solan, reduced to a concept, an archetype for something, or someone that I clung onto like a life preserver.

Solan was much more than that. He was everything that was said about him in his obituary, and more- a free spirit, living each day as it came. A friend and confidante to many. Missed immeasurably. And he lives on, through his music, and through the lessons he taught me and I’m sure countless others throughout his short life. That life is supposed to be filled with beautiful things. To live each day as an adventure.

He was not my soulmate, or my one true love. But he will forever have a place in my heart. Because when I was 20 years old and hopelessly broken, he saw something inside of me that no one else did-The part of me that survived, and turned into the girl that the boy who lay in his driveway staring at the stars fell in love with. And this time, I'm not running away from it. I'm allowing change to come. I'm letting love survive.

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