His family has since met my daughter and they’re elated that he has a legacy, but I can’t accept his death. I’m kicking myself in the ass. I’m literally still in love with him and wouldn’t have left if there were different circumstances. I don’t know if it’s normal and why I can’t accept the fact that he’s gone. What’s wrong with me? — Mother of a Love Child
Nothing at all is wrong with you! Your reaction to the unexpected and sad news of the death of your old boyfriend and the father of your daughter sounds completely normal and understandable. You don’t say how old your daughter is now or how long you looked for her father — only that it was “years,” but that amount of time, coupled with the intensity of your relationship, and the living legacy you have of him in your daughter, would all be enough to create an incredible bond. I can imagine during the years you’ve spent thinking about him and looking for him, any flaws he had have disappeared into the fantasy you’ve likely created of what life could be like if circumstances had been different. In a sense, you are in love with an idea you’ve spent years cultivating. Yes, the idea of him is based on reality, and it’s based on a history you shared with him, but it does not, in fact, include the challenges of a real-life romantic relationship, let alone a real-life co-parenting relationship and the many challenges that exist within that frame.
What you’re mourning right now isn’t so much an actual person — though, of course, that’s part of it (especially in relation to what the actual person could have been for your daughter); it’s the idea of a perfect mate, constructed over years of weeding memories and fostering your imagination of how he may have evolved over time. The truth is, even had he lived, you may have found it hard to accept the loss of that fantasy in the face of the reality of who he actually was, complete with flaws and potential incompatibilities. So mourn that loss. Give yourself permission to feel sadness and regret. But also celebrate the wonderful gift you’ve been able to give your daughter in finding her extended family and the gift you’ve given them in the legacy that is your daughter.
What I imagine you might feel the most sadness about is a missed opportunity at continuing and growing the love between you and your former boyfriend, but the reality is that the love is still there. It’s right there in your daughter and the relationship you have with her. It exists between her and her father’s family and the relationship that can now develop between them (and you!). It exists in the life you created together — a life that is nurtured with love that your former boyfriend’s memory has and always will be a big part of. He is still with you — maybe more so now than ever. Yes, the opportunity of enjoying his physical presence has passed, and you are right to mourn that loss. But in that absence, there is the opportunity to explore love in the many different forms it already exists in your life, as well as the potential for new love, when your heart is ready.
I don’t know, I think a 30-year-old woman who describes her nearly one-year relationship as “over-the-top” and thinks she needs her mother’s permission to get engaged might not be serious or ready for marriage either. You should ask your mom what advantages she thinks waiting will give you, and I would also urge you to read 17 Things Every Couple MUST Discuss Before Getting Married. An over-the-top relationship is a common trope in rom-coms and romance novels, but over here in reality, a relationship that is going to actually last has to be firmly rooted. If you haven’t navigated some challenges together, and your relationship thus far as been a succession of overwhelming feelings and the expression of those feelings, then giving yourselves a little more time for your feet to touch the ground can only benefit the lasting potential of your relationship. I suspect this is the basis of your mother’s argument to you. And I suspect you might know in your heart if she’s right.