When you are small, and you have separation anxiety, and your attachment figure comes back—again and again, that person comes back, then that becomes the pattern fixed in your mind. People go away and you miss them and feel sad, but then they come back and everything is fine.

When you love someone who doesn’t come back, then that becomes a reality you have to find a way to live with. It is not vague and insubstantial as a possibility. It is not something that might happen, but you can’t vividly imagine because it has never happened. It has happened and you know exactly what it feels like. And you have to live with that.

When someone dies suddenly and violent that you truly loved, then you know anyone you love can die. Even if it’s unlikely, as an emotional reality, it is there and you have to live with that.

I had kind of a distressing evening—very suddenly. I think I was primed for it. I was making a Russian salad that I probably ate as a child. I think it’s evocative. My friend kind of freaked out over a small thing. It was very momentary. It didn’t escalate into anything that could be called anything, but I totally shut down. I was really frightened, and I went on with my work, just aware of how frightened I felt and how paralyzed—even though I went on making the salad.

I finished up, sat down to check my Facebook, and C’s boyfriend had posted a picture of C with very affectionate things on it. By Country X standards, pretty provocative, I suppose. I was worried. The whole relationship really worries me. I can’t imagine it being anything less than a train wreck.

I just sat there and felt that. I felt how frightening it is to know that something could happen to her. She could be irreparably harmed.

And if something happened to her, my life would be upside down. I wouldn’t be okay. I’d muddle on somehow—we all do. But I wouldn’t be okay. And that’s the kind of the risk we all take in relationships that really mean something to us.

I know, because someone suddenly, violently died and I know what it’s like when someone who really matters to you can just be ripped away from you like that. I am not 13 years old anymore. I have better coping skills, but I know the light would go out in my life if something happened to C and I would have to go about finding it again. I know what it feels like when the light just dims. It’s awful. And it isn’t just awful for a little while. It is awful for years.