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Op-ed: Love After Loss

Op-ed: Love After Loss


Nearly three years after the death of a close friend, a man finds peace with himself.

On February 11 2012, just shy of his 25th birthday my friend Daniel was found floating at the foot of the George Washington Bridge in the early morning hours.

I had run into Daniel just two days before, walking with friends on Eighth Avenue. We stopped to say hello and exchanged a few words about Fashion Week. He seemed a bit distant and out of sorts, but I didn't think much of it. I just felt his energy was off. I thought, Maybe he was high. When we said goodbye, he told me he loved me and gave me a peck on the lips.

The next day, I was feeling depressed and thought about calling Daniel, but I didn't want to bother him with my feelings of loneliness. Our relationship was complex.

We met back in 2009. Daniel was 23 years old, and I was 10 years older than he. We always had a strong connection and went on a few dates, but due to the age difference we didn't take it any further. I loved Daniel as a friend, romantically, and almost as my child at times. He looked up to me and I tried my best to help guide him.

When I got home from work that day, still feeling down, I looked out my bedroom window and thought about Daniel. I said to myself, "He is never going to grow old."

I cried myself to sleep that night. The next morning, his roommate and best friend called to tell me Daniel had died. The next few days were a living nightmare, not knowing what exactly happened or why. I talked to friends trying to piece together a timeline of the events that took place before he was found on that cold morning. A part of myself died as well, my worst nightmare to become reality. Daniel represented love and now he was gone. Being a romantic, I had thought maybe in the future things would be different for us, but my strange premonition proved otherwise.

As the months passed I went into a deep depression, often breaking into tears in the most random places, in the grocery store or on the train coming home from work. People must have thought I was crazy. I filled my apartment with his pictures, developed a friendship with his family, and tried to be there for them as I was for him. It took a long time to heal those wounds and to even start thinking about opening my heart again.

How could I go to a bar and talk to strangers who didn't know a thing about me? Who could understand my pain or even want to? While I didn't feel like I could talk about Daniel on a date, how could I also not share my truth? I didn't even feel like meeting anyone new -- I couldn't risk the thought of the relationship falling apart and suffering yet another heartbreak.

So what did I do? I fell in love with one of his friends because we understood each other and walked down the same path; we would heal one another. Daniel brought us together, I told myself. I figured it would heal us both. The truth was, however, that I was still in a deep depression and making poor decisions. I needed to truly find myself. So I did that by letting go.

I'm finally in a place where I am at peace. I'm single, and I'm OK with that. Daniel will always be part of me, and I will still celebrate his birthday every year with cake and a candle. Whoever I allow to be in my life will need to accept that. Do I go to bars and pick up guys or randomly date men on Tinder? No! I'm working on myself and getting myself ready for a good guy. I'm keeping busy with work, began to take acting classes. I'm enjoying self-discovery.

I no longer have the desire to chase the things that do not serve me. I've finally learned to love myself, and that was a gift from my dear friend Daniel. I am thankful for him because he shaped the man I am today.

DAMON GONZALEZ is the business manager for Bon Appetit and an occasional commentator on TMZ Live. Follow him on Twitter @TheyCallMeDaymz.

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