How many ways are there to deal with a painful break-up? There's bagging up or burning an errant partner's belongings. Perhaps a few evenings of weepy movies and a bottle or three of Pinot Noir. You can cry it out, exercise it out, diet it out. Or just go-out-it out, hurling yourself around the nightclubs in search of deliciously meaningless rebound sex.
Kathleen Horan has found an altogether more dignified way to grieve for dead relationships. After her boyfriend of three years left at the end of 2006, Horan, a reporter for New York's public radio station WNYC, sat down to write an obituary for their life together.
"The thing with real death is you can take time off of work, there's a memorial, you get condolence cards, to accelerate the process of grieving," she says. "Obviously break-ups are awful and heartbreaking, but I didn't expect to feel acutely bad. Yet I was walking wounded, crying, not sleeping, and pretty embarrassed about the fact I couldn't get it together."
Horan lost her father to cancer in the same fortnight as her relationship ended and had to write a short obituary for his local paper. "Getting to pour myself into that process, just laying out the facts, he felt real and I got to set out the loveliest details about him. Obituaries aren't really about the death, they are about the life. And as I wrote my father's obituary, I had that nagging feeling that I should be writing another one – a relationship obit."
A day before Valentine's Day, she launched relationshipobit.com, not just with her story but for anybody who wants to put up their own tales of love affairs that soared and soured. The website is now so chock-full of stories, from heartbreaking to hilarious, from poignant to pure spite, that a book of the best will be published by HarperCollins later this month.
Horan's obit writing did the trick for her. She realised that the relationship "wasn't all crap" and she has dated again. "Yes, I've barked up the wrong man a few times since," she says. "You forget how bad break-ups can be. It's like childbirth. People who have that next kid, they forget how bad childbirth was so that they can do it again."
As for the ex, the two are only sporadically in touch these days, and he politely declined to write a parallel obit of his own for the site. Horan is wistful. "But I thanked him for being my muse." Here is a preview of some of the best memorials...
Tony and Jen
Born 19 May 2008, died 19 April 2009
I had just left my husband. He was my boss. I work taking care of his father. I was going through a rough time and he said all the right things. He paid attention to me when I needed it most and it grew from there. I know now that it was stupid to jump into anything so soon. He will be remembered for constantly reminding me that he is a man and a marine. I will miss the sweet cards, his cooking, the fabulous "furniture moving" sessions, his phenomenal good looks, the way he kissed and smelled when he wasn't drinking, the way he put me on a pedestal to everyone who would listen. I will NOT miss the Jekyll and Hyde mentality – after telling everyone how much he loved me, he belittled me to tears behind closed doors. If I ever see him again it will probably be to get my stuff out of his house. My regrets are not being smarter and trusting my gut instinct. I was in a jam and he painted a rosy picture and I should have known it was too good to be true. The only survivors were myself and my children. Thank God for a clean break.
Bored and Timid Moneybags
Born 28 January 2009, died 12 February 2009
Bored and Timid Moneybags started dating just a few short weeks ago. Moneybags was rejected by Bored's friend and pushed over to Bored. Moneybags was cute so Bored went for it. Moneybags was very awkward whenever he came over to Bored's apartment. It took a prompting from Bored for him to even hold her hand. Bored had reason to believe that Timid Moneybags was in fact a cannibal, due to the fact that he tried to eat her face several times. She also would have drowned, if not for her ability to swim.
Bored began to like Timid Moneybags less and less, especially when he started talking money. Timid Moneybags liked to talk about how much money he had. He bragged about the $110 sunglasses he purchased and how Mr and Mrs Moneybags paid for everything he bought. Bored was getting, for lack of a better term, bored with Timid Moneybags.
She didn't want to break up with him so close to Valentine's Day, but due to the Voice of Reason, her roommate, she decided it would be best to sever the ties sooner rather than later. They went ahead and went on their already planned Valentine's Day dinner and got lost on the way to the restaurant.
They were saved by the Voice of Reason's directions via text message. The relationship died due to flooding and overfunding. It was survived only by inside jokes between Bored and Voice of Reason. It will be missed by Timid Moneybags alone.
Tommy and Michelle
Born 13 April 2006, died 5 August 2008
The relationship ended due to me being very insecure at times. She left me today. She is never coming back. We met a couple of years ago. I was going through a divorce and I knew her from work. She was so beautiful. She was the kind of woman who, when you first see her, you feel something in your heart that tells you she's the one. We became a couple. At first it was everything I ever wanted, and sad to say, it still is. I will remember her face the most. Every detail of her body. I will miss everything about her. For the rest of my life I will never forget her. I thought she was the one.
Queen B and Flame G
Born 31 December 2002, died 16 June 2006
Cheating, dishonesty, and reportedly getting another woman pregnant. Also staying in prison one too many times. Not getting a job or doing something positive with his life. Being a pompous jerk and acting like the world owes him something, and lying about being married.
Catherine and Chad
Born 11 October 2007, died 31 October 2007
Her name was Catherine, and I met her at church. She seemed like a pretty cool girl. We had started talking and texting and we finally decided we should go on a date. We planned it to be dinner and a movie. She then she decided that we should ditch the movie part and go to the park. I was okay with this because I thought we would get to know each other better. We started kissing at the park, and I wouldn't let it go further than that. After all it was the first date, and I usually NEVER kiss on the first date. I guess it's a rule that I have. I proceeded to take her home and that is where our relationship should have ended. After I dropped her off, she turned into an annoying psycho. She would call non-stop and get angry if I didn't answer. Yes, I admit to ignoring her calls because she became way too clingy. I didn't want to date a girl that moved that fast. To this day, she will still call me. All of this is ironic because I met her at church and thought she had morals. Stay away guys, far away.
Krissa and Michael
Born 9 May 2007, died 3 May 2008
Krissa and Michael met at work, spent one lovely night together and subsequently started dating. In the beginning it seemed too good for words, but things quickly spun out of control as Krissa began a legal drug regimen that changed her moods drastically and Michael was unable to cope. Michael sought help from a mutual acquaintance, with whom he later slept. Krissa found out much later, after she and Michael had worked out their differences, and the relationship began to spiral again. However, a renewed sense of devotion brought the two back together. Michael lost his job and Krissa lost her apartment, and it seemed the only thing keeping them from certain doom was a promise to stay together, one that Krissa broke when she cheated on Michael. The relationship passed away peacefully on a beautiful afternoon in a pizza parlour. It is survived by politicians Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich, and a keen appreciation for adjectives. Mourners are encouraged to donate to the Flame diner.
Lyman and Karen
Born 29 October 1981, died 26 February 2006
Met when his younger brother was planning to marry my oldest daughter. His being a down-to-earth, real guy appealed to me. His ridiculous handlebar moustache aside, he was an attractive guy with a slightly crude, but dry and witty sense of humour. My only concern was our age difference; he was 13 years younger. We had our hard times but my heart was in making it work and growing old together. My mistake.
The worst part was the betrayal. He never told me how he felt during our entire marriage, he lied, telling me I was perfect. Right up until two days before he dumped me, he sent me flowers.
I'll always miss my friend. There was a very comfortable, easy way between us that I will always miss. I won't miss the bodily function noises and odours. The drinking and snoring. Living by his schedule. I'll be fine if I never lay eyes on him again.
Relationshipobit.com "Relationship Obits" is published this month by HarperCollins