Shannon Leone Fowler has written an honest and heartbreaking account of her relationship with Sean, how they met, the travel they shared and her love for him before his very sudden death on the beach at Thailand, at age twenty-five, She also relates the shock and grief immediately after, and the long process back to a new normal, without the love of her life.
She writes about the various stage of both love and loss which ring true – that delightful ‘honeymoon stage’ of a relationship; the depths of despair when that is taken away from her; dealing with the friends and family who are unable to even talk about him or allow her to; and those who just avoid her rather than acknowledge her pain. She also struggled with guilt and what ifs, and the frustration at the risks they had recklessly taken, but got away with, compared to the unexpected random attack in what they had believed were safe waters.
Not knowing what to do with herself without him she embarked on more travel, on her own, but nowhere near the sea where, ironically, she was studying. Travel was the thing she and Sean had shared, so she put her research in marine biology on hold and headed for Eastern Europe as little English was spoken so she would be left alone.
The people she was comfortable with were two women who had come to her aid after Sean collapsed and stayed with her until she left Thailand. They introduced her to the concept of Shiva, the Jewish practice of mourning, that worked so well for Shannon. She met up with them in Israel and could share her feelings with them in a way she couldn’t with anyone else, as they too had lost loved ones too young. They allowed Shannon to cry, just be silent if she needed to, and acknowledged Sean’s death in a way others weren’t able to.
She documented her thoughts and memories along the way, trying to create her ‘own memorial for Sean and the life we would have had together’. She visited ravaged countries, to meet her mood, and ‘to see what survival looked like’. She did learn to move on, but it would take many years, leaving deep scars.