Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I am writing today, not because I have an active readership in mind, more for those that might find my blog in the future. The time has come to make a shift in my focus.
First things first. I am not a new person, and I have not completely worked through my grief. And, my life is not suddenly a bed of roses.
Yes, I have been blessed with many new things in the past 2+ years. I live in a new city, and occupy a new home. I have a new relationship, and each of my children have continued to grow. I am about to become a grandfather, and look forward to the joy that only new life can bring. I have many tried, tested and true old friends and family. And most importantly, I have many new friends whose journeys bear a marked similarity to where I have been, where I am, and where I am going.
For those unfamiliar with my story, my journey here on this blog came out of a desperate need to share my thoughts and feelings as I attempted to deal with the death of my husband. I felt so alone, even with a household of children and a local circle of friends. It was those late night hours when I found myself alone that I needed to reach out and express myself. I was seeking understanding from those that had been there, and from those standing in the same place. What I found was a lifesaving community of people, also reaching out, who gathered formally and informally in order to help each other endure.
It is now time for me to move in a different direction. When I began writing in this forum I did so without a timeline in mind. I didn't anticipate that there would be a end, yet I find myself needed just that. I feel the need to end the documentation of this part of my journey, and to perhaps start anew in a different place. I know that I will always be writing about my experiences, yet for now, I need to be writing about other aspects of my life.
I have decided to maintain this blog for those that may come looking for someone like me in the future. When I started on this journey I was looking for other gay widowed, yet was not finding my reflection online. Since the beginning, I have found that the community I sought materialized in many surprising ways. I have in fact found other LGBT widowed people, and many of them have reached out to me. What I didn't expect is the larger community of widowed people to also embrace me. It has been an overwhelming experience of love and support, and has changed the way I view the world around me.
It's my hope that those who arrive here in the future, also looking for a similar experience, will know that they too are not alone. I will make attempts to update possible links to other services and communities as they develop. I may even respond to future comments, so please feel free to leave them, as I will continue to be notified of future comments left on the blog.
Please know that I continue to grow as an individual. I continue to work through the loss that I have experienced, the ongoing challenges that I face, and the prospects of increased joy in the future.
Much love to all of you, and thank you for being part of my journey.
Dan, in real time.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
I just returned from visiting with my parents and aunt. I take the two hour drive every other weekend, as I know that my folks, and their generation of family members, won't be around forever. Of course none of us will be around forever, will we? It's just that my parents are in their late 70's, and with many health problems. My aunt is in the final stage of her cancer, and I'm all too aware of how precious time becomes when you know someone is leaving sooner rather than later.
Each time I take this trip, my car is loaded with my kids, my daughter's boyfriend, and on a few occasions, Abel, my new boyfriend. Today's trip felt quite intense. We visited with my folks first, then had them join us for a visit with my aunt. While at the visit my cousins were sharing with me that my aunt has chosen to end her chemotherapy. She has decided that her last days will be healthier and happier days without the misery that chemo can bring. It was kind of a sobering occasion.
On the long drive home Abel and I had a long conversation about health, death and aging. We talked about the various diseases that have affected our family's of origin, and how illness and death have touched each of our lives. At one point there was a pause, and Abel turned to me to ask, have you had a physical lately?
Funny timing. I do have a physical scheduled for this Monday. My health is definitely not something I take for granted. Although my kids are now teenagers, and young adults, I know that they still need me. I know that I still have much more parenting to do, and want to be sure that I am around for a long time. Remember, I will become a grandfather in less than two months. Last time that I met with my doctor, he told me that he was concerned about my blood pressure. It has always been borderline high, but now it is looking problematic. He reviewed my medical chart, and asked how long I have been on my anti-depressant.
Like Janine, I have struggled with depression for many years. My depression has not been helped by the mental health problems that my two sons suffer from, nor has it been aided by the death of my husband. In the past two years I have tried twice to go off my medication, each time without much success. I usually do well for a couple months, then find myself sinking deeper and deeper.
I told my doctor that while I was not sure about going completely off the medication, I preferred to try going off the anti-depressant rather than adding another medication for high blood pressure. I'm worried, because I'm not sure I am making the right decision, but once again I feel that it is worth a try. I suppose that if there was an optimum time to try it would be when I am happily in a new relationship and looking forward to the arrival of new life. Is that enough? Is anything enough?
All I know is that I do feel a deep sense of responsibility to not die. Well, just not right now at least. One pill? Two pills? I will make that decision on Monday. Suddenly I have someone holding my hand, reminding me that he is quite invested in my being around for quite some time.
Monday, January 2, 2012
originally posted on Widow's Voice
No tears tonight. (It's New Year's Eve as I write.)
Tonight I celebrate what lies ahead of me. Tonight I take notice of what prior New Year's brought my way. I know that tonight a friend is celebrating a wedding anniversary without her husband. I know that tonight another friend is remembering this as the day she met the husband who is also no longer beside her. Yet knowing each of these women, I'm sure that even if tears are falling, there are beautiful smiles on their faces.
Looking ahead to the new year is our way of projecting hope into our future. For those of us who are widowed hope is not something we can always easily access. Yet for me, at this point in my life, I do have hope, and more of it than expected.
I know that years ago after learning that my husband was terminally ill, I thought I lost hope. Yet, in the days that followed his emergency surgery I found myself accessing hope that I couldn't recognize at first. It was that hope that spurred me on to seek out the right path for us as a couple, and it was that hope that allowed me to not get stuck so deep in my unexpected sorrow. It was also that hope that provided me with two more loving years with the man I gave my heart to.
After losing Michael I felt that once again I had lost all ties to hope. I was not able to see beyond the pain and sorrow, even as the days and months went by. I began to question if my future carried any real meaning. After surviving on scary night I decided to trust that hope was there, even if I didn't recognize it. I made a decision to set off in a new direction, and I trusted that there was something, not necessarily someone, out there for me.
Tonight I sit here in my home, with all the chaos that is included with a house full of kids and pets. I had hoped for a very quiet peaceful night, one like last year, yet it is clearly not what I am to have. The television is blaring, the dogs are running around, I have struggling with a miserable cold, and my new love is at work rather than sitting beside me.
Inside my head I keep hearing Mick Jagger singing these lyrics..."YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT." For those of us who find ourselves seeking out this blog, this is a bit of an understatement.
My point is this, no, I don't believe I got what I wanted. I got more. I got a lifetime of Michael's love. It wasn't my lifetime of love, but it was his. I know that he never stopped loving me, nor I him. I know that loving him gave me so much hope in my future. I know that loving him taught me that sometimes hope takes a different turn. Before meeting Michael I thought love had passed me by. I had somewhat lost hope. He renewed it. In learning that I was soon to lose Michael I thought I had lost hope. Once again, it was renewed. In losing Michael I was sure that I had lost hope. Yet, here I sit, being hopeful once again.
Let's all look forward to a hopeful year. Let's say our thanks for what we had, and let's be open to what the future holds.
Happy New Year.
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well you might find
You get what you need
Sunday, December 11, 2011
A simple photo opportunity.
A day in the sun. A day with the one I love.
Proof that he is here for me. Proof that he exists here in my life. Proof that he offers his hand to me.
I sit here looking at this innocent photo that I took today.
My hand on his. His hand at ease. His hand already used to mine finding it's way over to his.
I am very fortunate. I never forget this. I never take the offer of his hand for granted.
It reminds me of another photo I took four years ago.
Another day in the sun. Another day with the one I loved.
Proof that he was there for me. Proof that he existed here in my life. Proof that he offered his hand to me.
My hand on his. His hand at ease. His hand already used to mind finding it's way over to his.
I am very fortunate. I never forget this. I never took the offer of his hand for granted.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Two Thanksgiving celebrations down, and one to go.
It's been an interesting couple of days. Friday night I hosted an office Thanksgiving potluck at my home. Almost every person from the office came, along with their families. There was so much food, wine and desert, and everyone was in a very good mood. Most had hoped to meet Abel, and since he had to work, I was explaining all night as to why he wasn't present.
Since most of the folks I work with have never been to my home I took the time to give each of them the official tour. What I realized is that this crowd of people never knew Michael, or of my life with him. Of course many have likely heard that I am widowed, but it is something that is more historical information to them. As each entered my bedroom they were greeted by the large wedding photo of Michael and I, which is balanced across the room with his urn. To create a festive mood throughout the house I had votive candles everywhere. Two specific candles are often burning on each side of the urn. I think these images were a bit jarring for each guest, as it put some reality into what I have experienced over the years.
On Saturday I had another early Thanksgiving celebration, this time at my parents' home. All of my brothers and their families were present, and with each person that greeted me there was the same question, "where is Abel?" That part was very similar to the questions and responses on Friday night, only this crowd had a very personal perspective of not only my loss, but of theirs.
I was enjoying a glass of wine with my sister-in-law, and having a real heart to heart when she commented about how quickly life can change. She was remembering her weekend visit to my home at the end of the summer, and how I was expressing that I was now ready to begin dating. She pointed out that the expression on my face now is very different than times in the recent past. She said that I look happy for a change. As we spoke more about Abel she shared with me that even though she is happy for me, and Abel seems like a nice guy, it is very difficult to see me with somebody new. She told me that even though it's been two years, she still thinks about how much she and everyone loved Michael, and how she misses him. My sister-in-law said that Michael was such a special person, the type that doesn't come along very often.
I appreciated what my sister-in-law shared with me. It was a good reminder that others around me continue to be affected by Michael being taken so soon. I know that my family is pleased that I have found happiness with someone new, but they will need time to adjust, as they don't see me, or us, often.
Before we began to eat our Thanksgiving meal all of us formed a circle in the room. We joined hands for the Thanksgiving prayer. My father voiced a collective thanksgiving for all that we have, and for what God will continue to provide us. These words sort of took me to another place. Yes, I am thankful, yet part of me is still feeling the sting of personalizing that God took Michael from me. I know that this internal debate, did he take him, or was it just his time, is not something worth wrestling with. I know that if God did take him, it is not for me to know why. So for now I will focus on being thankful for what I have.
I am thankful for my children, and the love we share between us. I am thankful for all of my extended family, and for the many years my parents, and each of my brothers, have been given in their marriages. I am thankful for all of my widowed friends, and all those that come here to read, connect, and heal. And yes, I am thankful that for now, and for how ever long I am blessed with this new person in my life, I have companionship.
One more Thanksgiving to go, which will be just my kids, Abel and me. No explanations needed.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Last night was a nice evening. My son and I arrived home from our day at work and school a bit early, which made the evening feel less rushed than usual. Abel was there, and had done some cleaning, which made me smile. After checking in with the my daughter, her boyfriend, and a visiting friend, I went to my bedroom to have a bit of quiet time with Abel.
Those of you who are parents know there isn't too much quiet time when arriving home from work. There is homework to be supervised, dinner to be made, mail to be read, and whatever chores you had planned. While my son was at the table doing some reading, my daughter, Abel and I were busy getting dinner started. In between checking on the food I was running outdoors installing more landscape lighting which needs to be done in the dark to know what I want to highlight.
At some point I came back into the house, finished preparing dinner, then sat with my family to eat. When we were done there was the usual kitchen clean up, then back to my bedroom to change out of my work clothes. It was at that point that Abel asked, "are you feeling sad?"
My children know my moods very well. They are also very protective of me since Michael died. They have seen me at my worst, especially those early days when I would be down on the ground crying with no end. Those severe days of grieving are far behind me, but what continues are the various layers that continue to be experienced. Sometimes those days of sadness are clear to me, and I can pin point the reason. Other times my sadness goes unrecognized by me or others. Yet, my sadness is always clear to my children.
No dear, why are you asking if I am sad?
"Arianne said you looked sad tonight."
I responded that I just had many things on my mind, and was likely preoccupied with many concerns. I told Abel not to worry, yet he still put his arms around me to show that he cared, and that I had someone there to support me.
What came to mind wasn't whether or not I was truly sad, but how much all this loss has affected each of us. Driving home yesterday my son Remy was talking about how the kids as school joke about things. He said they often play a game where they call out that someone has died. Remy said that while he gets that they are just playing, and that they obviously have not been touched so closely by death. He said that if they knew what it was like to have their father die they would be less likely to find this type of humor funny.
Death has greatly impacted my family. Death has brought each of us a deeper sorrow than we had ever experienced before, even through the death of many extended family members. When death comes to your door, and takes someone from their bed at home, you are never quite the same.
I don't think I was sad. I think my daughter recognized a pattern of behavioral responses by me, and attributed them to sadness. I believe it will take some time before my kids see me with a host of expressions and moods, and not connect them to grief. Loss has been with our family since my children's birth mother was taken away by circumstance, and then by death. Loss has been with us since Michael was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and then by death.
Loss is being experienced by us with a new person in my life, who is now sharing a space in my heart with Michael. Yes, even with the joy that Abel brings me I am always aware that his presence is because Michael was taken. Even though the kids see how happy Abel makes me, they experience loss by seeing a new man occupy the space in our lives that Michael used to occupy.
No, today I am not sad.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Interesting, I was just reading through this week's post entries on Widow's Voice. There seems to be a running discussion about dating, a bit of man bashing (I mean that mildly, and with humor) and the usual check In's with the various writers that fill the week. What I recognize is something that has been on my mind lately, and something that one person left a comment about today.
What happens when that which brought us widowed together starts to change?
The comment I'm referring to was about having to always deal with seeing, or reading about, couples everyday. Then suddenly it is all that rave on Widow's Voice as well. I kind of agree with the person who left the comment. I am one of those people that really didn't want to see, or hear, about coupled people more than I really needed to. It hurt so much more to see happy couples move about the world. For so long I tended to separate those who were coupled, with those who were widowed. Those who were just plain single were neutral, and didn't garner too much notice by my grief-o-meter.
Whenever I go on Facebook, or receive a new friend request, the first thing I look at is the relationship status. If they are widowed I feel immediately connected to them, even if I don't know them. If they are coupled, I then take a deep breath before taking a look at their page, and prepare myself to see photos of their seemingly happy life. For some time I even hesitated about changing my own status on Facebook, and hesitated to post any photos of me and Abel. It wasn't just because I didn't want to give up my widowed status out of concern for my relationship with Michael, it was also out of concern with my relationship with all my widowed friends.
I recognize that for the time being, I travel in both worlds, the land of the widowed, and the land of the coupled. I suppose I will always travel in both worlds, as I am learning, having a new relationship in no way buffers the ongoing pain and loss that I feel about Michael. What's odd is that the closer, and stronger, I feel toward Abel, the more intense my grief tends to feel. Now at just over two years out I am not grieving with the same intensity of the initial two years, yet it is always there. So for those that read about my movement through a new relationship, or see a status change in my profile, know that what brought us together continues to bind us. Yet at the same time, I recognize it is something that also puts me into the other category.
I have been wondering if my role on Widow's Voice should be given to someone at an earlier place in their grieving, as I fear that those to seek support there are finding mostly veterans at this point. So many of us have been working through this for quite some time now, and what we write about, or what I write about, is less likely to be as raw, or immediate, than many of our readers might be looking for.
So, for the person who left the comment there expressing his/her discomfort in having to "see" couples, even on Widow's Voice, I completely understand and feel for you. It's what I continue to feel, even as I am involved in a new relationship. For those that come here to read, please know that I am always aware that what I share, or discuss, might begin to separate us into different categories. I get that. When I first began writing I wondered who would come here to read about a gay widower. I found that many chose to come here to read about...me. Are most of my readers widowed? Probably. Are most of my readers gay? Not really. Are most of my readers men? Not so much either. So what I have are people that come here for a common understanding of a similar path we travel on. Some may have arrived at an early place in my journey, some may arrive later.
I don't know what the future holds for me. I only know that for now, I will continue to experience it, and write about it when it feels right. As my blog title says, "Dan in real time - a gay man's journey through love, life and grief." It's all here.