Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This is me. 'Dan, in real time.'

Yesterday's post was meant to be humorous, but of course had a message to relate. I find myself in an emotional state that feels like it is here to stay for awhile. The initial three months of my grieving process were quite difficult. I spent many days throughout that time in tears, and feeling like my world was at an end. There were times that I wished my life to be over. Yes, it was that painful. For those who might be new visitors to my blog, I have been a widower for the past four months.

In the last few weeks my experience has begun to change. I find that I am in a less acute state, but definitely still feeling that my mourning, sadness, is chronic. It feels like a deeper sense of depression. I do have some happy times, and can laugh with friends and the kids, but in between I can honestly say that I am definitely feeling very sad.

I think about Michael continuously. I miss him in a very significant way. I know that he is gone, and I accept that I cannot change that. What I also can't change is my love for him. That love didn't die with him. It lives on, and until enough time passes, my feelings will remain the same. I know that eventually I will learn to love him in a different way, but for now I would rather just say that I still actively love him. I still look for him instinctively. When something happens with the kids I immediately think that I should tell Mike. It is still difficult to sleep alone, something that will take a long time to get used to.

I am becoming a bit comfortable with the state of my emotions. Sadness feels right. I don't expect that to change for quite some time. I love(d) my husband/partner very much. I talk to him at night, and keep a candle lit for him whenever I am in our bedroom. I miss his touch, both sexually and non-sexually. Grief is an odd experience for me as a sexual person. There are periods where sex is the last thing from my mind, and there are times when I feel compelled by it. Mostly I miss making love to Michael. I miss the intimacy that two lovers share, and the joy that it provides.

If you visited our bedroom you would think that Michael was still here. His bathrobe is where he left it, his toothbrush next to mine. I find much comfort in seeing his things next to mine. I wear one of his t-shirts to bed each night, and cling to his pillow. I have started to stack some of my books on his bedside table, which tells me that I am slowly taking up some of his space. I don't think he would mind.

I keep Michael's ashes on the book shelf in our room. Around the urn I have a collection of various small treasures that were important to us, and several small gifts that my son Remy brings home from the local flea market.

I occasionally spray some of Michael's favorite cologne into the closet or bedroom, and give it time to settle. It's just another way of soothing my senses. At times when I can't fall asleep I may get out of bed and begin going through his things for the hundredth time. I like to hold his things in my hand, especially things like his watch, a pen he used or his Sudoku book. I have an electronic frame that contains many images of us and our friends and family. Most of the time I have the frame set to an image of him that I took in Puerto Vallarta during our honeymoon. I love looking at this image. It makes me smile and feel loved. I see his eyes sparkling with delight, knowing he was looking directly at me.

I have many happy memories of Michael. The memories are of both pre-cancer, and post-cancer. Michael had a brain tumor, which in the end caused him problems with memory and movement. I love all those times. There was joy from the moment I met him at Badlands, a gay dance club, to the early morning that he died. I know this sounds strange. The moment that his life ended I began howling in pain. But up until that moment, I was consumed by love. It was such an honor to take care of him. He depended so much on me, and gave me so much trust. I love him for that. The way I see it, he gave me so much. So much love, so much joy.

Michael fully embraced being a parent. I loved when he started referring to 'my kids' as 'our kids.' Having been a single parent for so many years was difficult. I never imagined that being a parent was going to be as much work as it has been. I loved being able to share the experience with Michael, and the kids loved having two parents, two fathers to turn to. Michael and I were a nice balance to each other, and the kids benefited greatly from his influence.

I'm finding that I don't enjoy the things I used to enjoy with Michael. Maybe in time I will return to them. For now, I don't really find too much enjoyment in anything. I suppose it is part of still feeling numb from this whole experience. I tend to do a lot of sitting, thinking, writing and reading. Time can go by, hours at times, and I don't feel bored. I just sit with my feelings, and it feels right. Time moves very slowly for me. I like it this way. I haven't been spending too much time with meditation in a formal way, but I am being very mindful of what I am experiencing.

The best gift that Michael gave me was this computer. It is constantly before me. It has given me the opportunity to express myself in ways I knew were there, but needed the right time or outlet. I come home from work each day, and the first thing I want to do is write a new post for this blog. I never know what I am going to write about, and I try not to put too much thought into it before I sit down to write. I truly enjoy reading the comments left here, or on Facebook, from those that read my blog. And while I enjoy reading the comments, I try to not let the comments influence what I write. I also don't give too much thought about who is reading my blog. This is the best way for me to feel complete freedom of expression.

When you read my blog, keep in mind that it is what I am thinking, or feeling in the moment. Sometimes I write specifically about what my day to day life is like, as in today's post. Other times I may use creative license to express the tone of my experience rather than the specifics. To get a true sense of me, you would need to step back, read many posts, then reflect on the tone of my words. I very much look at my writing as my art form. It is open to interpretation. I like when people mention that they read it, and offer their perspective, or their own experience. What I may not want to discuss is the specifics of what I wrote about. I would rather not focus on small details, rather look at the themes.

Try not to feel offended if my thoughts or experiences don't match your own, or what you think of as your experience of me doesn't match what you read. When I sit down to write, I write for me. I write what I need to express. It may makes sense to you, or it may not. I also write for those, like me, who are grieving. Unless you have lost your husband, wife, partner or spouse, please don't tell me you know what I am going through. While you may have experienced a similar loss, or you may feel that you understand my loss, you don't. This is not meant to sound rude, it is just meant to clarify how I experience my loss. Before losing Michael I thought I understood what this would feel like. I now know that I only understood a small part of it. If you think I am grieving the wrong way, or getting stuck, then please keep those thoughts to yourself. I appreciate your concern, but trying to put your perceived understanding onto my experience, is not helpful.

Remember the name given to my blog, Dan, in real time. It is about me, written by me, for me. I write in the present. This is what is really happening for me. I try to keep it real. I don't want to hide what I am going through. I don't want to sugar coat it, and I don't want to over dramatize it. I do, however, take creative license in the way I express myself at times.

I now identify as a widower. It best describes how I now experience myself. I don't feel single, and I am slowly losing my previous feeling of being married. This doesn't mean that I won't change this in the future, it is just where I find myself at this time. I know a lot of people don't like labels, but for me they sometimes help us cut to the chase. If I tell you that I am a gay widower, it spares me from having to go into more detail than I want to at the time.

In many ways I am now an open book. I like living my life this way. I know that it is not for everyone, but it is the experience I wish to have at this time. I am walking through this experience for all to see. It is my hope that my experience will offer others just that, hope, and for others, understanding.

There, I have said a lot. This is me. I offer myself for your observation.


  1. beautifully written and said with enough strength that i believe the advice givers will think twice. you are where you are. in about two weeks it will be a year for me and yet it feels like we are walking parallel. we share a lot of the same feelings. i am bogged down? who knows. it is simply where i am.

    this is your blog and it is your "real time." you own this space. anyone who tells you how to live or how to grieve isn't paying enough attention to their own life.

    i keep you and your family in my thoughts. be kind to yourself and live each day as you need to.

  2. That was a very nice read. I could see parallels in my own situation too, although it's been longer for me now.
    Regarding odd or insensitive advice - About three months after Don died, I had a visitor here who chastised me for not going out for New Year's Eve event, and that I was bringing him down and should "just get on with my life". He kept telling me that if I "thought happy thoughts, everything would start going right in my life." It was all very weird and made me quite angry at the time. I was glad when he moved on and I was alone here again. The irony of the whole things was that the same guy kept bringing up the topic of his own failed marriage and going on rather bitterly about how horrid his wife had been during the divorce which took place...get this... *15* years before. I'm thinking, "Huh??" Lately, it seems to be well-meaning friends who keep saying, "You're still young, you'll find someone else!" I actually wrote a poem about all of this called "Widow's Curse" which appeared in the online literary journal "qarrtsiluni" last month. I'm okay with being alone and am strong enough to deal with all of this stuff, but sometimes it does make me a bit annoyed. I think I'm doing okay for 16 months out -- it seems to be everyone else who has a problem with where I'm at! (-:

  3. Thank you for sharing the photos - I appreciate being able to observe another side of you. I find that your words and photos always combine in such a way as to give me a very artistic experience, which is a wonderful aesthetic treat!

    I find that it takes a great deal of courage to stand up for where and who you are within the grief process. I try to not let criticisms upset me since I realize no one can know how I feel since they haven't been through what I've experienced. I love getting comments and feedback to my posts but realize that I blog for myself as a tool for healing and would do so regardless of how many people read or reply.

    Thanks for all the insight, beauty and healing words you impart. I gain a lot by observing your world.

  4. I enjoy your post each day. I think weird advice comes from people that just don't understand. I probably am one of them as I have never been widowed. I have lost loves, but I wasn't married so people wouldn't think that grief existed. "Get over it" they would say. Anyway--thank you for letting all of us see into your world.

  5. I appreciate all the feedback. I don't mean to say that many people give me overt criticism, but I do feel that I get a lot of overly positive reinforcement if I am perceived as being happier. It causes me to question whether or not it is okay to be honest, or do others just want to hear the positive side of life.

    I also recognize that I can sometimes be my worst critic. As everyone knows, it takes so much energy to appear happy when you are not. For the most part I want others to better understand who I am, and how this experience has changed me. I think it helps all of us to ask how others are doing, rather than always trying to interpret their behavior based on our own experience, or standards.

  6. I love this post. I'm approaching month 10 as a widow. I looked in his closet the other accident (really)! And had a chuckle at the things I couldn't part with, like his sweaty cycling gear. I then closed the door and walked away. I am sure I will need the laugh another day.

    The most liberating part of being a widow is being able to say "()*$ you! If you don't like what I'm saying!" You and I process our experiences by writing. If they don't like it, they shouldn't read it! Write freely!

    Thank you for your honesty. This is one hell of a crappy journey that sparkles and dazzles sometimes but is, in general, pretty damn shitty. Hang tight (or loose or however you darn well feel like!) Kim (friend of Susan Blacks)

  7. Hi Kim.

    Thanks for your comments. Writing my thoughts and feelings has become so liberating. I sometimes feel like I am creating a bit of a monster, which gives me an idea for another post.

    And, any friend of Susan is a friend of mine.