Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Small Step for a Man...

Walking the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral
Originally uploaded by

Today I have been thinking a lot about the fact that in two weeks it will officially be 6 months since Michael died, meaning 6 months that I have been in mourning, grieving as a widower. As I wrote this last sentence I stopped for a minute to google a question that came to mind. What exactly is the difference between grief and mourning. I had my own ideas, but was curious about how others described it. In a nutshell, here is what I found. Grief is an internal response to loss. Mourning is taking the internal grief we have and expressing it externally.

With that in mind, what exactly am I doing here, meaning on this blog? I am writing about my internal process. I suppose you could say I am externally expressing my internal process. Can you tell that I'm a bit focus-challenged today?

In thinking about the 6 month mark, I began thinking about where I am in my grieving process. I have been feeling like it is time to start moving forward, maybe taking some small steps in letting go of the things I use as crutches in my clinging to Michael. What I thought I would initially do was begin sorting through his clothing. When Michael's mother visited last month we went through most of his belongings, mostly talking about what he had, the stories behind them, and what was important to her, what was important to me. When it came to his clothing she said to take my time with it. She said that when I am ready I could put aside what I wanted to keep, then box up the rest. She will allow Michael's brother, and nephew, to pick out some items, then donate the rest to her local hospice thrift store.

All weekend I have been looking at Michael's clothing, pretty much already knowing which items hold the most sentiments for me, but I didn't actually touch anything. I decided that it is something I'll perhaps start tomorrow, or next weekend, but not today. Since I was on the computer I realized I hadn't checked his email in some time. During these past months, I have been checking his email account a couple of times a month, just to see if there was any forgotten business to attend to, or to make sure there wasn't anyone trying to reach him, not knowing he had passed away. After combing through all the new email, I decided that there was nothing new of significance, so it was time to close the account.

Before I could close Michael's email account I needed to find out how to back up the saved folders in the account. Michael had a lot of important information in there, especially from all of his prior genealogy research. I doubt that his brother, or nephew and nieces, will do anything with it, but perhaps another relative may ask one day. There may also be a point where re-reading old email will be important to me, and I want to have it saved. This led me to doing some research online about how to copy and save the various folders, each of which contain hundreds of email messages. After reading many approaches to this task, I made a choice, and moved forward. I was quite pleased with myself once I had completed the task. And, after checking, and re-checking, the saved folders, it came time to click the tab that closed the account.

I took a deep breath, and gently pressed the cursor. Closed.

I was calm. I knew it was a good choice, and it was the right time. Exhale.

Okay, I'm lying. It was nothing like that. Just thinking about closing the account had me in tears. Each time I started the process for each folder I would be glancing at the various emails, and wanting to find a piece of Michael that I may have not noticed before. My heart was racing. My anxiety increased. My breathing became labored, and I cried some more.

Before deciding to address the email account I was considering closing his Facebook account. I decided that it too was perhaps keeping me from moving forward. I decided that it was time to change my relationship status from married to widowed, but that required that I either close his account, or sever our Facebook relationship. I had decided that I needed to make a decision, so I clicked on the link from my account to his. And there, on his wall, was a recent note from one of his cousin's daughters, telling him how much she loved him and missed him.

I couldn't do it. Tears. More tears. How can I deprive someone, like his cousin's daughter, from posting him a message? Thus the decision to say, "sorry Hotmail, off with your head!" Well, perhaps it wasn't that dramatic. But tears were involved.

The block
Originally uploaded by

Next on the chopping block, the closet! And, no. I haven't been in there for quite some time.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fight Club

Fight Club Soap
Originally uploaded by

Yesterday I received a message from one of Michael's prior coworkers. She was letting me know that a group of people in the office have decided to participate in this years Brain Tumor Walk. She was wanting to know if I was putting together a team, as I had done that past two years. She said they would be happy to join my team, or I could join theirs if I decided not to organize a group this year.

I was glad that I had been so busy at work Friday, otherwise I would have had time to pick up the call, and be forced to deal with something I have been avoiding for some time. The Brain Tumor Walk in our area is a very nice event. They hold in Golden Gate Park, and have lots of activities and food throughout the day. Both times we participated, we were able to raise a good amount of money, and it brought our family together to show Michael how supported and loved he was. There is always so much great energy with the group of people participating. I always see many of the people I have come to be familiar with from various support groups and hospital waiting rooms. There are many doctors and nurses from all cities that make up the Bay Area.

What makes this difficult, of course, is that like many others I have come to know, Michael succumbed to his brain tumor. During the past two years of our participation I have looked on at the families that make t-shirts in memory of the lost family member. They always seem to have such a wonderful and caring appeal to them. I have watched them carefully of course, as I wondered when that would be me.

I remember last years walk, and how we were able to have Michael's mother, brother, and his kids, join us. After the walk everyone came over to our house for a snack, and to rest a bit. We all talked about how much fun we had, and that we should do it again next year. At one point Michael's mother turned to her young grand-daughter, and asked if she wanted to participate again next year. And as child often speaks, without filtering anything out, she responded "sure, if Uncle Michael is still alive."

Well, of course this brought the room to a complete silence. Michael's mother quickly admonished our niece for saying what she said, and everyone else quickly changed the subject. So, here we are. I is the next year, and Michael is not here. I'm afraid of asking my mother in law if she wants to join his coworkers, as she will be put into the same situation I fear. I feel that I need to make a decision on my own, then present to her what I have decided for myself. This might make the question easier on her.

In the months since Michael died, I have thought a lot of how I was previously immersed in the 'brain tumor community,' and now completely not. In the two years that Michael battled his tumor, I have become a bit of a lay expert on brain tumors and care giving. During those two years I thought I would continue to a part of this community in some way, but in my grief I have chosen to apply some distance.

Now, I know that I should only do what I feel emotionally ready to do, but this feels like the time to make a decision. Ideally, I would like to see myself as one of those family members who continue the fight for the lives of others, but I also do not want to do it at my own expense. It is so hard to know what I am ready for. I don't always know until I am actually doing whatever it is. At the same time, I also don't want to think of myself as someone who became so defeated by this type of cancer, and who ran off away from the fight.

I'm also not very good about asking people for donations. Rather than asking everyone around me, I would usually just hit up my family members, and write my own check. It was hard enough asking people when I felt strong, and was fighting for my husband's life. I'm not so sure I can do the same as a widower who lost the fight. Yet, I am very aware that without us widows and widowers, the only people fighting this fight are the newest victims of this terrible disease. Brain tumors, at least in my experience, are a disease with a high turn over of casualties. Every time I went to a group, or a conference, sure enough, half of those in attendance were missing the next year. Michael, and I, are now counted in those previously involved in the fight against brain tumors.

Now I am a widower. Most of my free time is spent addressing my family's loss, or writing about my experience as a widower. It is my new identification, and I am becoming more comfortable wearing the label. In a way, choosing to participate in this fundraiser will push me to start refilling some of the gaps. I just need to decide if filling the gaps is what I want to do.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Message to Michael

Originally uploaded by

Dearest Michael,

I sit here not knowing where to begin. It has been one of the days of feeling very disconnected from my world. It's not a particularly difficult day. I'm just finding myself retreating to that quiet place. But don't worry, I'm not secluding myself.

Tonight I stayed in the living room with the kids instead of retreating to our bedroom. At different times tonight each of the kids tried to engage me in staying in the room with them. I told them that I was needing the room to remain calm tonight. If they wanted needed a different kind of energy, then I could go sit in my room. They each chose to honor my request. We watched a movie together, which was quite touching. It helped me remain connected to the kids, and animals. It felt good.

Life without you tends to be very subdued in many ways. I don't always feel like I accomplish, or do, much. Not that I am terribly bothered by this. I only feel challenged when someone asks what are my plans for the weekend, or what have I been up to lately. I spoke briefly to your mother last night. We talked a bit about Tessa's birthday that's coming up in a couple of weeks. We agreed that the kids and I would drive up for a visit the weekend that follows her birthday. You mother asked how I was doing of course. I said I was doing fine, then took a deep breath, questioning if I should elaborate, but chose not to. Of course she understands, she is going through the same thing. We both miss you terribly, and are having a tough time conceptualizing our world without you. I just worry about depressing her further if I go into how painful this all continues to be, and that all I want is for her son to be back.

You know Michael, my world moves very slowly since you left. At times I feel like a ghost that walks the earth completely unnoticed by those around him. Sometimes I like it. It allows me to just be, without any explanation. At other times I wonder if anyone truly sees me, or recognizes the enormous amount of grief that I carry. You know, I carry you around with me like a cloak of invisibility. I thought you would like that reference to Harry Potter.

I have been looking back on some of my prior posts, and recognize that while I seem to understand what I could be doing to help myself, such as getting to the gym, or trying to make new friends, I don't feel quite ready. I'm not sure if I'll ever be completely ready. I also know that I will eventually take a step forward. I think that for now, I like things the way they are. Meaning that I like the quiet. I feel closest to you when I am not distracted by the noise and chaos of the world around me.

As I sit here writing this, I can feel you pressing against me. It's a new, and comforting sensation. I can feel your body pressed against mine, almost as if I have a second layer of skin which is you. I can almost sense your scent, which is somehow combined with your smile. I know that this makes little sense, but little else does in my life at the moment. I like this sensation. Is it you, or am I just desperately needing to create such a connection? I suppose it doesn't really matter which it is. Any comfort these days is a blessing. I choose to take it in as you being present to me. I'm holding on to you Michael. I don't want to let go.

Now I'm in tears. Why does this move me so. Honey, I need you so much.

I'm going to end this now. I don't want to overly analyze this, or try to put words on something that is indescribable. Just know that I love you. Thank you for choosing me, and for giving me so many wonderful days with you.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Family Welfare

mom and me
Originally uploaded by
Sara Heinrichs (awfulsara)

These past few days at work have been significantly busier than in recent past. I spend a lot of my time in the Family Courts, working to help put families back together after a significant trauma or circumstance which caused their children to be removed from their custody. It really hit me strong today just how personally invested I can get when a parent is really working hard to make things right. Sometimes making things right involves asking the other offending parent to leave the home so the children may return with less risk of harm.

I have been doing this work for over 20 years now, and I am still not the least bit jaded. I like to joke around with my peers about being that well tenured worker who is gathering dust and cob-webs in the corner, and who is so jaded it is pathetic. But in truth, I take the responsibility given to me by the courts to assess each family and to give a well thought out recommendation for successful reunification very seriously. For me, the work is very personal.

My own children were adopted from the very county program for which I work. In their case the recommendation was for no reunification to the parent. In cases like this there is a great loss for the children. We like to think that children in these circumstances are being spared some great hardship of neglect, and being given a chance with a much healthier, higher functioning, and loving family. These things are true, yet we cannot turn away from the fact that these same children will be forever grieving the loss of separation from their biological families.

In the cases that I am working on recently, one parent emerges as the stronger, healthier primary care provider. In order for the children to return, or stay, in the home, the other parent cannot be with the family. Often this is due to substance abuse, and the other parent is directed toward treatment programs with the hope that they will be able to rejoin the family at a later time. Which ever the case may be, these children will mourn the loss of that parent being involved in their day to day care. The remaining spouse will grieve the loss of the other parent, yet must continue to focus solely on their children.

Today in meeting with a couple in court, they were sharing with me the multiple losses they had experienced in the past month. They had lost a step son, a friend and a godmother, all in a 30 day period. And through this they are being reminded of the classes they must attend, the programs that must not miss, and to continue to be involved with their children as much as possible. What a challenge this presents if they are also trying to recover from substance abuse.

Today I stood there listening to my clients talk of their loss. I listened as the mother was moved to tears in communicating her mourning process. I tried my best to provide her assurance that she will get through this, and to acknowledge how difficult the task at hand is for them.

When my husband Michael died in September 2009, I had not worked but a few months in the past year. I had spent so much time caring for him, that work was put on hold. I was a complete emotional mess at that time. I felt like I was walking through a battlefield, stepping over the many casualties as I moved forward. I was in no condition to adequately care for my children. I was in no condition to adequately care for myself. I was also very fortunate to have loving friends and family members calling on me, and helping out with the responsibilities of parenting my kids. The pain I went through during those initial few months were so intense that I often prayed that God would take me too. I didn't want to live without Michael, and I didn't want to live through the pain. I felt as though the person I was as a parent, no longer existed. I didn't know how I could go on adequately meeting their needs.

In time the intensity of my grief began to change. I started having days when I could emerge from my home with some emotional success. I slowly began taking back some of the responsibilities that my friends had taken on. This was not an easy process. There were days when I would arrive at the school to pick up my youngest son, and couldn't get out of the car. I would feel completely unable to move. I would just sit there and cry. Eventually the teacher would notice my car and call out if I was able to come in. I would just shake my head, and he would then go get my son for me.

These days I have taken on more and more responsibilities in my work and home life. I feel good about my abilities to function at this point, but I also know that I am not the same person I was before all of this. I now suffer from significant attention problems at work. I still find myself sitting for long periods of time just staring into space. I have told my supervisor and coworkers to double check my work, and to question me more often. This is the only way I can feel that I am adequately serving my clients.

At home I am no longer the same person as well. The loss of my husband feels is as if my heart was cut out of my body. I don't always know how to function with this great loss. In everything I do I am so aware that I am doing it without Michael. When I am having fun with the kids, laughing and being silly, a sudden wave of reality hits me, and I realize that there are no longer two of us experiencing this. When I am having challenging times with one of the kids, I feel so alone. The weight of parenting without my spouse is so significant. There is no longer that buffer that a second parent provides. When the days finally comes to an end, there is no one there to process my thoughts and feelings. There is no one their to put their arms around me. There is no one their to give me pleasure as a distraction. There is just me. I am learning that I must accept this is my new reality. I have to talk to myself about my day, or talk it out in prayer. In the end, I must let go, and try to get some sleep. The next day will arrive, and once again, it is only me.

The point of all this is that my experience is not unique. Across this world are parents who are struggling to provide a good and loving home for their children. They feel broken, and unequipped for the task at hand. They feel judged by the standards of others, or of themselves. They are being asked to take on an enormous responsibility irregardless of the loss in their life. Where do they turn? If they pick up the phone, is there someone they can call on?

I am assuming that the majority of my readers are living through a very similar circumstance as I find myself. If that is the case then you know clearly the challenges. If you are reading this, and are fortunate to not know the pain of losing a spouse, then you are in a position to reach out to that family you know that has been touched by death. Reach out to them. Support can come in many forms. You can be that person they can call on. You can surprise them with a cooked dinner. You can take the kids on a play-date with your kids. You can ask the parent if they would like to join you for a dinner out. And, please be aware that the time they have spent grieving is not an indication of how much better things are for that family. Grief is not linear. It brings many highs and lows, it is cyclical. You would be surprised how intensely that family is still grieving months, years later. In this way, any of us can be agents of change. Any of us can be that one person that help keep that family together. A little attention now can mean a world of difference tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Walking in Heaven

a walk in the clouds...
Originally uploaded by

This afternoon my youngest son, and I, returned to Ocean Beach. This time we were prepared to run. It was a beautiful late afternoon, and the sunset was once again gorgeous. But we were not there for the sunset, we were there for some serious running.

For some reason the waves were creating an extreme amount of sea foam. With each rising of the tide, very big cloud like pieces of sea foam would be released. These large clouds would then be carried off by the winds, floating across the shore and sand. It was an amazing feeling of running high up in the sky among the clouds. The wind was wet and cool upon our faces. We felt so alive. After a while we began to look around us and see others running, or playing among the foam cloud like formations. It all felt very magical.

We ran to the end of the beach, which is a considerable distance. Coming back we decided to walk instead. The sun had already retreated for the night, and darkness took it's place. Guiding our way back to where we started was the glow of the moon. The tide was very calm tonight, and it was moving very slowly. With each gravitational force the tide would pull back anywhere from 50 to 100 feet from where it last flowed. With the glow of the moon this created another celestial experience.

walking on clouds
Originally uploaded by
Thomas Hartmann

As we walked over the freshly wet sandy shore it had a glass like quality to it. While walking we could see light reflecting up at us. When we looked down we could see remaining remnants of the earlier sea foam slowly moving in swirling formations. The combination of these gave us an experience of walking high above in the heavens. Down below us was the beautiful earth. We could see from our vantage point how the earth moves, with it's seas and land interspersed.

I began walking in further toward the ocean each time the tide was pulled back. It felt like an eternity, and very fragile, as if walking on clear glass. It was so comforting, and soothing with it's calm movement and fresh fragrance. At times the ocean became playful, and chased me back to shore. I ran with my arms stretched out, screaming with joy like an innocent child.

While feeling high above, walking in the heavens, I checked in with Michael. I let him know that I was there enjoying what he would want me to enjoy. I thanked him for encouraging me to get out to the beach once in awhile. I spoke to the deceased spouses of all those I have become familiar with through my blogging. I let them know that we are all here, missing them, loving them, and working hard to keep living. I looked down once again, and saw what they see. They see the beauty of all of us, how we are all part of this great big world. They see our struggles, but they are able to see the bigger picture. Each of our worlds feel so small and claustrophobic at times. When we are hurting, when we are alone, we can feel so small. Because so many of us are left alone, we become very isolated, making our world seem even smaller.

Today's experience opened my eyes to see how much bigger my world can be. How with just a little effort I can experience such openness, such expanse. I can feel one with all of those running in unison across the beach. I can feel one with the ocean and it's waves. I can feel one with the sky above, which allows me to breathe in big breaths of fresh air, and fresh energy so desperately needed. And I can feel all of our loved ones looking down on us, watching over us, reminding us that there is so much out there. We are part of something very big. If we can take a chance at venturing out, we can find ways of feeling attached to the bigger world while also remaining under loving watchful eyes.

This will be a new challenge. I need to remember my experience today. It was a good one. It was life affirming. It fed me, it comforted me, and soothed me. Remember. Remember.

Toward the end of our walk I came upon a perfect sand dollar. I picked it up to investigate it. My son came running up to see what I had. I handed it to him, and he said "just like Mike's sand dollars." You see, Michael has this tin filled with perfect sand dollars that he had picked up along the shore. We have some laying on the vanity in our bathroom, Remy has one in his room, and there are several more still in the tin. When someone would comment about the beautiful sand dollars, Michael would go get his tin, reach into it, and give one away as a gift. Today's sand dollar was a gift from Michael. It was his way of telling me that yes, he is present. I, in turn, gave it as a gift to my son, to remind him of this special evening together.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Restless Heart

2. restlessness
Originally uploaded by
Connor Davison

Today's post is being written rather late. It has been a very busy day, but even as I sat here in my bedroom with everything in place to begin writing, there has been a restlessness that has kept me from starting. Rather than push myself, and jump into my writing, I chose to just sit, and to let my feelings sort themselves out.

What has emerged is that I am so needing to be soothed. The restlessness comes from the knowing that the soothing cannot really take place. There are times when we need soothing in general, and any set of open arms or open heart will do. This is not one of those times. In fact, most of my days are filled with such a strong need, a strong yearning, but always with the knowledge that what I truly desire, I cannot get.

I wish I could report that the mourning process has moved me along further, but that would just be sugar-coating my reality. My grief is always just below the surface. It doesn't take very much to feel awash with emotion. With time I am better able to manage it, but it is always there.

I often feel that I am a walking pressure cooker. If I don't let off some of the steam, I am really going to blow. For me this is done with tears. In each of my days I must find a time and place for my tears. If I don't allow myself to cry, even for a very brief period, I begin to feel a rage growing within me. I want so badly for my reality to be different, but it can't. I miss my love, Michael, terribly. I don't know how else to express it, other than in my tears. The pain is still here, and I don't always know what to do with it.

I can't walk around my world in constant tears, if I did I would just drown. Even now, I am struggling to find the right words to describe what I am feeling, but I am at a loss to adequately explain it. How is it that I am supposed to get through all of this without having his arms around me? How am I supposed to move forward when it feels like there is nothing that I want to move toward.

There are times that I can use objects around me to get a sense of Michael's presence. I can look at the many photos of him, or of us, and smile thinking about our love. Yet in a moments time, I am back to tears. It is so tiring. I so want to fast foward to a year from now, and hope to find that the intensity is different.

~Well, there was a whole lot more to this post, but I just lost it somehow in trying to autosave what I had written. Rather than try to remember all that I wrote, I will take this as a sign to turn my computer off and get some sleep.

"Groovy Kind of Love"

When I'm feeling blue
All I have to do
Is take a look at you
Then I'm not so blue
When you're close to me
I can feel you heart beat
I can hear you breathing
In my ear
Wouldn't you agree?
Baby, you and me got a groovy kind of love

Any time you want to
You can turn me on to
Anything you want to
Any time at all
When I kiss your lips
Ooh, I start to shiver
Can't control the quivering inside
Wouldn't you agree?
Baby, you and me got a groovy kind of love


When I'm feeling blue
All I have to do
Is take a look at you
Then I'm not so blue
When I'm in your arms
Nothing seems to matter
My whole world can shatter
I don't care
Wouldn't you agree?
Baby, you and me got a groovy kind of love

We got a groovy kind of love
We got a groovy kind of love
Ooh, ooh
We got a groovy kind of love

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ocean Beach

Tonight the kids and I went to Dante's Jiu Jitsu class. Well, Dante went to his class, the rest of us wandered around while he was at his class. Arianne went walking down along the store fronts to talk on her phone. My youngest, Remy, and I walked over to Ocean Beach. He wanted us to go running, but I was wearing dress shoes from my morning at work. I stood by the sea wall, and watched the sun set while he ran around the beach.

For those of you unfamiliar with San Francisco, Ocean Beach is in the north west side of the city, where you find the Cliff House. It is one of those tourist destinations, a beautiful restaurant with beautiful views. It is also one of the places Michael and I considered for our wedding reception.

Ocean Beach was a favorite destination for Michael. He loved the beach. We would occasionally pack up a lunch, our books, and our youngest, Remy, for a day in the sun. It's a great spot for playing with your dog, running, or playing in sand. It's not the safest place for swimming, besides the water is awfully cold. I do remember one scorching hot day when Michael and Remy actually swam in the water. It was a wonderful afternoon. Michael and I had just started dating, and it was our third month anniversary. Yes, third month. When you first start dating, you look for every opportunity to celebrate with a romantic dinner. Ours was with Remy in tow. After an afternoon at the beach we went to Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, where they have killer margaritas. I remember sitting at the table, toasting to each other with our drinks, and Remy asking, "are you going to marry my Dad?"

We laughed, me feeling quite embarrassed. But I do remember us looking into each other's eyes with that certain twinkle. I felt so happy. That was almost four years ago. It's hard to believe that in only four years, we did get married, battled cancer, and said goodbye. Today was my first visit back to Ocean Beach since my last visit there with Michael this past summer. I stood there looking out at Remy running around the beach laughing and having fun. It was a scene played out many times before, but there was that one difference. Whenever we went to the beach I was the stick in the mud, who sat on the blanket reading a book while Michael and Remy played in the sand or water. Today was a good day to return. The weather was cool, but felt refreshing. The sun was setting, and it felt very peaceful. There were not a lot of people around, so I wasn't distracted from the sound of the waves crashing to the shore.

I looked out and spoke to Michael. "Here I am Dear." I immediately wished I had brought some of his ashes with me, but I hadn't really expected to find myself there today. Now that Dante wants to take this class everyday, I expect that we will be spending a lot more time at Ocean Beach. I promised Remy that I would bring my tennis shoes next time so that we can go running. When I do I will bring some of Michael's ashes, just a small handful. I'm slowly spreading a tiny bit of his ashes at our favorite places. A pinch of Michael here, and a pinch of Michael there. I'm wanting him to be one with the world. I'm wanting to know that he is blowing in the wind, and washing up on the shore.

As I stood there looking out at the beach I realized how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place. I wondered why I didn't come there more often. I made a promise to Michael to go there more in the future, and to remember all the fun times we had. I looked out at Remy running around ridiculously, and reminded myself to make more time for play.

We got home, and Dante gave Remy and I a quick lesson in Jiu Jitsu. We wrestled, laughed and had a really fun time. Arianne just looked at us boys as if we had lost our minds. Once again, I reminded myself just how lucky I am.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Faking It

Fake it
Originally uploaded by
Mariss Balodis

My thought today is this, how do we create joy in the midst of grieving?

This morning I awoke to rain and dark skies. And while I tend to love the rain, the change in weather has mirrored my mood. I have not fallen into despair, but my mood has come down from where it has been these past few days. It is always very telling when the kids are putting in so much effort to engage me in conversations, or activities, with only minimal success. I'm sure they see it, and without thinking, begin preventive measures to save me from sliding downward.

I sometimes feel like my grieving is similar to what a manic-depressive person goes through. Without much cause, my mood can shift dramatically, or subtly. Today has been more subtle. My voice has a monotone quality to it. My movement in minimal. I have a calmness about me that walks a fine line with numbness.

When I am like this I tend to make choices that don't necessarily help me counter my downward shift. Earlier I was searching for a movie to watch. I saw that there was a Patrick Swayze film on, City of Joy, that I have never really completely watched. I selected it, then settled onto the couch. The kids were in and out, but eventually settled into the living room as well, watching the film with me. Of course they were not aware that this film choice, or actually it's lead actor, was not going to help my mood.

Patrick Swayze died the day after Michael did. During the past couple of years I have been very aware of some of the stars who were battling cancer, such as Patrick, or Farrah Fawcett. Somehow seeing their pictures in all the magazines these past couple of years were an ongoing reminder of my reality with Michael. Every time I went into the grocery store, every time I turned on the television, there might be something about the stars conditions. It was a reminder of how frail we all are, no matter our position in life. Even watching a favorite sit-com on television reminded me of our reality. One of our favorites was Ugly Betty. Last year the character Daniel fell in love with Molly, who ended up with cancer, and who died at the end of the season. In the middle of the season, the storyline got too close to home, and I stopped watching.

Now I look back over the past year, and all those that I was following, be it actors in the news, characters on t.v., people in my previous brain tumor support group, or my Michael, have all died. Now I no longer view the world through the eyes of hope. Now my vision is clouded by grief. On a more clearer day, I no longer can see forever. I feel like there was once an innocence of life that is no longer.

I would like to think that I had more power, or persuasion, in creating joy in my life. Sometimes I wish I was better at faking it. I used to do a bit of acting when I was a kid. I enjoyed it. These days it is part of my survival. I act everyday. When I step outside my home each morning I begin playing a character. The role is that of an optimistic widower. I try to wear a smile, and to look upbeat. It can help me get through the day, creating the illusion of joy. Maybe it's not exactly joy that I am projecting, but at least it is a bit of optimism.

I don't really want to be faking my emotions, but sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. And as far as feeling joyful, I would like to feel it more than I currently do. I look out my window, the rain has stopped. The air is very still, not one leaf on the tree is moving. Darkness is setting in.

My youngest just walked into the room. "What's wrong Dad, you look tired, or, something."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Viva Brazil!

Originally uploaded by
【Mr. Oglou】

This morning was a busy one for me. My boys had appointments and classes to get to, and I had a client to see. I was up early, and got most of it done by noon time. My 16 year old has been wanting to start learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I had told him that once he was at home full time that I would enroll him. He recently found a studio, by the beach, where he wanted to enroll. I dropped him off late this morning, then returned toward the end of the lesson, not wanting to cramp his style. It looks like a lot of fun, somewhat like a combination of wrestling and judo.

As I was watching him go through the lesson I was struck by how good the teacher was, both patient, encouraging and funny. When we got home Dante was enthusiastically describing his first lesson to his sister. He was talking about the teacher and asked if I agreed that he was a really nice guy. Without my filter on, I said yes, he also had a great body and beautiful tattoos. Dante quickly rolled his eyes, saying "I don't know anything about that, but..." My daughter and I got a good laugh. Without missing a beat my daughter said, "Daddy, you need to start getting out."

I was quick to remind her that while I may notice good looking guys, I am no where near ready to start going out. I don't think she meant I should start dating or anything, just that I should make an effort to socialize a bit more. And while it is on my mind, socializing that is, It's still in the planning stages.

I know that I have been writing about this recently, and some days I am lonelier than others, yet for the most part I am happy just being at home. By tomorrow I will be desperately lonely again, and will be wishing I had made an effort this weekend. Unfortunately that is the way of my mourning. I'm either isolating myself, or feeling isolated. I'm either wanting solitude, or feeling alone. I'm either missing Michael miserably, or fantasizing about Jiu Jitsu instructors.

Today's post is obviously not a very deep one. It's a nice frame of mind to be in. These are the days that provide me relief from the heavy days. Now I sound like a feminine protection advertisement.

The weather outside is cold. I'm nice and cozy here in my living room, with the help of my fake fireplace. I'm going to see if there is a romantic comedy to watch. Days like this don't come along very often. Days where I feel light in spirit. Maybe I can find a nice Brazilian/martial arts/romantic comedy to settle into.

Speaking of Brazilian...ouch!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Quiet Night at Home

Minimates Secret Invasion. Super Skrulls!
Originally uploaded by

Not sure which direction to go tonight. I have a terrible migraine, and nothing seems to help. I suppose it doesn't help that my son, Remy, is sitting here on my bed watching the Matrix Reloaded. What could I say? He came knocking at my door asking if he could sit with me. Then looking quite bored, asked if he could turn on my television. I said okay, but something quiet because I have a headache, and I need to write my post. So now I'm having to deal with violent images flash across the screen before me, with the sound of traffic and shooting. Lovely.

I went briefly upstairs to the kitchen to search out some more medication, and found my other son, Dante, sitting at the computer. "Hey, Dad, want to search out martial arts classes for me for tomorrow?" Well, actually son, I have a terrible headache, and just came up for more medicine. "Okay, so you want me to come down with the times of the classes so we can decide about tomorrow?" Yes Dante, that would be just fine.

Out comes our dog, Ranger, barking and snapping at my ass. "Ranger! Leave Daddy alone!" screams my daughter from her bedroom. I walk in, she's laying across her bed watching a bootleg version of the new Wolfman movie. I say, Arianne, you shouldn't watch those on the computer, besides I want to see that movie on the big screen. "Oh, let's go online right now to see when the movie is playing tomorrow. Can we go?" Well daughter, let's consider it. "Come watch with me." No thanks daughter, I need to go back downstairs and write my post.

Back downstairs, the cat, Carelli, is waiting at my door. "Meow." Alright, come inside, but leave me alone.

I'll be back upstairs as soon as I'm done writing this. We are having a bit of a celebration. My son Dante moved back home permanently today. He previously attended a residential therapeutic school. I decided that since he was 16 it was time for him to learn to be in the community full time. He is so proud to be living at home, and starting a new high school on Monday. I am also very proud of him. He has learned many new skills, and I'm feeling hopeful for him. I do have my eyes wide open though, as I know very well that this will be a challenging transition. Anyway, to celebrate the milestone, I bought a wonderful sugar filled chocolate sheet cake, complete with sprinkles.

Now the power just went out in the neighborhood. It's a good thing that I always have candles burning in my room for Michael. Suddenly all the kids are screaming, scared. I have three of them, 11, 16 and 18, all huddled on Daddy's bed. You would think I have babies. Maybe I do. As type this I have Ranger sitting on my feet, and Carelli meowing about having to share his space. So much for a peaceful evening.

Oh, my headache is suddenly better.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Men of Michael

three men and a tree
Originally uploaded by

Yesterday I added some music to my blog. I gave it a great deal of thought prior to posting it, as it has significant meaning. The group whose music I have on the play list is Secret Garden. They are a Norwegian Duo who won the 1995 Euro Vision Song Contest. So how did I come to know of them? Michael.

When I met Michael he had recently moved back to the states after many years of living over seas. For 7 of those years Michael lived in Norway with his previous husband. This was a very significant relationship for him. Part of his reason for moving back to California was that his mother needed some help, as she was raising her raising her grandchildren. Michael needed a break from the relationship, his mother needed some support, and he eventually decided not to return to Norway. Even though he felt good about his decision, he had many happy memories of his time in Norway. He maintained contact with many friends there, one being his ex.

When Michael and I first got together I felt a bit intimidated by the way he described his life with his ex. They enjoyed a lifestyle that I could never compete with. His ex was a well paid doctor, I was a social worker with three kids. In time I became more comfortable with the fact that he still had loving feelings for his ex and the life they had. I realized this was nothing to feel threatened by, as I knew Michael was in love with me.

The day that we learned of Michael's brain tumor it became my responsibility to contact his friends and family. I knew that Michael would want his ex to know. He and I had never spoken to each other, but he knew of me. That day I called a woke him up from his sleep. I introduced myself, then quickly shared what was happening. His ex obviously cared very much for Michael, and he began sobbing. There I was, consoling Michael ex husband.

I later got to me the ex, as he, and a few of their friends came to visit us a few months later. He was very nice, yet we were obviously a bit nervous around each other. On the last night of their visit I asked to speak to him alone. I told him to please call me anytime for updates about Michael, and that he is welcome to visit again. He was very sweet, and wanted to be sure that he was not invading our space by visiting.

The week before Michael died he suddenly became unable to communicate. He was able to understand what we were saying, but none of his speech made any sense. One morning I was looking on his cell phone and saw that his ex had called. I called his number, and explained that Michael's tumor had progressed to the point of his being unable to speak. I asked the ex to speak to Michael as I held the phone to his ear. After a period of time, I brought the phone back to my ear to let him know that Michael heard what he had shared with him. The ex asked if I needed any help with Michael. I thanked him for asking, and let him know that I had Michael's mother, and I had the hospice nurse helping out. After I hung up I realized that what he was really saying was that he wanted to be here. I called him back and invited him to come visit. He got on a plane the next day.

When the ex arrived he walked in with a bouquet of Michael's favorite flowers, Irises. I took him down to our bedroom and gave him the chair next to Michael's bed. He sat there with Michael speaking to him in Norwegian. It was wonderful to hear him speak his native language, and he was so please when he realized that Michael clearly understood him. I wanted to complete the mood, so I put on the CD by Secret Garden. Michael had played it many times in the past for me. I knew that it was a favorite of his from that time. I now understood that we shared Michael. We both loved him. We both knew what made him happy.

Later that day Michael's best friend arrived. Michael's best friend was his best man at our wedding. Michael's best friend was also Michael's first lover. There we were, the men of Michael. We all held a special part of Michael in our hearts, and we all had a part of Michael's history. Together we were a testament of a lifetime of love, Michael's love.

The music playing is the music that played throughout Michael's last days. It is the music that guided him peacefully from this world. It is only recently that I have felt strong enough to hear it once again. And, although I say strong enough, it still reduces me to tears. Tears of love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis (bigger vector)
Originally uploaded by
Fuzzy Ink

My struggle at the moment is finding where I fit in. I feel so disconnected from people. I don't know where to turn. I need to find a place to be.

This afternoon I spent some time searching online for some kind of social group to join. I want to find a place, or opportunity, to meet other gay men for friendship. I want to be able to meet other men without the perception that I am looking for romance.

In my search today I was looking for something like a gay writers workshop. I didn't find anything, but I will keep looking. I figured that if I could find a social group that meets occasionally regarding a common interest, then there wouldn't be the pressure, or expectation, that I was there looking for someone to date. I did find a few gay dads groups, but each time I began reading the description it often described activities for couples.

I then tried to see if there was anything for gay widowers, and to my dismay, all I found on google was my own blog. It turns out that what I set out to do has been successful. Many months ago I had gone searching for anything relating to gay widowers, and all I found was one book, written about 15 years ago. While I ordered the book, and found it quite helpful, I still needed more. As I found nothing, I decided to start this blog as a way to cope, and as a place where other gay widowers could turn to. It's ironic that now that I go looking again, all I find is me.

If I google gay widower, I find me. If I google gay grief, there I am. Gay bereavement anyone? How about 'Dan, in real time.' The irony of course is that I feel as though I don't know who I am anymore. Yet, online I have a very clear identity. I am the gay widowed blogger. And while I am proud that what I set out to do has come to fruition, I start to wonder, is that all I am?

I find myself feeling all alone out here. I feel alone in the sense that I don't know where to go to feel part of something. I value the relationships I have formed through this blog, yet I can't rely solely on my Internet friendships. I need to have connections where I live. I need to have a place to go when I want to be somewhere other than in my own home. I need friendships, but I've never really good at making friends. In the past I have relied on meeting people either while in school, or at work. For the most part, I am a homebody. When I go out in social situations I tend to be somewhat of a wallflower. This is what Michael and I had in common. Neither of us felt that confident in social situations. Neither of us enjoyed being out there when single. Finding each other felt like a fluke. We were both shy individuals who happened to connect on one fateful night.

Now I find myself in a uncomfortable situation. I need to meet other people. I still feel married. I am terribly depressed. I am a widower. Where do I begin? And when it comes down to it, it's not like I have lots of free time to put myself out there anyway. I am once again the single dad of three kids. I have four therapy appointments a week to get me or the kids to, guitar lessons, martial arts classes, religion classes, work, school carpool and grief support group. All of this in the course of one week, and I haven't even mentioned any of the daily at home responsibilities.

Married life was quite compatible with me. It suited me fine. I loved being married. I'm an old fashioned kind of guy. I don't need, or want, big city living. I don't want to be out at night. I don't want to be standing in a bar listening to loud pulsating music. Been there, done that. Yet, what choice do I have? If I don't venture out I will never have to opportunity to relate to another individual in person. My kids are going to grow very tired of seeing me sitting on the couch of my living room. I can hear them now, "what are you doing with your life?" "Get out and do something."

I also have to wonder, other than another widower, who is going to want me around? Misery loves company. I am pretty miserable. I need other miserable people to socialize with.

I'm not yet in a space where I have the energy to put on a happy face. I'm tired. I'm sad. I'm pretty pitiful. Maybe I need to place a personal ad.

"Gay widower, sad, depressed, cries throughout the day, poor eating habits, busy life, hates being away from home, obsesses about his deceased husband, slowly becoming more and more out of shape. Call me."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alone Again (Naturally)

Originally uploaded by
Brentjp99 (completed)

Today was therapy Tuesday. It has become something I really look forward to, as it is probably the only time in my week that I have a one on one discussion with another adult. Aside from writing this blog, it is the only time, and place, that I have to talk about my grief. Every other hour of my day allows for only short soundbites at best.

All day at work I realized that I was back to feeling very sad and depressed. I was feeling so apathetic about life in general. In talking to my therapist, I was explaining that I do have good times throughout the day, or week. I do enjoy my time with the kids, most of the time. When at home the kids and I do have opportunities to talk a bit, and laugh at life. But as my daughter has been pointing out to me lately, I spend a good amount of time alone in my room.

I have found that I go through periods where I prefer to spend as much time as possible in my bedroom, then I go through periods where I only go down there at bedtime. Lately I realize that when ever I go to the room for a short break from the upstairs chaos, I am almost immediately in tears. In talking to my therapist today he recognized that I was putting much of my energy into not feeling what I was describing. The concerns that I brought up were that I feel so apathetic and depressed, yet I was detaching from my feelings. In talking about this I began crying. My therapist asked if it would be okay for him to approach me. He then put his arms around me, and I began sobbing.

I am in such pain. There is still such a significant sense of sadness in my life. What I learned this afternoon, is that I am trying to distance myself from my sadness. I believe this is because it takes me to such a lonely place. As I recognized this afternoon, it is a rare opportunity for me to have someone just sit and listen. It is even more rare for me to have someone put their arms around me while I grieve.

It is sad to me, that I have done to myself that which I try to change through this blog, which is to provide a place where grieving is okay. I have been grieving for 5 months and 3 days, and I am still quite vulnerable to the sadness that pervades grief. There is no way to survive this for long without letting out that which builds up within.

The truth is I cry on a daily basis. The truth is that when I am not crying, I am working very hard to keep the tears under control. Grief does not come with a limited volume of tears. The body of the widowed continues to produce tears and sadness. The sadness if not expressed becomes stronger and stronger. It's toxicity deepens with each day that I don't fully express it. It feels like a poison that can only be ridden from my body through a blood-letting.

My therapist says that I cannot continue to grieve entirely alone. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the beast. Ask any widow or widower, and they will tell you how alone they feel, and how alone they truly are. Even those of us blessed with children find ourselves feeling alone. Our children offer us much love, and much distraction, but by days end we are once again faced with the fact that we grieve alone. Nights are very lonely. Our spouses/partners are gone, and nothing has taken their place. Where ever we go there is an absence, and this is especially true in our homes, and in our bedrooms. Our beds feel enormous, no matter the actual size.

I don't know when these intense feelings of sadness, and loneliness, begin to change. Or maybe it's not about when the feelings change, but more about when they becomes less intense. I can honestly say that the periods of time, of this type of intensity, has changed for me. The first few months were pure agony. The crying, the sobbing, could go on all day and night. I just need to remind myself, and those that love me, that the sadness and loneliness have not gone away. The feelings can still be as intense at times, even though they may not last as long.

Gilbert O'Sullivan - Alone Again, Naturally Lyrics

In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top will throw myself off
In an effort to make it clear to who
Ever what it’s like when you’re shattered
Left standing in the lurch at a church
Where people saying: "My God, that’s tough
She's stood him up"
No point in us remaining
We may as well go home
As I did on my own
Alone again, naturally

To think that only yesterday
I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to well wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much, as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt
Talk about God and His mercy
Or if He really does exist
Why did He desert me in my hour of need
I truly am indeed Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that there are more hearts
broken in the world that can’t be mended
Left unattended
What do we do? What do we do?

Alone again, naturally
Now looking back over the years
And whatever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to hide the tears
And at sixty-five years old
My mother, God rest her soul,
Couldn’t understand why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken
Leaving her to start with a heart so badly broken
Despite encouragement from me
No words were ever spoken
And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally

Monday, February 15, 2010

Letting Go

Let them go away (el novio ingles de chu)
Originally uploaded by

Last night I had a conversation with my husband, Michael. I was talking to him about loss, and about all the plans we made when we first met. We were like any other young couple, young in the way that this was a new relationship, not necessarily in age. We had many hopes and dreams. We both talked about our idea of the ideal relationship. We each shared our ideas of what the rest of our life would look like. We then started talking about which of our individual thoughts shared commonalities, and which we would need to compromise.

Any new relationship is full of compromise. This seems even more so when you meet later in life, as there are more aspects of your life that have been set in place for awhile. For me, that aspect that was set in place was the fact that I had three children, and I was a home owner. With this, Michael was the one who had to initially compromise, by making the decision to join my household. There were many other areas that we both made decisions of compromise about, but they were happy compromises, as they meant we were merging our lives.

Part of the merging of lives within a new relationship entails future plans together. Ours was pretty specifically laid out, as we wanted to move ahead sooner, rather than later. We planned to sell my house after the first year, so that we could move away from the city, and have more space, a yard for gardening, and a place to retire to.

Now by the fact that you, the reader, are here, you are aware that my husband died. Michael was diagnosed with a brain tumor after we had been together only 1 1/2 years. He had surgery within days of his diagnosis, and his prognosis was fatal. The doctors gave him anywhere from 6 to 12 months to live. We were told that only 5 % of people with his type of tumor survive beyond the first year. With this news our need to compromise began again. This time the compromise came in the form of letting go. We had to look at our life together, and re-examine our plans for the future.

The letting go began very soon after his diagnosis, and continued throughout the time he survived. Michael died just a month short of two years post surgery. During that period of time, we decided that making any big moves or changes would not work for us. When we said us, we really meant me. We never allowed our self to pretend that he would be here for the long haul. We always spoke about the ability to increase his time, and how that could potentially give him an extended life measured in quality. Quantity was not part of our vocabulary.

I remember during the first 6 months of his living with the brain tumor, we would spend quality time talking about our love for each other, and how we could make the most of what we had. I always made sure he knew that how ever long we had, I would be there for him. I wanted him to be reassured that I could handle anything that came our way. I wanted him to sleep every night knowing that he would never have to face anything alone. Once he was asleep, I would quietly step outside our bedroom, and go sit in our window seat, where I would cry under the watchful eye of the moon. I was grieving. I was acknowledging all that I needed to let go of. I was allowing myself to feel each step, each awareness of letting go. Once I was all cried out, I would slip back into bed, put my arms around him, and go to sleep.

We did many wonderful things during the two years that Michael was sick. We travelled quite a bit, and most importantly, we were married. I saw the window of opportunity as a blessing from God. Here we were, a fairly new gay couple, both kind old fashion in our approach to our relationship, and dealing with a life and death situation. I remember the day that the California Supreme Court approved marriage for Lesbians and Gays. Michael and I stood in the living room with our daughter, amazed at what we were hearing on the news. We would have the privilege of sealing our relationship in front of our family and friends. Something we had long ago let go of, was suddenly placed lovingly before us.

Once we got over the excitement of marriage, we began the next phase of letting go. Michael worried about what he was doing to me by getting married, then dying. He worried that making me a widower would only compound the pain in the future. He was right to worry about this, but I couldn't cut off this new dream because of my future impending pain. I loved Michael, and wanted to be his husband. Our family and friends marvelled at our decision to go forward with this.

On October 19, 2008, Michael and I stood before our loved ones, proclaimed our love and commitment, and became one. In addressing our guests, I acknowledged the reality, as is my way. I said that yes, we had the audacity to stand up to this harsh reality that had become our life, and continued forward with our plan. Our plan was to love each other. Our plan was to commit to each other. Our plan was to take each day as a gift, and let go of those things we had no control of.

After Michael died, September 13, 2009, I learned that I had more letting go to do. My initial few months were spent in the darkest of places, and it was a time that I wanted to let go of everything in my life. I was in such overwhelming pain, and life just didn't seem worth it. I learned to hate the phrase that "time heals," but I have learned that it is true. Time heals, because you become familiar with the pain of loss. It doesn't go away, you just begin to see it as a life companion.

I have now lived for 5 months as a widower. In these 5 months I have been learning once again about letting go. I have needed to let go of how I saw myself. I am now a changed person. I have needed to let go of what grounds me, what feeds me and what brings me joy. All of these aspects of my life have changed. There are in fact many aspects of my life that are different. It is a hard lesson to learn when you lose someone so central to your life. There is that part of you that refuses to accept the reality. You cling to what you had with all your might. Yet, in time you begin to see that this is getting you no where. I can cling to Michael all I want, but that doesn't change the fact that he is gone. I can refuse to like what life has given me, but that will not change what I wake up to tomorrow.

Not so long ago Michael's mother and I began the process of sorting through Michael's things. In my grieving, I have had to sort out that which feeds me, and that which hold me back. I have to decide what I am ready to let go of, and what I plan to always keep. This is not a simple process. There is no set time table that all the widowed can follow. We each deal with our loss individually. For myself, I need to begin the next phase of letting go. I need to acknowledge that which is difficult to let go of, and that which I am ready for. I need to push myself, but gently. I don't want to get stuck, but I don't want to move too fast.

Sometimes I feel that others around me are surprised at how life changing this has been for me. Sometimes I feel that they would be more comfortable knowing that I was moving forward with my life. I am keenly aware that I am likely projecting some of my own fears and worries to those around me. What I can say to them, or myself, is that change is happening. Sometimes the changes are very subtle, and sometimes they are announced right here in this blog. Some days I may appear to be doing well, but am secretly drowning in my grief. There are times when I feel the need to present better than I am. Sometimes, I have no control over how I present to others.

In my talk with Michael this weekend, I was asking him if he is still aware of me. I was asking if he could see my pain. I needed to know if I was truly alone, or just alone in the physical sense. I would love to report that he spoke to me, but if that is possible, it is not really an experience I am open to. I know what is best for me. I need to feel this pain, and I need to express it. I don't allow myself to mask what I am feeling, as it wouldn't serve me in the end. I have to feel what it is that I am letting go of. I have to constantly be searching within so as to understand what it is that I am grieving in that moment. This past weekend I was not so much grieving that I was alone without Michael on Valentine's Day, more that I was having to once again feel the letting go of a future I previously had a good grasp on.

Letting go is never easy. Letting go was easier when I was experiencing it with Michael. Now is my time to continue letting go on my own.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Message to Michael

Rare Valentine from Dallas, Texas
Originally uploaded by

To My Sweetheart,

I was just going through some old email, and saw the original email that I had sent you with this video. It wasn't long after you and I started dating that the kids and I had seen this video on Logo. The kids only knew you as Mike, and I don't think they had even met you yet. They just knew that I was smitten by a guy named Mike. This video came on and they had a good time teasing me about "I Like Mike."

You know honey, I fell in love with you right away. When we met I knew that we would end up together. It's funny thinking back, because I wasn't out looking for you. I was already casually dating someone, and was just out to have a night out by myself, and take a break from the kids. There you were. We spent the whole night out together, dancing, drinking, laughing, talking and kissing. We traded emails for the next couple of days, then went out on our first official date. It was wonderful. I came home, and ended the relationship with the other guy. That's how sure I was.

I know that our friends and family think that our meeting was destiny. We were meant to be together. I don't like to think of our time together as being destined to end so soon, although I do go there sometimes. I can't help it. What I prefer to think about is our being destined to live out the rest of your life together. I do believe that I was meant to love you, and that you were meant to love me. I also believe that God chose me to take care of you, and I loved every minute of it.

Michael, I am missing you so much tonight. It hurts. It hurts me to my core. You have been gone for five months now, and I'm not sure how I'm supposed to react at this point. Most days are easier to handle than in past months, but if I let down my guard, like tonight, the sobbing takes hold of me. It becomes uncontrollable.

Is it true, that we grieve as much as we loved? I don't know Michael. I don't know what to believe. Do you miss me? You used to tell me that you would miss me when you were gone. You meant that you would miss me after you died. Do you? Are you aware of me? I often wonder if I am going through this alone, or are you going through this as well.

I feel as though I am going to make myself mad. Not angry, mad. All those initial feelings of loss are brewing below the surface again. They make me feel as though I don't want to chose sanity. My heart cannot make sense of all this tonight. It is being flooded with so many thoughts and emotions. It is trying to mend, but tonight I feel the stitches that hold it together beginning to give way to heartache once again. I don't like this. I'm not going to indulge in wishing that I still had you with me. I know that wishing for things like that no longer serve me well. I need to wish for peace, for acceptance, and for grace. I hope you are happy where ever you are. I hope that your soul is smiling, if that is even possible. I know that perhaps you are in a place, or state of being, where my words no longer have meaning. I just hope that the essence of my message is being communicated with you.

I love you Michael. Be happy. Be at peace.

Yours. Dan

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Outwardly Love

Well, let's recap the week, or at least the last few days. We went from me not running away from problems, carefully examining the after effects of grief on my body, to my lack of sex, with Michael, or anybody else for that matter.

Where do we go from here? I suppose there are only two directions to choose from, further outward, or further within. Most of my posts deal with my inner stirring and emotions. So to keep things interesting I suppose we should stay outside my mind for just a bit more. But where to turn? Hmmn.

I have carefully navigated myself away from discussing this weekends holiday pressures. No, I'm not talking about the emotionally loaded Presidents Weekend. 'Ol Abe and George will do fine without my assistance, and they offer me nothing of interest today. Although I remember as a kid, me and my two cousin, making Abe Lincoln and George Washington cards, and going door to door to sell them. There were not a great success then, and I don't expect to be flooded with requests to write about the effects of the prior presidents on my state of grieving today.

So, I suppose the holiday I should be addressing today, or real soon, is that of St. Valentine. The history of this saint, and the origins of this holiday, are both quite vague. So rather than do my usual 'wikipedia moment' I am going to gloss right over this and move on the the lay person's experience of the holiday. I give you a valentine, you give me a valentine, we both have good feelings. Yeah, right.

First off, I did my important sending of flowers to my parents, and to Michael's mother. My duties as a loving, and appreciative son, are completed. -check

Next, I needed to come up with something, perhaps some candy, to give to each of my kids on Valentine's day. This is something I have always done with them. I know that the holiday is supposed to be about romantic love, but since they have the tradition of exchanging cards at school, I have always had a small 'love gift' for each of my kids on the holiday. I stopped by a store on my way home yesterday. -check

While at the store I bought myself, and Michael, a small bouquet of white tulips. I put them in our bedroom, next to the electronic frame with an assortment of our pictures. -check

I have my brother, his wife, and twin 6 year olds, visiting us from southern California. So far we are having a fun, enjoyable weekend. This will definitely help me get through the holiday with little melt down. A pleasant distraction. -check

I know where to find the valentines I previously received from Michael so that I can re-read his sentiments on Sunday morning. -check

I thank God for the gift that Michael was to me. I thank God for every wonderful moment that I was blessed with to have Michael. I thank God for bringing Michael into my life, and for entrusting me with the task of preparing him to leave this world. -check

I thank Michael for giving me his heart. I thank Michael for his love. -check

Where does that leave me. I have done all my preparations for the holiday, and I expect it go by without a hitch. If it were so simple, right? For those of us who are grieving, the little things in life, those small occasions that would otherwise be a fleeting thought, become much more significant. Every day has the potential to spark some kind of memory of day's gone by with our deceased spouses. Valentines Day will be a loaded one for most of us. And, like many of my peers, this will be my first Valentine's Day without Michael. It is Saturday afternoon, and I am already feeling the emotions creep up on me.

I have just become aware that I have moved my thoughts deep within myself, oh well, so much for looking outward. I want this day to go by, but I also want to spend some time of it alone with my thoughts of Michael. I need to come up with some ritual action that will feel significant to me. I remember last year's Valentine's Day very clearly. While we were celebrating this day of romance, I was very aware of a friend who had recently lost her husband. I tried to imagine how she must have been feeling. I didn't want others to be celebrating without being aware of her loss, or the loss of other caregivers I had come to know through my online support group. I remember sending out an email reminding others to keep the widows in mind during this potentially emotional holiday. I suppose I was also quite aware that this year I could likely have joined their ranks.

Well, here I am. Michael has been gone now for exactly 5 months. It was on this day, in September, at 6:05 am that my heart was eternally broken. I held his face in my hands, and had my mouth pressed against his. I could tell by his breathing that he was about to take his final breathe. I firmly kissed his mouth, and as he exhaled his last breathe, I took it all in. I like to think that his spirit passed through me on it's way out. I also like to think that sediments of his spirit remain embedded within my lungs. I now breathe for two. I now speak for both of us. I carry on with my life, with Michael always being near, and within me.

After Michael died I walked upstairs to my kitchen, for what reason I do not know. But it is there that I let go of my control. I began screaming out loud. My children came running in to hold me and share in my grief. We all huddled there together, crying out loud. When enough time had passed I went back downstairs, showered, then asked to be alone with Michael. I washed his body, and carefully dressed him. It was my responsibility to finish the care needed. I remember being very calm during these actions. I was quiet, but talking to him in my mind. He looked so peaceful. I loved him so much, and continue to.

Looking back on that day five months ago, I feel so honored to have been part of Michael's life. I loved him with all of my heart. I loved him with all of my body. And I hope to one day be reunited with him in soul.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Right Touch

Male Nude 2
Originally uploaded by

So, it would seem that I have stumbled onto a topic that needs further exploration. I had already started a new post for today, which had me going in a different direction, but I am now thinking that we need to stay with this subject a bit longer.

I want to create a setting where we can have these open and honest conversations about aspects of widowhood that don't normally get discussed. I have participated in a couple of bereavement groups, yet this subject has yet to surface. It has been on my mind for quite some time. I go through periods where my libido is through the roof. I'm not sure if that is because I am missing Michael so much, or if I just need the endorphins that are released by sex. When I go through a difficult grieving time, I find that I don't give this much thought at all.

I can only speak from a guys point of view on this subject. As a guy I have used sex as a way to express my love and devotion, and I have also used it just make me feel better. During these painful days, sex would be a wonderful way to balance my emotions. I think for men, we sometimes use sex as a distraction. It's not always used to communicate or relate to our partner. In other words, it is not always intimacy that we seek. Sometimes it's just a means to an end.

For Michael and I, we talked about sex and intimacy with great ease. Sex was something that was important to both of us. We seemed to have a very similar sex drive, which was nicely balanced prior to his getting sick. We also found that we both enjoyed other ways to communicate our love and affection to each other. We often went to spas together, as we loved being pampered. Before, and after he was diagnosed with cancer, we enjoyed giving each other massages. One issue that did come up for me though, was that I sometimes felt like I was already doing so much for him. I am trained as a massage therapist, having studied massage after finishing graduate school. So, I guess you could say I knew what I was doing. When Michael would massage me, he had a tendency to move through it a bit too quickly, and often wanted it to become more sexual. After spending the day taking care of all his needs, giving a massage sometimes felt like asking too much.

As with the changes in our sex life, I brought up this dynamic about the massages. I was able to explain why I hesitated at times, and things got better between us. So it is all types of touch, sexual, intimate, healing and therapeutic that I find missing in my life. I do go for massages frequently, and they feel great, but I sometimes leave the spa feeling very sad. I'm sad that I can enjoy them, and Michael can't. I'm sad that someone is making me feel so good, and it isn't Michael. I leave there thinking about how in the past we would both have received a massage, and would go home very relaxed, together. I leave there thinking that I won't be touched by another adult until my next appointment, which could be weeks.

This is definitely a dilemma for widows and widowers. What does this do to us in the long run. Without touch, do we become further detached from humanity? The mind and body are connected in such significant ways. I worry about detaching physically from this world, and I worry that I will become emotionally detached from people.

Sometimes when I am alone in my room, I will mindlessly allow my hands to brush the sides of my face. I will gently caress my neck and shoulder. I am trying to find that way that Michael would touch me, or the right place he would touch me. I'm wanting connection, connection to him. I know this is not possible, but it is what I desire. It is what my body needs.

My thoughts are quite scattered tonight. I'm feeling less focused. Sometimes I wonder if this is directly related to the lack of touch. I spend far too much time in my head. I need to find new ways to connect to my world, and make the time to do that each day. I need to utilize all of my senses when I do this. I don't think this will take the place of the loss of sex in my life, but it will help fill some of the needs that sexual intimacy once provided.

I suppose it is yet another way that I have to adjust to my new life. My life as a widower. I don't like this. It just amplifies my feeling of being alone.

I miss his touch.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sex, and the Widower

Male figure
Originally uploaded by dromidror

Okay, so now that we all have a good understanding of the current state of my body, let's move on to something a bit more interesting. Well, before we move on let me say this, while I wanted to share how grief can take it's toll on us physically, I meant for it to be shared with humor. I love humor, even in tough, difficult times. And if putting my ass out on the line (figuratively) helps, well then that is where my ass will be found. I don't want you all to think that I obsess about this, or that I hate my body, because I don't. I like who I am, give or take a few choice parts. But, I have to remind myself to show it some appreciation now and then, because nobody else is going to. I think I should plan some kind of self-pampering night. You know, wine and dine it. Who knows? I might get lucky!

This is the kind of thinking that goes on in this thick skull of mine. I miss not having Michael around to throw this kind of banter back and forth. I miss flirting. I miss kissing. I miss hugging. I miss sex, but there wasn't too much of that these past couple of years. Is this something appropriate to discuss?

When someone in a relationship gets cancer, it effects the other spouse/partner just as much. Our lives suddenly stop, we have to re-examine our plans for the present and future, and then modify our expectations, and try to move forward. While this is happening, there is little sleep, or too much sleep due to medication issues. There are countless appointments, and very unpleasant side effects from the chemotherapy to deal with. Now, tie all this up in a pretty little bow, turn to your imaginary spouse and say...Honey, want to get jiggy tonight?

When Michael was initially sick, he felt terrible about the fact that our sex life had disappeared. I told him not to worry, it will come back in time. It did, just not in the same way of course. There were times that I felt like having sex, or felt that I needed the type of intimacy that comes with sex, but Michael was in a different space. Then there would be times that he would want it, but my mind couldn't be furthest from feeling amorous, as I was balancing work, kids, Michael's appointments, and cancer research. We eventually had to talk about all this, as we were giving and receiving mixed messages. Suddenly one who used to initiate sex, didn't feel comfortable expecting it, and the other felt less attractive because of said illness, and didn't feel like he was wanted. What a big mess this was.

In time we learned to communicate better about our needs, both emotional and sexual. These days I have only myself to talk to. (imagine Barry White in the background) I say, 'hey Dan, you're looking mighty sexy tonight? Why don't you come over here so I can rub your shoulders they way you like it.' 'What kind of a guy do you think I am' 'Don't you know that I am a recent widower?' (music volume goes up slightly) 'Yes, I know you real well, I know what you want, I know what you used to get, and I know what you need.'

Well, let's suffice to say, that some nights I am easy. And, some nights I just give myself the cold shoulder. I never really know what I want. It all depends on the type of day I had. Was it a really low depressing kind of day? A day where I fought back tears all day long? Or was it a day reflecting on the wonderful memories of Michael and I. A day to walk among the romantic and loving days gone by.

Either way, I'm stuck dating myself. Now part of me says, hey, if I'm feeling so lonely, and just want to get laid, then go out and get laid. Michael could care less. Actually, Michael would likely encourage it. But that is not where I am at. I want Michael. I mean...I...want...Michael. Ya, in that way. I'm still human. I still lust over my husband. I would love to have his spirit or ghost, creep into our room at night, and just have his eerie way with me. Why not!

As you can see, I'm in quite a mood tonight. I'm having some fun with this. Maybe I should open this up for an question and answer portion of this post. Maybe not. I know that there are those, friends of mine, who are likely wondering, how long will he go without sex? Does his sex life end at 50? Should he be taking a vow of celibacy? Well, I was already walking down the celibacy path 25 years ago, and believe me, I don't want to revisit that.

Where the hell is all of this leading? To 'no where good' some would say. I'm up to no good. Again, that is actually not true. I am being good, too good, and chaste.

What is my point! I suppose my point is this. I am a man. I am a gay man. I am a 50 year old gay man. I am a 50 year old Latin gay man. I am a 50 year old Latin gay widowed man. I have needs people!

I need to get out a good book, crawl into bed wearing Michael's jammies, get a nice cup of tea and settle in for the night.