Thursday, May 6, 2010


voyage of discouragement
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I'm having a difficult time approaching my writing today. I have been thinking a lot today about why I started this blog.

Something occurred that really threw me, yet it shouldn't have surprised me.

When Michael's illness began making a turn for the worse I began searching online for further support. Being that he was suffering from a brain tumor, I wanted to find other men, or people who were in the same care giving role that I was in. I looked, and I looked, but this group of men could not be found. They didn't exist. What I did find was a Brain Tumor Caregivers online group that had many active members. So I entered into that community. I was a little hesitant at first because I don't always know where I will be welcomed. You see, the group turned out to be primarily women. And by primarily, I mean there were probably over one hundred women, and maybe three men. What made this difficult was that to receive support I needed to introduce the group to who I was, and who my spouse was. No big surprise here, I had to come out to them.

When joining the caregivers group, we were asked to wrote a small bio to let everyone know who we were, who our spouse was, and where they were along their brain tumor path. I received a lot of support and some wonderful correspondence, yet there were clearly many people in the group that didn't enter into conversation with me immediately. I think they needed time to see that my needs were really not much different than theirs. In time I came to value these women greatly, and I feel that they valued my support as well. At one point a new guy entered the group, and like myself, he was really looking for other men to talk to. He thanked the ladies in the group for their willingness to respond to his issues, but felt that there were some things he needed from another guy's perspective. He asked the few of us men if we were willing to have our own group for this type of interaction. I wrote to him to share that while I was initially looking for the same, I found that the women gave me a perspective I didn't always see. At the same time, I did offer to join a secondary group with him, but needed to remind him that I was gay, and that my spouse was not a woman. He was gracious, but by my not hearing from him again, I take it my relationship status did not meet his needs either.

The same can be said about why I am here. I realized that very few men were out here in cyberspace talking about their feelings, and reaching out for support. I found that there was absolutely nothing for gay men, other than a book published almost 20 years ago during the initial AIDS crisis. And while I have found some men through this blog, both gay and straight, it has become the women, once again, who are there to respond to my grief. And while I have come to love the women that reach out to me, I still feel a need to keep reaching out to my widowed brothers.

As a gay man I have been on the receiving end of discrimination and disparity. I have at times felt like an outsider when not with a group of other gay or lesbian people, or people that have known me for years. When I say discrimination, it doesn't always mean that it is done in an overt way. This can be done in very subtle ways, and often people don't even realize that they are doing it.

Michael and I were legally married. We had a wonderful, and expensive, wedding. We were dressed in tuxes, recited our vows to each other in front of a minister and 100 of our close friends and family. We had a beautiful wedding cake, had a first dance, and a mother-son dance. We then went on a very romantic honeymoon. I say all of this because most people who know us, or of us, know that this occurred. Yet rarely does someone ask about my "husband." I always share with people that I am a widower, and that it is my husband that died. Yet without skipping a beat, the other person often replies about my "partner." It's a small thing, yes, but it is also significant.

We you say that your husband died, people understand the depth of loss fairly well. When they are unwilling to accept that you had the same type of relationship that they have, and they feel a need to call it something else, it robs you of some of the grace and dignity afforded others.

The same goes with being out here as a man, searching for support, and putting forth my personal thoughts and feelings. I am always mindful of the fact that I am a man, interacting mostly with women. This is something I cherish very much. Yet when I go for support in other places I still look to see if who I am is reflected in who it is that says I am welcome. Maybe I'm not being clear enough. My thoughts are this, I truly appreciate it when all the women welcome me into their fold, yet if as a group they have not done enough to reflect that they are anticipating the needs of men, then I walk away feeling like a guest who is invited over for dinner, knowing very well that I am a vegetarian, and finding only meat on the menu. It is quite discouraging.


  1. I always worry that I write too much when I leave a comment here. However, your posts often set me thinking of all kinds of things that seem to provoke a comment.
    Anyhow, regarding support within the cyber-community, perhaps the same can be said of people who are not mainstream in usual ways. It is difficult for me to be able to see how things are from your perspective, but not unimaginable, especially when you write from your perspective. Your writings help me to see the world as it feels to you now, and I greatly value that window into your world. Yes, we have very different lives, but some of our experiences concerning grief and continuing to try to move forward, are at least a little alike - and sometimes very similar. I often find that to be the case as I read the blogs of other widows.
    Although in a very different situation than yourself, I often feel very alone and lacking in support and understanding because of the type of person I am -- extremely solitary and independent -- a true "lone wolf" in ever respect. There doesn't seem to be a group for me - women, men, you name it. Where are he other lone wolf widows? There seems to be no "place" for very independent, late middle-aged women who are out traveling the world, going places and doing things that aren't typical of what is expected of a widow. It's a bit hard and lonely at times - this feeling like there is no one else out there in the same situation. I've come to the conclusion that my blog is the only place "talk" about how my life seems right now. There's no doubt that those who continue to read and comment there are a somewhat different group than those who followed the old blog to read about nature and Don's and my hiking and canoeing adventures. They don't share my lifestyle, but many seem to intuit how life seems for me as I wander the world alone now that my mate is no longer here to wander with me. That does create some opening for a dialogue, which seems helpful on some level and perhaps is of use to someone who is reading and not commenting. Never underestimate that part of the blog community - the readers who are too nervous to comment - people like my mom who think they could accidently blow up someone's blog by pressing the wrong button!! (-:
    By the way, I am a vegetarian who has arrived at plenty of dinners to find that there was only meat! Yes, discouraging... but I've taken to bringing along my own food in case that happens. Maybe that's a good strategy for other parts of our lives -- we have to pack our own food and prepare for the likelihood that we may not find what we need or are looking for as we move forward on our journeys.

  2. i knew you were gay when i first started reading. you make it very clear. you write with honesty and clarity. the thing is i never felt i would be reading anything too different than what i myself was writing, or Split Second Single Father, the only other widower i read.

    i have always felt that we were all human beings first. love is love. death feels like a dismemberment to us all. our spouses died. whether it be husband or wife, the person you connected with body and soul, the one who knew all your secrets, the one you could curl up with and sigh beside, died.

    i know i have always appreciated and learned from the guidance of you and SSSF. men always have a unique point of view. earlier there had been a couple of gay men responding to you here, but i have not seen them in a while. i am sorry for that for you.

    let me say this in a deep voice so that you smile a little to yourself. if my Dragon were here and i was not, even though he was straight, he would engage you and be there for you through both of your pains. the Dragon would have had your back. (or in Marine lingo - your six.) and that's a Chinese Dragon, the good one, not the Biblical one who is the bad one.

    Dan, your husband died and however many groups you have to search through to find those deeper voices, the ones that will be there for you consistently and give you that shared perspective, i hope you continue your search. you deserve to find the exact support you require. i will be here all along the way to give you those little cups of water and juice and a healthy snack as you run this marathon of searching. (now that image had to have elicited a smile.)


  3. I think many of us who come "here" are outside of the mainstream loop, for whatever reasons. bev, I read you because I am also a loner, as was matt, and because you took to the natural world, which for me, and for matt, is the only place of real peace.
    It is great to be an independent, adventuring person when you have your People. When your People leave, well, then it just sucks. being known, completely and truly, knowing you are home and loved, and then having it disappear - I often feel like an endangered bird, only ever known one other of my kind, and I just watched them die.
    I looked for online groups and local groups, and only found people who were so not like me, I felt even more alone. So much seemed to underscore that I am not like other people, and now am even less like other people. Never have been a group person, likely never will be. but it does not mean I, or we, don't need the company of our own kind, especially having lost our own kind. Dan, totally different, but many people completely dismissed and ignored me (and more inappropriate things) after Matt drowned, because we weren't legally married.... so we weren't serious, in some eyes. I have taken to telling people my husband died, rather than say "partner" and have them be confused, or say "boyfriend," and feel like a child.
    We are not your people, but we are your people. We are not what each other want or need, but we are what and who we have, and I appreciate all of you for being here, outside of the loop.

  4. These are all wonderful responses. This type of feedback is so helpful. I realize that many of us, for some reason, feel like we exist a bit outside the box. When I step back, and look at who each of you are, or how you present yourselves, I see too, that all of us feel somewhat on tht outside. I think many of us have always felt this way, but it became less significant when our loved ones were here beside us. Now that they are gone, that difference from others seems more apparent.

    As I walk along this long difficult path, in my writing, and in my daily life, I recognize that I am now experiencing the world as a wounded person. And while I have nursed many a wound in the past, this one feels much deeper. It really helps to write (talk) about my feelings, or insecurites, and get the perspective of others. This is exchange allows me to see what my grief clouds.

    Thank you all.

  5. I liked megan's analogy of the endangered bird that has only ever known one other of its kind and then loses that one. I feel that way too. It leaves me feeling so sad as, during my lifetime, I have met only a very small handful of people who seemed to be like us. I know just how rare we were - largely because of the fact that we were both lone wolves. I carry on, not really knowing how one lone wolf can survive for years on its own, but living with my little wolf pack - my two dogs - to keep me company.
    Dan, I very much agree with your description of experiencing the world as a "wounde person". I've used those very words - wounded, damaged - when talking about how I feel now. I sometimes wonder if these wounds can heal in the years we have remaining. I suspect the healing is on the surface, but that the scars remain beneath.

  6. Dan, I have read your words often in the last months although never commented. You wrote exactly what I was thinking as I read this post. "I recognize that I am now experiencing the world as a wounded person."
    I'm essentially a loner, or at least very comfortable alone, and, oddly, considered mainstream (ie: married). The death last summer of my husband made me see Everything through a glass darkly, the dark glass of grief. It is heartbreaking to think of your dark glass of grief being compounded, made even darker, by hurtful people, even or maybe especially unthinking people. I have seen how people react less respectfully to survivors whose relationships are not so easy to peg - it is the height of rudeness and hurtfulness. How dare anybody presume to have an opinion on another's pain, and how one chooses to or must live through their grief.
    There are so many analogies to describe how we feel, how we're walking our unchosen path, and yet no one, even other lost and lonely people, can really know how it is on any given day. I like how Annie Lamott uses the words well and unwell as a broad way of describing her inside self. I have taken to thinking, when invited to a party or whatever, I am not remotely well enough to do this. Most people can relate to that concept; when you are grieving you are not your same old self, like when you are sick enough to not care if it's a beautiful day.
    I think of you often and wish you peace.

  7. Hi Carolyn.

    Thanks for reading my blog, and thank you for leaving this comment. I have to remind myself how wounded I am, especially when I find myself feeling easily hurt by someone. Sometimes it takes all day, and only after writing about it here do I realize that I have reacted strongly due to the pain I carry. I try to keep myself in check, so that I don't take things too personally. At the same time, I do try to make these moments, or situations, teaching opportunities. I don't think we always know that we may have offended someone, or that they are feeling left out. I try to do this so that the next guy, or gal, might have a different experience.