Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Love. Life. & Grief.


Interesting, I was just reading through this week's post entries on Widow's Voice. There seems to be a running discussion about dating, a bit of man bashing (I mean that mildly, and with humor) and the usual check In's with the various writers that fill the week. What I recognize is something that has been on my mind lately, and something that one person left a comment about today.

What happens when that which brought us widowed together starts to change?

The comment I'm referring to was about having to always deal with seeing, or reading about, couples everyday. Then suddenly it is all that rave on Widow's Voice as well. I kind of agree with the person who left the comment. I am one of those people that really didn't want to see, or hear, about coupled people more than I really needed to. It hurt so much more to see happy couples move about the world. For so long I tended to separate those who were coupled, with those who were widowed. Those who were just plain single were neutral, and didn't garner too much notice by my grief-o-meter.

Whenever I go on Facebook, or receive a new friend request, the first thing I look at is the relationship status. If they are widowed I feel immediately connected to them, even if I don't know them. If they are coupled, I then take a deep breath before taking a look at their page, and prepare myself to see photos of their seemingly happy life. For some time I even hesitated about changing my own status on Facebook, and hesitated to post any photos of me and Abel. It wasn't just because I didn't want to give up my widowed status out of concern for my relationship with Michael, it was also out of concern with my relationship with all my widowed friends.

I recognize that for the time being, I travel in both worlds, the land of the widowed, and the land of the coupled. I suppose I will always travel in both worlds, as I am learning, having a new relationship in no way buffers the ongoing pain and loss that I feel about Michael. What's odd is that the closer, and stronger, I feel toward Abel, the more intense my grief tends to feel. Now at just over two years out I am not grieving with the same intensity of the initial two years, yet it is always there. So for those that read about my movement through a new relationship, or see a status change in my profile, know that what brought us together continues to bind us. Yet at the same time, I recognize it is something that also puts me into the other category.

I have been wondering if my role on Widow's Voice should be given to someone at an earlier place in their grieving, as I fear that those to seek support there are finding mostly veterans at this point. So many of us have been working through this for quite some time now, and what we write about, or what I write about, is less likely to be as raw, or immediate, than many of our readers might be looking for.

So, for the person who left the comment there expressing his/her discomfort in having to "see" couples, even on Widow's Voice, I completely understand and feel for you. It's what I continue to feel, even as I am involved in a new relationship. For those that come here to read, please know that I am always aware that what I share, or discuss, might begin to separate us into different categories. I get that. When I first began writing I wondered who would come here to read about a gay widower. I found that many chose to come here to read about...me. Are most of my readers widowed? Probably. Are most of my readers gay? Not really. Are most of my readers men? Not so much either. So what I have are people that come here for a common understanding of a similar path we travel on. Some may have arrived at an early place in my journey, some may arrive later.

I don't know what the future holds for me. I only know that for now, I will continue to experience it, and write about it when it feels right. As my blog title says, "Dan in real time - a gay man's journey through love, life and grief." It's all here.





  1. The thing I value most about your posts on Widow's Voice Dan is that you honestly share where you are right now. As you note (and this is something you can't know until you are living it really) grief doesn't end with a new relationship...in fact in many ways it morphs into new and challenging emotions not yet discovered in our grief process. Even at six years out and one year married, I still find value in communing with my widowed community. Because I will never forget the moment that the word widow applied to me.

    Love to you.

  2. I dropped by WV this morning before there were many comments, so didn't see what you mentioned until I just returned to read all the current comments. The funny thing is that I had been thinking much the same - not so much for myself, but wondering how others might feel who are not at the point of dating, or who have chosen to just carry on alone - especially people who are just beginning down this road. I am pretty much in the going-it-alone group and don't really see that changing anytime soon. That said, I do like to see my widowed blogger friends find happoness in whatever they choose to do, be it starting up a business, traveling, moving to a new place, strikinjg up a romance. Sure, it may experience a little bit of left-out-ness, but that is okay too. I do things not related to coupledom that exclude other people - like traveling and taking on certain crazy adventures. These are the things I am unwilling to give up and are part of who I am. Anyhow, I do know that we all feel a twinge of sadness at feeling like we are on the outside looking in. I'm not really sure how that will all play out in the widowed blogger world. I never really felt I was blogging as a widow so much as an individual who had to find a new route through life. Where that goes and who reads about it - I don't know. Perhaps we all just choose our route and read what we need to at a partocular point and when it no longer fits, we move on.

  3. I've been thinking that about WV, not just lately with many people dating or in relationships, but in general - that everyone is a veteran, as you say. Wondering if those closer to impact are finding themselves reflected there. I feel like we have our cohort group, those of us who were widowed in a certain segment of time. I tend to only find new blogs, or newly widowed people, when their link shows up somewhere I already read. Certainly there are new people out there. I don't know. I've just been thinking about the time of Impact lately, how raw and wrong and stunning, how much I never want to lose my awareness of that, my knowledge of that time. I don't want to forget that there is nothing to say at point of impact, no words of wisdom from further down this road.

  4. Megan - You are quite right. It seems like, as you have noted, there is a cohort of widows who just happen to have come together during a certain time. They and a group widowed a bit longer ago, seem to be the most visible these days. What seems a little more alarming to me is that the few more recently widowed bloggers I am aware of - people linked to from Dan's and your blogs - seems to receive very few comments. I occasionally comment, but just don't have the energy to go around anymore. However, I wonder where the more recently widowed people are who would seem to be the most likely group to interact. Are they drawn more to reading the blogs by veteran's, hoping to find answers and wisdon there? I don't know, but I do feel sad for the bloggers who are writing about their experiences and not really getting the support that the earlier cohort seemed to attract. Once again, I feel that I am outside of a lot of the experience due to the nature of my blog, but these are just observations.

  5. My theory is that there are much more interactive websites, such as Widowed Village, that tend to draw the newbies. I wish I had more time, or the energy as you say Bev, to comment to some of them. For my part I just keep up with what I can, and continue to write here or there. We can only do what we can do.

    Love to you all.

  6. all of you are saying things that are profound and valid. having met and now just lost a widow friend, a veteran at 21 years widowed, i wonder if we ever really feel like we are on a stable surface again. she said she always felt a little bit in a state of continued fluctuation; things were going well, things were not. she could deal with things, or there were times when she missed him and it was all too much. she never felt compelled to date. he was "the one." i sort of join Bev in the going-it-alone group. the idea of dating, being touched; not something i want. still wearing my wedding rings. still am actively in love with my Dragon.

    on the other side of that fence, if someone finds love, i am happy for them. to each his own. i am very happy seeing your FB photo of you and Abel, Dan. as my elderly widow friend would say, "you cannot predict what the future will hold."

    no matter if there really is a core group who lost spouses around the same time, and for all the gatherings and comments left on each other's blogs, it is very much a private journey. we reach out and then ebb back. we will ultimately make our own decisions. we need to do what we must do without worry for how it will be perceived.

    i stopped reading WV simply because i never felt a connection to anyone. they did not speak anywhere close to what i was feeling which was very raw and deep pain. i was looking for something that a blog with so different and varied voices could not provide. everyone speaks their own truth. i needed to ask questions. i needed a guide. i saw early on that i would not find that on any blog. i desperately needed someone to talk to. i have so many roadblocks to stop and deal with on my own grief path that i feel like the "slow" child, far behind all the others. having said that, i now realize that life will not be kinder for a while after it robs you of your spouse. it will continue on heartlessly battering you if that is your fate.

    happiness is fleeting. enjoy it where you can. i don't search for happiness. i am searching for peace. peace, feeling safe, both of those are hard won. i think that knowing how hard i am struggling for both is what makes me always sign off with........

    peace to everyone.

  7. Well, you know that I think the whole "grief is a life long journey thing" is made up, but there is truth in the idea that at the beginning, what we need most are peers - not mentors. In fact, the most recent research on bereavement found that newbies find their feet faster and more evenly when they are able to interact with others who are at the same "stage" of grief as they are.

    So I would imagine that it would be frustrating and painful for someone in the first year to go to a widow blog to find something they can relate to only to be constantly confronted with bloggers who are much farther out and aren't really in grief mode any longer.

    It makes sense that a blog on widowhood with multiple writers would be continually turning over in order to represent the different needs of those who seek it out.

    As a newbie, I liked to read the hopeful posts of those further along and daring/remarried. It was comforting to know that it wouldn't always suck. What was less helpful were those father out who painted widowhood as a chronic disease.

    We start out blogging for ourselves b/c we'll go crazy if we don't, but as time goes on and people read - are we helping them or using them if we continue? Are we an example or a cautionary tale?

    You are a good writer, insightful and unafraid to bare your soul. You are in a different place now though. Not really grief. It's not really that when you move on. Newbies can see that even when we can't.

  8. i have read and re-read annie's comment above. i have even written to you, Dan, and it is simply weighing on me. i do not wish to be confrontational. i just wish to express an alternate point of view.

    i do think that grief settles in and makes a home when someone you love dies.

    my son died at 19 weeks old almost 29 years ago. i still feel pain over it. i still wonder what he would have been like, become, wonder at his smile and his voice. my husband died without time for me to say goodbye. my lovely Dragon of a man. i miss him. i miss all that we had and all our dreams that will never come true. we were so compatible and companionable. i love his so very much. i will always love and miss and grieve over his death.

    annie stated that "most recent research on bereavement found that newbies find their feet faster and more evenly when they interact with others who are at the same "stage" of grief..." possibly this is true but how did these researchers calibrate this research? what is the yardstick they used? people who do not know me, but know i am a widow think i am "over it." i am not. what i do is smile, work very hard, laugh on cue, interact well with the store's customers. i pay my bills, take care of myself as best as finances allow. but i feel an emptiness in my heart. i open the door to my apartment and my missing him can bring tears to my eyes. i am not "over it." i am grieving.

    i also wonder why some "experts" think we should hurry through grief to find our feet faster. why is it not proper to experience all that grief brings to our lives so that each mood, each feeling, each realization is faced and then worked through? hurrying to by-pass grief, to stifle it, or ignore the brunt of it altogether seems reckless. those feelings, however far down they are pushed, will still be there festering. at some point, they will need to be addressed. when someone you love dies, there will always be unresolved issues, unrealized dreams, and dreams die hard.

    Dan, your being in a, as Annie puts it, "different place now though," her statement that because you are now in a relationship means that you are "not really {experiencing} grief," seems callous to the point of almost hurtful. i don't need to be a widow or an orphan or a mother whose child died to know that grief lasts. you never get over the sorrow of someone's death. you just don't. i don't have to be a veteran of grief, or a newbie to "see that even when we can't." not sure what Annie meant by that.

    even finding love again, i believe Dan will always grieve the loss of Michael. Michael was too wonderful a person, meant too much to Dan, to his family to be relegated to finished business. the intensity of the pain lessens but it never stops. you always, always grieve for them. you always wish that they had not had to die like that, or at that time, or before you.

    "may you live a thousand days and i a thousand less one day, that i may never know when you have passed away."

  9. I really appreciate the various points of view that each of us share. It reminds me that while we are similar, we are also quite unique. Keeping in mind the discussion about the newly widowed, our varied points of view also provide a selection of experiences that others can draw from.

    Thank you all for sharing.

  10. Abandoned, The research is from The Other Side of Sadness by George Bonanno. He is about the only one who has conducted long term studies and a lot of what he found (b/c they've really never studied grief. Most grief stuff is based on anecdote) contradicts the things we are told by the grief industry. Fact is that most people are "okay" within 6 to 15 months. Any longer than that and there are probably depression or other issues that predate the loss that are interfering.

    I don't think I suggested being "over it" but it isn't correct to lead newbies to believe that grief is active after a certain point b/c it isn't. Missing someone is not grieving. Feeling the empty space is not grieving.

    It's hard to tell sometimes that you have moved on when you don't really know what moving on is supposed to feel like. People think that it means forgetting and never missing that person or having moment of sadness again. They are wrong.

    Newbies need each other and they need the occasional pep talk and assurances that life will get better. I can understand why they might feel hurt when everyone they read seems so much farther along or are simply telling tales about their new widowed days of yore.

    I've been remarried for over four years. Widowed for nearly six. I don't grieve him anymore. I still miss him. It makes me sad to think of what's he's missed. But that's not grief. It's normal. I've been where Dan is. I know what it feels like to fall in love again. The conflict b/c it's not as if we chose the circumstances and they need to be reconciled with the reality. But again, imo, it's not grief.

    Dan, it's the balance that is most important for the newbies. There isn't a lot of that on the web. It's wonderful to want to help, but only presenting a limited viewpoint isn't helpful and I think - having read those comments - that this is what they were saying.

  11. Annie, i have read this book of which you speak. i have read other studies done on the widowed/widowered that have been conducted by those who themselves lost a spouse and by those who have not. of the widowed i know, those who remarried within the 15 months you speak of, half still say they are grieving. half of that half regret marrying so quickly, wishing they had dated longer.

    each person is unique. i believe each person has their own unique way of dealing with grief and of expressing it. i believe each person has a right to their thoughts and feelings, impressions that they have gathered from their own sources, from people in their lives who are veterans of grief, and from people in their lives who are "right along with them."

    i do not believe the human condition can be compartmentalized and labeled with such ironclad absolutes. i recently lost a friend who "grieved," as she put it, for 21 years. she was whole and well and volunteered for the parish, but she "grieved." those are her words. i would never have stood in front of this lovely woman and told her she was using the wrong word any more than i would jump in front of a rushing car. i would never have told her that she was "okay" 6 - 15 months in. she grieved. i grieve.

    i am not depressed. i do not need medication. i do like talking about him, about our marriage, about our dreams. i grieve. i miss him. i feel sorrow for what will never be. i used these words because, for me, they best describe the express abstracts i am trying to describe. i am an articulate person. i am both compassionate and empathic. i have no desire to date. my husband was an incredible man to me, a force of nature. i am not ready. it has been 2 years, 9 months. i do not in any way feel crippled by this. my diabetes doctor does not feel i am depressed or in any way suffering in the mental health department. even he says, "you're grieving. you're taking care of yourself. you're out of the house working. you have friends. you do things. you're just grieving. it's healthy. people can grieve for a long time. my own father did. never remarried. you're fine."

    it has never been my intent to mislead any newbies. it is also not my intent to dishonor my own language. the words i chose to use are my own. despite the experts you have quoted and all the research you have done, it has led us to two vastly differing points of view. i do not wish to alter my statements in my previous comments nor in this one. i also do not wish to take away what you obviously deeply believe is true for you.

    you and i will have to agree to disagree. that is the beauty of freedom of speech and thought. you do not grieve anymore. i do. my widow friend whose funeral i just attended said she grieved even at 21 years out. a gentleman in my hometown grieved for 35 years, raising his children alone, all the while keeping the memory of his wife alive in his heart. he used the word grieve. at his funeral his minister said, "he grieved all his life." it was not something anyone criticized him for nor corrected him on, nor tried to medicate him for.

    it is on old fashioned word. grieve. not done anymore today. too many want us to redefine it. i read a book that even had a 12 step program with accompanying workbook that could have you "finished with grief" in 8 months.

    you may come back at me here but this is where i cease. there will always be alternate points of view, different words to express something this deep and profound and lasting.

    grieving. not grieving. i will never criticize your wording that you no longer grieve. i will never criticize the words Dan believes of himself and uses here. i would hope that no one would speak to me in such absolutes and condemnation about my grief.

    peace to all.

  12. Dan, Hope this finds you well. What you write here is similar an idea of what I recently wrote.

    Something I realized recently: There was a time – a very long time – during which I was in deep grieving. Sadness and extreme pain was the common theme of many days, weeks and months. I became very comfortable in that place. It was familiar from day to day. I wallowed in it. Eventually however I began to move through that dark period and come out of it. I began to experience a different way of being; learning how to live without Randy and be on my own. It was like I was emerging from a very long dark tunnel.

    This may sound strange but it has been true for me. Even though I was moving out of the darkness, I began to miss it. I missed being in that comfortable familiar place. Being on my own and living my own life became new and unfamiliar. I wanted to return to the dark pain; the familiar.

    At this time of year when so many are celebrating the love of their families and friends, I find myself alone. Physically in the world on my own yes, but I feel included and involved with so many others around me; receiving their love and giving back to them. It is with great joy I celebrate the holiday season this year. I am truly content.

    This is the idea that resonated with me as I read here your own experience with the different categories of single vs coupled; newly widowed vs "veteran" and how you suspect others might perceive it.

    Just had these thoughts as I read your blog and wanted to share my thoughts. Many thanks for all you do.

    Love to you, Abel and your family!