In the days following the death of Michael I began to realize that in addition to losing my husband, I was losing part of my identity. I was having a conversation with someone about Michael when I began stumbling over my words. I hadn't quite thought out how I would describe him. Up until a few days prior, he was my husband, my spouse, my partner. He wasn't my ex, as we didn't end our relationship. Was I still married?
Why was there a need to redefine our relationship? Wasn't losing him enough? During the previous year we were part of a fortunate group of gay couples who were able to legally wed in California. The Courts even held that while gay couples were no longer able to wed as a result of Prop 8, we were still married. Suddenly I felt removed from this group.
I realized that I had no role model to prepare me for my new identity. Growing up there seemed to be plenty of female relatives who had survived the loss of their husbands. They were referred to as widows. But the men I knew who survived their wives were few, and the gay men I know who have survived their spouses were fewer. In the decades past we lost many gay men to AIDS, and many of them left lovers behind. Yet in recent times people are living with the disease, and fortunately we are not seeing as many gay men having to suffer losses like before.
At age 50, I find most of my friends are married or partnered. As I look around me, none are widowed. This awareness seems to emphasize my feeling of being alone. During this journey with Michael's illness I found support through an online brain tumor caregivers group. In the time that I was active with the group I was the sole male participant. How telling is this reality? To what degree is it that we men do not seek support, and to what degree is it that we are not provided with the images that support us identifying as caregivers, and later widowers?
So here I am, a widower, a gay widower. I feel as though I have undergone a significant shift in my identity. I went from being a lover and strong caregiver, to feeling like a broken widower. Broken, because my spirit is badly wounded. Broken, because I am feeling robbed of an identity that I loved.