Today Mike and I are writing together about a topic that our Friday writer Kelley asked about recently. Most people assume it is easier to be in a relationship with another widowed person when you are widowed. And it's true, a lot of things are simplified when you understand each other's loss. Kelley was curious to know what some of the specific challenges are when you have two widowed people in a relationship, so we thought we'd write a few posts on the topic...
The first thing I thought of in relation to this question is that your widow card is basically canceled out. There is no way to leverage that card to your advantage during a fight when your partner has been through exactly as horrible of a loss too. I do know from others who have dated or married someone non-widowed, that it’s extremely tempting to use that widow card to trump their arguments and opinions. When I was with Drew, there were times that I used my “dead parents card” to trump him in fights or conjure up some extra pity and attention for myself. They aren’t proud moments, but I think it’s a very normal temptation to want to use victim tactics when you’ve been through a lot.
That doesn’t work in a relationship with two widowed people. Even at times when we do try to lay down the widow card to trump each other, it doesn't really fly. We both have experienced losses in very different ways that are unfathomable to the other person… so there’s no hiding behind trump cards to manipulate a situation in our favor.
So, Sarah wrote last week about my leaving for a work trip. It was the first time I have done so since we’ve met. Sure, I’ve left for a day or two here and there to go backpacking, but being required by my job to board a jet to Chicago for three days is, quite obviously, a bit more of a trigger for her. Especially when it’s a trigger she hasn’t experienced in the seven years since Drew’s death on a work trip.
I get it. I know it sucked for her for me to be gone (for the record, I’m home safe and sound), but I can never feel what she feels. She’s in New York, visiting her sister for the past few days. While I miss her, and want to make sure she’s safe, it’s not and never has been a “please don’t die” issue for me.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t have a sudden loss. What I had was long expected. Megan’s death took years. If I was going to have a trigger or anxiety, it would likely be more when Sarah is sick or, god forbid, hospitalized for any reason. Just a little 6 hour drive to New York? That’s simply not a trigger for me.Read more
It seems like there is always something in grief you are experiencing for the first time. After seven years as a widow, I would have thought that I had already gone through almost every “first”. This week though, I discovered another first I had yet to go through, and it’s had my emotions all over the place.
Tomorrow, my new partner Mike will be flying out to Chicago for a few days for a work trip. This might not initially seem like a big deal - Chicago isn’t even an hour away by plane. And at first I didn’t really think of it as a big deal. He has left to go backpacking for a weekend several times, and that was fine. But this is something different. It is the first time since we met that he is traveling for work specifically. Which initially didn’t feel like a big deal… Until the other part of me remembered…
Seven years ago, someone else left for a work trip, and never came home. Someone else traveled for a job and died far away from me, in a horrific crash. It always feels like that part of me still doesn’t really understand what happened, where he went, or why I am now in an entirely different life. And I’ve accepted the fact that this part of me will just never understand - I suppose you could call it the trauma part. So I guess it makes sense that when Mike was telling me about this work trip over the phone last week, that trauma part of me suddenly woke up and began so sound alarm bells.Read more
Dating is not something that I decided to take on lightly. This November, Mike will have been dead for three years. Not that this really matters in terms of dating. Or does it? It doesn’t. But, the fact that I mentioned it means that to me it is significant in some way. I wish I could explain this more sufficiently, but I can't. I suppose I know that as a widow I will be judged for dating or not dating. I can't win here. If I don't date people will say I am "stuck" in my grief. If I date they will say I "moved on". Anything I do will be scrutinized by those outside of this community because to most people romantic love seems to be something that we hope is singular if it is indeed true.
For me, the only thing that really matters is that I am clear about why I am choosing to date. I am going to date for reasons that go far beyond the superficial. I am not dating because I am lonely. Sure, absolutely, I am lonely – duh, my person died. How can I not be lonely without him – but loneliness is NOT why I am dating. Secondly, I am NOT dating because I can’t be alone. I can be. I have been on my own for nearly three years. I have learned to like and appreciate my own company. I am solid. I like myself way too much to settle for a cheap imitation of what I had with Mike. I am in no danger of "settling" for less than I want and deserve.
To date, I have never blogged about dating because I know that I will be judged by certain people who knew Mike and I. I know if this particular blog is read by some of the people from my past - most of who no longer speak with me and are no longer in my life - they may conclude that these words prove my disloyalty to Mike. To these people, this may serve as proof that it is lucky Mike never married me because clearly I am moving on after "only" three years.
All of this is untrue and complete bullshit. These three years have been the longest years of my life. Grief years are like dog years. To me, it seems like Mike has been dead for years now; and, at the same time, it feels like he was sharing my life with me only moments ago. I know my heart. I know the depth of my love for Mike and that is all that is important.
And, in truth, whatever judgement I do face it will be done behind my back. I will never hear about it because the people who will talk or cast judgement have long left my life. So, why does it bother me that I will be judged? I think it irritates and worries me because their snide judgments and accusations will make Mike look poorly. Their judgement of me will serve to cast Mike in poor light. Their words will make him look like a fool for loving me and this bothers me a lot. Mike was a lot of things, but he was not a fool.
Today is Sarah’s birthday. Not Megan’s, not Drew’s. It’s not Mother or Father’s day, or an anniversary. It’s a day where the focus is squarely on her, and not shared with those who are no longer here. Or, at least it’s not supposed to be.
The rub of it is that I’m a widower. Sarah’s a widow. Damn near every experience we have brings thoughts of Megan and/ or Drew in some way. It could be a significant, life-changing experience like becoming engaged, or some minor thing that I do on a random Tuesday that reminds Sarah of something similar that Drew did. Sarah even mentioning wanting to change the color of a wall for the 400th time always reminds me of Megan doing the same thing.
So, in a roundabout way, I tend to think of Megan quite a bit on Sarah’s birthday, and I’m sure she thinks of Drew on mine. They are both just as much a part of us as they were in life, albeit not actively participating and interacting, for obvious reasons.
It’s exactly the way it should be.Read more
It’s time I dive into a topic that is always at the heart of gay men dating – HIV/AIDS. Growing up I watched as the disease came forth, took lives and drove the world to treat the LGBTQ+ community worse than ever. There was fear of being accused and harmed and there was (and still is) fear of contracting the disease. From my biology background, I see medications and treatments have advanced to amazing supportive levels for those affected. A new preventative medication PREP has reached the mainstream and decreases the chance of contracting the virus to almost zero but nothing is ever 100%.Read more
Since the spring of 2015, I have written here every Tuesday (well, “most” every Tuesday). I’ve shared my story from just a few months after losing Megan, to now. Having four plus years of what can only amount to a public “journal” has been both surreal and incredibly healing.
Oftentimes, it’s hard to recall just how “raw” I felt in that first year or so, or how confused I was about life. Whether I was doing the right things, or raising Shelby correctly, or honoring Megan’s legacy. I certainly never imagined I’d be writing this post, years later.
I felt that sharing my story here was a phase. That after a year or so, I wouldn’t have anything to discuss any further, or that I would burn out and simply wish to go silent. There have also been numerous times that I wanted to share about my new partner and current fiance, but second-guessed the subject, not wanting to feel as if I was unrelatable to the thousands of widows and widowers that either have no desire to be with another person, or have dipped their toes into the dating world, only to find that nobody even remotely compares to “their person”.
I write today to state that this “phase” is coming to an end of sorts.Read more
Well, it’s that time of year again. I’m here in Texas, with Sarah and Shelby, to celebrate you. This is what, year...five for me? That seems crazy. We went to your grave today, and it’s I guess looking good as ever. The little heart shaped rocks, the trinkets...the helicopters; they’re all still there. Your mom had some pretty nice flowers set up too. Lilies, I think. I dunno. I’m pretty sure you don’t care all that much, considering that it’s been 7 years, and your loved ones are still making it a point to come by and “tidy up”.
Anyway, you should have seen it tonight. Your parents are totally loving having Shelby around. Playing ping-pong with her, your mother showing Shelby around her business, rendering Peanut both in awe of all of the scientific equipment, and speechless, your dad and I telling “dad jokes” to her, and even letting her drive the farm vehicles around. It’s almost like Shelby is their granddaughter.Read more
Things are hard.
Life is hard.
Sometimes I am convinced that life is much harder for some than for others.
Sometimes it feels like I can never get a break.
Sometimes it feels like I will always struggle and things will always be really hard,
and that is just how my life will be.
I dont know.
None of this is fact.
A month from today, Sarah, Shelby, and I will be hitting the road for Texas. It is time for our annual “Drewfest” weekend, where Drew’s closest friends gather to remember him, celebrate him, and in general, have a fun time like the “good old days”.
Personally, this will be my fifth Drewfest. I’ve been part of them since 2015, a few months after meeting Sarah, and less than a year after Megan’s death. I wrote about the first one in a letter to Drew, right here, for Soaring Spirits, and coming up on this one, there are still many times when I feel like an “Outsider”.Read more