We still haven’t been able to put Clayton to rest. His mother’s stroke has resulted in her having to move near relatives and figure out a new life. Until then, Clayton sits in a (beautiful) Urn in our apartment. At first it was unsettling, having to look at a container that holds the dust of the person you want to hold the most. You want to keep it and put them to rest all at the same time for, what feels like, competing selfish reasons but that is another layer of the loss.
I don’t have many friends in the small beach town where I live. When we moved here, my job took a lot of time and Clayton’s job had us with different days off. There wasn’t time to meet people before we lost time. Now that Clayton is gone, I have a lot of empty space and time. This past week I invited 41 people that I knew in the area to come over for wine and some social time. I set up my house and got all the fun drinks and food for a mellow social evening. The house was cleaned and I was ready to go but then Clayton caught my eye. His Urn is in the living room where everyone would be and everyone knows that he is here. I didn’t know what to do. Too urn or not to urn? That was an awful question and a terrible feeling. Do I keep Clayton’s Urn where it is because he was (and is) a huge part of my life or do I put his urn in the bedroom to keep things from being awkward? Either way I felt incredible guilt.Read more
There are minutes, hours, days that seem to fly by while seconds seem to drag on forever. It has only and already been 4 months since Tin has passed - only and already.
For those that don’t lose their “person”, it is hard to explain that time’s guidelines begin to bend in ways we never knew. Good days go fast. Bad days go slow. Yet the next week reverses and bad days go fast and good days go slow. Either way I’m keeping busy but the one thing I can’t run from is the building feeling of being lonely. I’m filling my days but not with new things and social events…I have to do everything around the house and I’ve also added 2 other side jobs to cover the cost of being alone. I’m busy but when I look at my day:
Weekdays - Wake up, walk Roan, gym, work, walk Roan, check work stuff for job 2 and 3, bed, repeat.Read more
Over the river and through the woods, Tin’s Aunt had come down to see him before he passed and to help his mother handle a mother’s worst nightmare losing a child. She watched him grow, watched him thrive and now held him as he faded away. I can’t imagine and it seems unholy although if Jesus’ mother had to go through it than who am I to judge the workings of the Universe. Either way, it hurt to be losing him and it hurt to watch her lose him.
Aunt Caryl. I had heard wonderful things and Tin was so excited she would finally come down and meet me. We had been together for 4 years and I looked forward to meeting her. After a long day at work, I picked up my mother at my apartment and we went to meet the visiting family. Tin had a procedure that day. I still feel guilty that I had to work and I couldn’t go with him. When we got to the house I said hello and then checked on Tin and his new medical directions. While reading, Caryl stated that she was in town and that she was with him all day today and that she was handling his medications now. I was torn. Up until now I had made sure his medications were correct. Her tone implied that I lost my rank because she was family and I had to work. On the other hand I felt relieved that I could spend time with him and let someone else deal with the chemistry. Seeing that she wanted to come in and take over, I let it go. Shortly after she felt Tin needed pain meds without him asking. I thought that was strange and I said he tended to not like them because he felt too tired. She scoffed at me and started pulling pills that were not the pills he was supposed to get. I got up and stepped in reading his new doctor’s orders and pointed out that his new medical directions had adjusted and stopped some of the meds she was getting. Her response in front of everyone was that I asked ridiculous questions and that she was there now to handle it. In one statement she dismissed everything I had done as well as the importance of our relationship. I was just the partner. She had no idea she had opened a door I boarded tightly shut. I unleashed 10 months of anger pointing out that she did not get to sweep in for the final hour and claim heroism. She put her hand in my face and told me to go home. My mother started crying and said she couldn’t stay and so we left.Read more
So it's been 7 years since my beautiful husband left for work one morning, and never came home. Seven years since his shocking and sudden death. Seven years of living this life in the "after" of painful and life-changing loss. It's a long time, and it isn't. It's forever, and it's also ten seconds. In all of this time living with the death of my husband, I do get asked one question quite frequently. People often ask me if I feel guilty for being happy. Do I feel guilt when I experience joy or joyful moments? Do I feel guilty for falling in love again?
The answer is no.
Guilt has certainly been a big part of my grieving and healing process. I felt guilty on my first two birthdays after Don died, because he would never get to see another year or enjoy another birthday or another year older. I felt guilty on New Year's Eve for years, and I refused to do the countdown to midnight, because it felt like a countdown to more time without him on earth, and another year that he won't ever get to be part of. I felt guilty for being asleep in our bed, while my husband was collapsing on a hard floor in a Petsmart, and going into cardiac arrest. These are the types of things I felt guilt about, and the types of things I worked on for years with my grief counselor, and came to better terms with.
I have never felt guilty for feeling joy. I have never felt guilty for falling in love again. I have never felt guilty for laughing so hard my sides hurt, or for feeling euphoric about something incredibly awesome or awe-inspiring. Maybe it's because I know for a fact that the most important thing to my husband, was my joy and happiness, so I know that me being happy would give him incredible peace. Maybe it's because I so fiercely want to LIVE, because my husband does not have that choice, so I look for and cling to moments of euphoria wherever I can find them. Maybe it's because it took me FIVE years and a hell of a lot of processing and therapy, to get to a place where I was even able to find love again, so why spend one second feeling guilty about it? I don't know what the reason is, but I have never felt guilt for feelings of joy or love.
What I HAVE felt is this:Read more
Another week past and overall things have been even keel. However the dreaded dates pile one on top of another. July 15th is Tin’s first birthday. July 4th is Tin's and my anniversary and today, June 29th, 2018 is the first anniversary of my father Wayne’s passing.
I know this writing is not based mainly on my lost partner Tin but it has a strong and strange effect on my healing. My father passed away 3 months before Tin was diagnosed with terminal liver failure. My father had over 13 back surgeries, was addicted to pain medication and became an alcoholic to try to manage what the pills could not do. We all thought he would pass away from liver failure. He had heart failure the same as his father Thomas whom I got my middle name from. The irony is that Tin, who did not drink nearly as much as my father, passed away from acute liver failure. I have recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure so now I fear the fate of my father and grandfather. All the while, a glass of red wine is good for the heart but bad for the liver. So life feels like a walking contradiction. I have new fears that never occurred to me until the past year. As I write this there is a commercial for a heart attack medication on the television and I can’t help but wonder if it is a “sign”.
I know that I have better health than both of the men that left my life but perhaps that is another complexity of being a gay man. You lose your father, you lose your partner and you could have the same ending. It’s easy to support family and friends that have breast cancer but that is an evil disease that effects women much more often and a man has a harder time relating to that disease. My mother has beat breast cancer and I am so thankful. A dear friend beat cervical cancer and I can provide all the support possible but I can’t relate. She could do the same but not relate if someone had prostate cancer. I’m rambling but this is what goes on in my head. Either way my fears have intensely heightened.Read more
I often get told, “you’re always smiling” or “you smile a lot.” It’s meant in a positive way of course but I can’t help but reflect on it. A year ago, I might have felt guilty for being told I’m smiling. I had questioned whether I was allowed to feel happy after such a loss and if I was happy, just how happy I was allowed to be. I wanted to look up in a rule book: how often is a “good” widow supposed to smile or feel happy? I didn’t want to be disrespectful to Mike or for others to think I wasn’t sad anymore. I was sad but there was room for happiness too.
I don’t feel that way anymore about smiling. Part of it is I really don’t care what others think of me and my happy/sad balance. The bigger part and more important realization is that it is only because I have been so incredibly sad that I can genuinely appreciate when I feel happy. You see, when I smile and laugh I am so aware of it. I’m so conscious of feeling happy. I don’t think there has been a time since Mike died that I smiled or felt happy for a prolonged period of time without internally acknowledging that, “hey, I’m feeling happy right now and this is really nice.”Read more
Last Monday was just an average day. I had some running around to do and appointments to attend. A pre Vegas hair colour, a dentist appointment... that sort of thing. Nothing too crazy or anxiety inducing, and the panic I tend to experience on the daily remained at a reasonable low for the most part.
I ended the day by attending a relaxing yoga class with a friend of mine. It was exactly what I needed to wind down and I was well on my way to feeling the zen when, for no reason at all, a most unwelcome memory popped into my mind.
The memory was of a text Ben sent me from the hospital shortly before he died. Death was inevitable and it coming fast, and every moment felt like we were staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I had spent the entire day with him and had gone home in the middle of the night to be with the kids and make sure they were safe. I crawled into bed, texted Ben "I love you" and he texted back saying “I don’t want to die. I have so much to live for.”
At that moment I felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest and thrown across the room. I texted back and told him that I didn’t want him to die, but i did not say “You aren’t going to die.” To deny his pending death seemed wrong to me. It just seemed so dismissive to say “oh, don’t be silly...you aren’t going to die.” He was indeed going to die. So many people had spent the nine months after his diagnosis in denial, and that had angered me to no end. There was nothing helpful about denying what was to come, because denial has not been proven to be an effective method of curing cancer. So instead I told him that he was leaving a legacy in his three kids. And he responded that “legacy or not” he still didn’t want to die, he wanted to fight. He didn’t want to die.
One of the questions I've asked myself frequently since Jeff's death is "Am I ready and do I want to date?"
Aside from the need for physical contact, I can't say that in the first year I was at all ready for "dating". Last year, my second year of widowhood, I thought I was. With trepidation and large amount of humility, I took a look at online dating.
First posted 7 months post-widowhood on personal blog
I have worried since Jeff's death that he didn't know how much I loved him. The stupid things I did and the things I took for granted have weighed so heavily on my mind. I have felt terribly and guilty for the things that I complained about and the issues I thought were important.
Since Jeff's death I have realized that these 'things' were nothing. Not important. Not worth the words or the breath I used to express them.Read more
As humans, it seems that we all expect to have more than we do. More possessions. More time. More love. More help.
I don't know if it's just my human-ness that makes this desire for more so prevalent...or if the fact that I am a widow makes this expectation almost obsessive.