Monday, July 12, 2010

Guess Who is Coming to Dinner?

I don't know why, but when I sat down to write this post, I thought of this title. Recently I was asked to be a guest blogger here on Widow's Voice, so here I am. This new world that I have become a part of is very strange. Sometimes I feel like my new peer group should be called something darker, like Knights of the Darkness, or The Left Behind. Let me introduce myself. My name is Dan, and I am a widower. Some of you may already be familiar with me, or my blog, Dan, in real time. My husband, Michael, died 9 months ago due to a brain tumor.

Michael and I had only been a couple for 1 1/2 years when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Our lives changed immediately, and for the next two years we were on an amazing journey of love, illness, and death. When I think about the film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," I think about the element of surprise, and about the misconceptions we have about each other. As we go about our daily lives, we often don't realize how insular we can become. I think we tend to find ourselves surrounded by those with whom we most identify. If we look around ourselves, we sometimes see that we have chosen people who are like minded, or have similar life experiences. When something like the death of a spouse happens, we are completely thrown off. Who is our peer group now? Suddenly those that understood us or those that we previously identified with are clueless. Of course this is not a slight against our friends, or family, it is just that we find ourselves dealing with issues that they haven't had to experience.

I have come to accept the limitations that come from being at this place. In my daily life, I am often in an environment where I am interacting with what most would consider my peer group, other gay men. Yet when I am approached for conversation, my peer group can be thrown off when I reply that I am neither single or in a relationship, but in fact widowed. I am not what they expected. Sometimes in my widowed interactions, which tend to be online, people can be thrown off when I state that I am widowed by the death of my husband, not my wife. Again, not necessarily what the other person expected.

So what's a new dinner guest to do? Frankly, just be myself. With time, I am finding that all I can do, and all I have the energy to do, is be myself. People will adjust, or they won't. They may do what I do when I meet someone new, listen, and try to find a bridge that connects us. Sometimes we find that we are a good fit, and other times we don't. Yet what I have found during this difficult time is that finding another widow(er) to sit with is rare. When I do find them, I focus on that which connects us. This experience of grief seems to supersede all other factors. So while I may initially be aware of that which makes us different, I have come to understand that what matters most is that which binds us.


  1. Dan, I agree with you on the peer group, we had felt we being to. I have also sometimes felt the need to find others who are in widowed status. I think part of this is because death isn't something most people want to think about, but we aren't given much choice. People who encounter "us" do not know what to say. I know I can not be the only young widow/ widower who lives in Rhode Island, but I certainly can not locate others. I guess because it certainly isn't a title we want to celebrate. I just wish our society was more open about this, so those of us who are widowed could not feel like such an oddity. To me it only adds to the difficulty in dealing with our grief. Often forms do not even carry the title for us so we do not have to explain to ever doctor's office that our emergency contact has changed and have to relive it all again!

  2. always a place at my table dan. And, I make good cake.

    "severely pruned" is my current bid for the club name.

  3. I think in our society anymore that divorce/separation is so much more common than widowhood for the under fifty set that people haven't the experience to deal with us.

    I am to a point (nearing 5 years) that I simply let the awkward pass and move into the gap to take it in other directions, Other people, I've found, are mostly waiting on me to point the way and they usually follow.

    Nice post.

  4. What a beautiful reflection Dan. I'm coming up on the 6 month anniversary of my husbands death and have also been thinking about how I fit into social groups. It is affirming to know that we are not alone in our walk. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  5. What an eloquent writer you are. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss. My husband died April 30, 2009 and I am still having a difficult time finding out where I belong...who are my friends? I have lost a lot of friends because they dont want to understand this journey. They just want you to get over it. I have also made new friends, but it is difficult every day.

  6. Nice post Dan. I lost my husband 9 months ago after 21 years of marriage. It's amazing how many widow(ers) I've met who are gay and who have no mainstream outlet for their pain. Thank goodness for these Internet forums. I'm so glad you have found yours.

    I've also had a hard time with the social aspect of widow-hood. It's so much easier to just stay at home and hide - whoops, did I say that out loud?

    People don't realize that time has different meaning now. I had someone the other day ask me if I was "dating" yet. It is inconceivable for me to even consider thinking about that yet (maybe not ever) and this person looked at me like "it's been 9 months, aren't you over it yet?". People have no clue what this journey is really like or the fact that this is not something you "get over" - I don't have the flu.