Monday, April 25, 2011

When good things happen to sad people.

Sadness & Happyness

Okay, so here is my dilemma. What am I supposed to do when life is going well. Or, well enough?

I have been publicly writing, blogging, for three and a half years now. At first it was to keep family and friends up to date with Michael's battle with his brain cancer. Back then I wrote about medical updates, explaining the next chemotherapy trial, the progression of his tumor, then the ultimate message of his death. During that time I tried to talk honestly as possible, yet also balancing Michael's desire for some privacy. In between the difficult messages, were words of hope, and of true joy. I have to remember that even though our world was turned upside down, there were some wonderful days and weeks. During those two years we had many celebrations, and many reasons to be thankful.

After Michael died I decided that I needed to continue writing. On the evening of our first wedding anniversary, about a month after he died, I started writing my blog about grief. After writing for a couple of weeks here and there, I decided to commit to writing every day, as there was much to share. Basically, it became my wailing wall. When my first year was up I knew it was time to slow down.

Here's what I learned during that year. Lots. I learned much about my grief. I learned much about my propensity for depression. And, I learned how addicting it was to get immediate feedback from my public grieving. Here's what I also learned, sex and tears sell. Doing well on the other hand becomes a bit of a sore spot. When readers are looking for someone to identify their grief with, well, it becomes awkward to talk about good things.. It also makes me feel uncomfortable when the non-widowed take my current good fortune, or well-being, as a sign that it is now all behind me.

In the past year I have made some needed changes, and they appear to be going well. In the past week I was offered a job that I am thrilled about. In the past few days I got through the anniversary of my meeting Michael, the most significant day for us as a couple, doing well.

Am I cured? Hardly. Am I through the worst of it? I don't really know. Am I more optimistic. Definitely. If anyone went back, and read my writing exactly a year ago, they would find that I was contemplating suicide, and being very open about it. I was so lost in my despair that I was having trouble finding my way out. Well, here I am a year later. Alive. Good things have happened for me. I have found a new place to be. This place, my new home, and my heart, still have trouble reconciling all the pain and loss that has brought me here. Yet, in spite of it, I am very much willing recognize goodness when I see it, when I feel it, and when I have it.

And on that note, I close this post.


  1. I read your blog thinking about my owm journey. Throughout my journey, I have felt duel thoughts-sad for my lost, yet, grateful for so many things. I know for some this jpurney has been more difficult and they have had to struggle finicial. I have not! I think it is so hard to explain to the non widowed how you can be moving on, but the grief will show up as an unexpected guest for the rest of our lives.

  2. Great post. I was actually thinking about this when I woke up this morning. I wasn't feeling overwhelmingly sad that I was alone. That hasn't happened in the past two years, so it was a strange feeling. I was actually feeling pretty good in my newly decluttered and dust free bedroom (a job I tackled yesterday) and then I questioned if I could admit it out loud. Here I am, admitting it out loud. Does it mean that grief is over? I'm betting not. But it does mean that I've come a long way and today is going to be a good day, I hope. Thanks for always writing about what's on my mind :) Hugs!

  3. Dan, I, too have found this to be true when writing on my personal blog. It seems that the sadder I am, the more I seem to connect with my readers. Or at least it appears that way because I get many more comments than I do if I write when I'm "happy". There seems to be a fine line for grievers and what they connect with and what they don't. Many are not yet ready to read about feeling "happy". But I continue to write about the reality of my life .... the sad and the ever-growing happiness. Yes, I desire very, very much to connect with those who are widowed. But I also feel the need, the responsibility to be open about everything .... especially the fact that our grief does get easier to bear. It only gets easier because we become stronger.
    And I have watched as you, my friend, are becoming stronger. One step at a time, sometimes not even apparent to you, but I can see it. And I'm next to you on this path, even when you don't see me, cheering on your every step.

  4. To Dan and Janine, As part of your "audience" who has been reading this blog for several months now and benefitting from it, reading about both your grief and your happpiness and growth is very important. Your grief because I can identify and "misery loves company" and your happiness because it gives so much hope that it is possible to feel happy again. Those who are further down the road than I am are proving that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am at 18 months and I have people ask me "how did you handle it when it happened" and I did use a few tools (counseling, etc.) which I am happy to share, but of course I know the core of it is feeling the pain and putting one foot in front of the other day by day. But anyone who can offer anything to ease the pain or give some kind of compass to moving ahead...well, that is priceless information. The past few weeks have been extremely rough for me (house issues, conflict with a friend and static with my adult child) and it culminated in me finding myself alone yesterday (Easter) feeling thrown back to a state of grief I haven't felt since early on, because none of this would be in my orbit if my best friend/biggest fan/protector were next to me. You know where I came? Right here. It's a safety net for good and bad. Keep up the good work, you're doing more good that you know. Thanks.

  5. Dan, thanks for your honest post. Just completed a year and I know the feeling of despair but also the feeling of being "okay". It is important for me personally to know the experiences of those that are further along this path and can say with certainty that happy days do come. I understand completely that the admission of good times will never mean that you are "done" grieving.

  6. For me, as a fairly new widow (7 months)I need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, I find comfort that I am not crazy to think about suicide or wanting to shut myself away from the world, but then the next day there it is, a blog about how life will and can be good again. So keep doing what you do, all of you. We need to all be on this roller coaster together, good or bad and your words help make each day better.

  7. Please, please continue to post the good and the bad. I'm at 20 months and often feel torn betweeen my grief and my moving forward. Someone the other day told me how glad they were that I was doing so great. I was instantly aware of how great I appear to be on the outside when I often want to scream, I'm broken, unhealed and sad... still. Although the second year is better than the first year, I'm disappointed by my progress which in reality is ridiculous! Please continue to post what is real it gives me hope that I really am on the right track!

  8. Please continue to post the good stuff. It gives me hope and continued motivation to put one foot in front of the other.

  9. I too enjoy reading the good stuff. Most of the time the sad stuff makes me feel down and I prefer to feel good. I want to know that others are moving on too.

  10. Yes, Yes, Yes!
    The honesty in this space is what I want. One of my worst moments reading was when a fellow widow posted a comment that said (paraphrasing) "it has been four and a half years and it is just as bad and I don't know when it will ever get better". At that point, I too felt I couldn't make it one more day and didn't want to! It was terrible to think four years from now I could feel the same way - thankfully one of the bloggers said more or less - everyone is different, the feelings ebb and flow, good things will happen, it won't always feel like this.
    I desperately needed to hear the good. I need to know the truth but I also need to hope. For awhile I thought I might actually die from a broken heart, now I feel like others have survived - I can, I will, I have - so that someone else can know that they will too.
    Thank you Dan and Janine for telling the truth and leaving hope out there like a beacon so the rest of us can find the light.

  11. Honesty. Always the best policy!

    Some days we feel better/worse than others. That's the reality.

    Thanks widows voice bloggers.

  12. Thanks so much for this post. It is so helpful and insightful as are they all on this site. I am 18 months out and have been extremely depressed recently and feeling like things will never get any better. I spend time everyday on this site and others but recently have been so much sadder after reading how much pain everyone is in and the feeling that it doesn't get better have wondered if I should stop reading. So very happy to read your post. Wondering if the only way to future happiness is through finding another love. Feel like that is such a hard task at 57 but the thought of spending the rest of my life alone is the MOST depressing thing of all to me. Don't know what to do or how to change this. But as others have said, don't feel like I can burden friends because I feel like all they think is I could and will be them at some point. The looks on their faces is so hard to see. Being cheerful at work is such a strain and long weekends are terrible. Don't want to add to my boys stress and unhapiness at 21 and 23 because I so want to help them heal. Tons of things weighing down on me and I feel totally alone except on these sites. Posts and comments are so well expressed I am always amazed. Thanks to you all for having the energy to write as I often do not.

  13. I want to thank Janine, and each of you, for entering into such a great discussion about the wide spectrum of grief experiences. It is so affirming for me to know that I, we, can reach each other significantly, no matter where we find ourselves along this path. I guess it comes down to authenticity. As long as we are being authentic, and upfront, we can't help but grow. It's always a surprise to me when I can look back, not too far back, and realize that I have gone through a significant shift in my grieving process.

    I sometimes fear that I may get stuck along the way if I start leaning toward writing what I think people want to read, rather than write what I am feeling and going through. Today's responses are evidence that there truly is something for everyone in each of our posts. We just connect to those that need that connection on each given day.

    Thanks to each of you for making this such a dynamic process.

  14. To "Anonymous" above. I am close to your situation and can't face the thought of being alone for therest of my life ( at 56 ) either but on the other hand can't imagine being with another man! I was married for 35 years and I am 7 months out so i know it's very early days.
    I was also wondering if I should stop reading and then I read a hopefilled post like Dan's and I think there may be something better ahead.
    Like you I try not to add to my childrens' grief but it does leave you feeling very much alone sometimes.
    So thanks to all the wonderful people willing to share their truth. It makes things easier for us all.

  15. Dan,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I can identify with the feelings. People are surprised that I am "doing so well". We take it day by day as we sometimes are taken back into our grief. For the most part, although I miss my husband a great deal, I am just trying to live life in a good way. And I am just grateful for everyone that I have in my life that have supported me. I am especially grateful for the widows and widowers on this blog, who have had a great job of sharing their emotional journey with us and allowing us to see that we are not alone.

  16. I'm pleased that more of your are still reading, and sharing your own place in the journey with us. You know, I met my spouse, Michael, a bit late in the game. I was a single parent for most of my adult life, and while I knew what I wanted, I decided to stop trying so hard, and to just enjoy my life. As the story goes, that is when I met Michael. It was literally a dream come true. All of my family and friends were so happy for me, and they loved Michael.

    Losing him was devestating. It has taken me to the darkest place I have ever been. I never knew pain like this before, and never had been in a situation where I truly questioned my faith, and my desire to go on living. One blessing that I had out of this, is that Michael and I knew right after his surgery, that he would die from this tumor. While it was quite a blow, it allowed us to focus on what was important. It allowed us to have those deep conversations about what we wanted for each other, and what the after life might be like. From the beginning Michael began referring to my "next husband" in many of our conversations. He did not want me to be alone, or to give up on life. He wanted me to be open to the idea, and to keep embracing life. Easier said than done, but I do believe it is beginning to happen.

    This afternoon I had a wonderful conversation with a teacher I often work with in my job. She asked if she could break boundaries, and asked me what is it that makes me so empathetic to the families we serve. She told me that I exude love, and wanted to know where it comes from. I shared with her about my children, then shared about losing my husband. She gave me such a caring, and loving, response. She also told me that she feels that in spite of my loss, she feels like there is so much ahead for me. She could just feel it.

    Of course, once I got in my car I was in tears. This conversation went straight to my heart, and opened that protective layer. I cried while driving home. I cried for the connection that was made today, but also for the love that I did have in this life, which was Michael. I then realized that, yes, I am on the right track. I will continue to push forward, and to remain open to the love that is out there.

    I turned 52 recently, and as a gay man, that is often thought of as a curse. Youth is often thought of as having vitality, and having so much promise. Today I was reminded that I still possess these God given graces. I am blessed, in spite of, and because of, all that life has given me.