Monday, May 30, 2011

Alone Together

two hands, one love

I just got off the phone with my good friend Dominic. We don't talk to each other too often, maybe once a month, but when we do, I always feel so good. He lives up in the Bay Area, from where I moved from last year. We have been to many of the same places, and always have similar stories to share with each other. He's originally from my new home city of San Diego, so we also often talk about our favorite places here, and share recommendations about places to eat or visit.

I have so much in common with Dominic. We are both gay men, who also happen to be Latino. This kind of grounds our connection in a common culture as well. In our conversations we laugh, encourage each other, and listen to each other's worries of the day.

Did I mention that I have never met Dominic? I don't even know what he looks like. If we passed each other on the road, we would never even know. Well, he might know, as he found me the same way as several other of my newer friends have, by way of my blog. You see, Dominic is also a widower. Not only that, he lost his spouse to the same brutal brain tumor that took my husband Michael.

Isn't life strange. You can live a somewhat parallel life as another person in your own community, and never really have the chance to make their acquaintance. Then you lose your husband, find yourself feel alone, grief stricken, even suicidal, pack it all up, move to another part of the state, get settled into your new home, and BAM, your paths cross. Suddenly, although there are almost 500 miles separating you, that person becomes so central to your life.

This is not the only relationship I have like this. In the past 20 months I have come to know, and love, so many people that I would never have met if Michael had not died. These are such loving, supportive, sad, and joyful people. If you are reading this, then most likely you are one of them too. It's a strange dynamic really. You can talk to them on the phone, share emails online, or trade text messages, and yet, all the while, it dawns on you, "I only know the person, or have them in my life, because of death."

In death did us part, Michael and I, but in death did all of you arrive. Each week seems to bring more and more wonderful, and interesting people into my life, by way of my writing, or by communities formed here on the Internet. Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to meet so many of you at Camp Widow. Let me tell you, it was like magic. I saw familiar faces, or heard voices saying, "Dan?" "Are you Dan In Real Time?" and then I would see the spark of acknowledgment, and be filled with joy. It was the most wonderful experience, and I can't wait to repeat the experience once again this summer.

Camaraderie is the most wonderful of gifts. Camaraderie during times of such extreme need, feels like being bestowed direct grace from God.

You know, in tonight's conversation with my friend Dominic, he shared with me that he attended the San Francisco Brain Tumor Walk. It is an event that is so close to my heart. Michael and I walked with our family two years in a row during his battle with the disease. I then walked the third year without him, and followed up with the same event when I moved here in San Diego. Dominic shared with me that he spoke with people who knew me, either through my participation with the National Brain Tumor Society, or through my blog. It felt so good knowing that they still thought of me, and that I was still a part of their community.

In a way it sounds kind of odd to acknowledge this, but it also serves to remind me of how fragile and isolated I continue to feel. You know, I have come a long way in the past 20 months, and I have made many new friends. Yet, deep inside of me, I am still that broken, and pain stricken, person that was left standing alone in this world. Now some would say, "but Dan, don't you have three kids? How alone can you truly be?" Well, very alone. Yes, I move about in this great big world, with people all around me, yet at the end of the day, I enter my bedroom alone. I brush my teeth alone. I wash my face alone. I get into bed alone. And, I share my day's thoughts or feelings with, oh yeah, no one. And, even at 20 months out, I still struggle to fall asleep each night in that big empty bed.

Who else really understands this?

Who else is struggling with this at the same time each night?

You.

We are alone, or we are not alone. We are newly widowed or we have been at it a long time. We are very young, or we are considered older. We come from this walk of life, or we come from another. We look similar to each other, or we don't. We might have previously chosen to be friends, or we might not have. Yet here we are. We are reflections of each other. We share that knowing look in our eyes. We have the ability to touch each other's hearts, and souls, in a deep and profound way.

By reading, you have shown up for me. By writing, I have shown up for you. Whoever you are, whether we ever meet, speak, or exchange written words, thank you. I value your presence, and I acknowledge the loss which has brought you here.

23 comments:

  1. Namaste, Dan, many thanks for this post.

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  2. You are a gift to all of us Dan. I love you x

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  3. You and I seem to be in sync these days with what we feel/write. The "aloneness" is beating me up this week. It's been a difficult few days and there are more to come this week. Heck, there are more to come in this life time. But, I'm so thankful, that in this "aloneness", I have met so many truly wonderful people who get it.
    And I smile at the memory of sitting across the table from you last August, on that first night of your CW experience and saying, "Dan? Dan In Real Life? Hi, I'm txmomx6, Janine" .... and you knew who I was. We knew each other .... having never met.
    I love this community.
    :)

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  4. Dan, you are so right! I know only one other widow, but we usually do not talk of our loss.I was feeling like maybe I am not doing enough to help myself from feeling so alone, but you have assured me that it is not me, but part of being a widow. It isn't something that is easily goes away. Reading what you have to say,at least made me feel better and even less alone- for now. Thanks

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  5. "Alone Together" ... I like that. A wonderful description of how I feel when I connect with my dear widow/er friends in Widowed Village. Can't wait to meet some of them at my first Camp Widow in August. Thanks, Dan.

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  6. Dan - You have taken the words right out of my mouth. I lost my husband to cancer 7 years ago and am raising 3 wonderful children alone. I have tons of friends....and through my efforts with LIVESTRONG, have made friends with people around the world that "get it." Yet, the loneliness is still overwhelming. People think I'm crazy since I'm surrounded by so many all the time, but I suspect I'll always feel this the rest of my life.

    Thanks for speaking for all of us!

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  7. Thanks for showing up! Your words seep into my heart today. Thank you for helping me feel less alone.

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  8. Thanks for your post. I suspect I will always feel like I do, because I cannot see myself with anyone else. Helps to feel less lonely for the moment anyway.

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  9. Thanks for such a nice post. You sound like a person with a very sensitive soul. I am also very glad that there is a place to come where people "get it," because as you said it is a very isolating experience, even when you are surrounded by people. It's hard to explain to people that everything external has changed for me, even though it has not changed for them. And people really don't get that bereavement lasts a long time, you don't just hurry to "move on." One thing that surprised me about losing a spouse is what it did to my sense of self, all my confidence washed away, I felt (and still do at times) so very vulnerable. I'm at 19 months and would not want to go back to the beginning. I would like to know if people keep encouraging widowers to "move on" and keep asking what you are planning to do "next" or is this something that is expected only of females? I am tired of it. I haven't made changes but I was happy with my life and the career I built before becoming widowed, and I am offended by people suddenly pressuring me to make major life changes because my husband passed. Replies requested from widowers out there!

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  10. beautiful post Dan, you hit the nail right on the head. No matter what, there is so often the feeling of being alone. Been a struggle for me as well this week; I even tried to lull myself to sleep last night by mentally running thru the list of all the wonderful people in my life that I would not know (personally and via the internet) if my husband were still alive. Still and all at the end of the list I was still wide awake and still very alone in bed. It is however so comforting to know that there is someplace where there are people who "get it". You even have me thinking I might need to check out Camp Widow this year!

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  11. Thanks for your post - I'm at 20 months and feel so similar to your thoughts and feelings. You always get it right on.......Im not ready yet for "fun" vacations yet - the only thing I am going to try to make is Camp Widow - just knowing that I'd be surrounded by people that "get it" forms that instant bond that is truly priceless - the only pleasant thing in this journey living in grief.

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  12. thanks Dan. Was feeling very alone today and this really helped. Peace to you.

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  13. You always write what I am longing so much to hear. I am not the only one. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  14. In regard to widowers being given the same, ongoing, statements, and questions, about moving on...

    I can only speak for myself. It seemed that in the first year, and early, in the first year, I got that a lot. After that year passed, I think most people assumed that I had "moved on,"
    and stopped asking. I actually do think that widowers move on (whatever that means) sooner than widows generally. I also think that we are expected to move on quicker. I know that in my case, most people assumed I was already dating, when I wasn't. They were also a bit surprised that I wasn't. There also may be an age factor here. When my son was participating in a kids bereavement group, the parents met separately. Most of the parents were younger than I was, and I actually found myself shocked by how soon they had dated.

    I know we are all different, but sometimes I think others group us, and have expectations based on their own perception of us. These expectations can only confuse us, and cause us to question whether or not we are doing this right.

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  15. Thanks for responding, Dan. I read a book on grief that said that women have a different investment in their partner than men, that a woman sees her relationship as part of her identity and a man sees it more as an extension of himself, thereby helping him to heal faster. I'm referring to people asking what new hobbies I have taken up, if I'm going to change my job, my location, find a new relationship, etc. Like I said, I had worked a long time to achieve my education/career goals, and I own a home. I'm not overjoyed obviously but things are stable and I need that now. People assume that I'm suddenly supposed to change everything and it's been really slow going up to this point just to grieve and heal and accept my circumstances. So I was curious whether or not people torment men this way also. I feel like people are putting a burden of guilt on me to achieve and change, when that isn't in my radar at this point. I'd rather just be accepted for who I am right now and be supported by others. Thanks again for responding.

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  16. I think that people tried to slow me down actually. I responded to my grief by making many major changes, which we are told not to do. Some said that I was getting lost in my grief, and that maybe I would regret the choices I was making. What's funny too, is that after initially settling on my last job friends began to ask when I was going to get back on track and look for a job that was more demanding. I think they were not comfortable with me being less aggressive in that area.

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  17. *tears* Thank you, Dan, for taking the time to write what I feel... Your words touched me, deeply... Widowed 2 years (this month), people expect me to 'be healed'... When I happen to mention that I 'am lonely'... they respond, "You have so many friends... you're so busy"... Only "those that have grieved before me" know what I mean... YOU are one of them! I hope that I am able to attend CW this year... I would love to meet you (and several others) in person. ~DeNece Beckman

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  18. Thank you for writing words that all of us here understand so perfectly. You are a gift to us.

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  19. Hi Dan, I loved your post--it helps to know that someone else in this big world feels like I do at times. It has been nerly 5 years and I am just starting to move on somewhat. Thank goodness my friends and family have been patient. They have no idea of how lonely it is for me. I also live in San Diego and plan to introduce myself to you at Camp Widow--last year was really good. Perhaps we can support each other sometime. Hugs Sandy

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  20. Nice post and so true. Life just amazes me with it's many twists and turns. I remember when I was in my 20's I lived next door to a widower and I saw him each day as he walked the neighborhood going about his daily business. I would look at him when he wasn't looking and wonder what his life was like, surely not knowing that I would be in the same position myself, although at a much earlier age.
    Hugs, Linda

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  21. GREAT POST

    WE ALL HAVE LOST BUT THERE IS HOPE TO KEEP ON GOING KEEP SMILING

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  22. I have always said, "I feel alone in a crowd". He is always missing and I am always longing for him - after 3+ years.
    Everyone advises me to get out, do things, travel but the cold, hard reality is always coming home to the "aloneness". We were comfortable being home - together; relaxing the humdrum life of middle age. Now I'm brooding or wallowing or not doing well when I prefer to be home. Because if I'm out there, then we are seen as being fine. And everyone wants us healed. I do too but I don't think I will ever be whole again.

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