Monday, May 2, 2011

Living With The Past, But Not Living In It.

Ghosts from The Past

I received a call last weekend, that took me a week, and much anxiety, to return.

Back when I first met Michael, I was quickly introduced to his best friend. He's a wonderful guy, the perfect and loyal friend to Michael, and he was also his first boyfriend. They basically grew up together as adults. They saw each other go through many triumphs and downfalls, and were always there for each other.

What was most interesting, is that he had been single for many years when I was first introduced to him by Michael. Then just about the time that Michael got sick, he met someone. Unfortunately, his new boyfriend and Michael never got to know each other too well, as Michael was beginning to decline at that point. Michael always worried about who would be there for his best friend, as he had his share of health problems over the years. In the end, it was his best friend who was there with me, getting Michael through his illness, and there when he was dying.

Fast forward to the present, and it is I that is left alone, and Michael's best friend is happily in a stable and loving relationship. He appears to have it all, and I have the remnants of a life that once was, and the beginnings of a life that is to be.

When I finally returned his call tonight, he seemed to understand the complexity of our connection at this point. We enjoyed catching up, but he thoughtfully acknowledged that breaking away from my prior life in San Francisco was probably the best decision for me. He knows that he, other people, and places, are a constant reminder of what I lost. He knows that while I am very happy for him, the life he is now living is the one that I thought I would always have.

I suppose it all serves to remind me that I need to keep looking toward the future. The past is the past, and it was a lovely past. It was a past that met my every expectation, and it was a past the took me to the depths of despair. In a very short time, I was taken through the full spectrum of a loving relationship. I was able to live out my marriage vows, and truly be there for the man that I loved. And, in every sense of the word, he was there for me.

Yet, in spite of all that is behind me, I can't live in the past. I can't recapture the past, and I shouldn't try to recreate it either. I need to cherish what I had. I need to find a way to accept, and carry on. I need to remain open to a life that can be just as happy, just as fulfilling, and , I suppose, just as complicated. I don't want a consolation prize of a future. I don't want to look ahead with the perspective that it can only be second best. I know that it will be challenging, but I want to be happy. Easier said than done. Yes. But possible.

I am learning to live with the past, but careful to not live in it.


  1. Dan,
    I need to borrow your last line.

  2. Dan,you and I are on almost the same timeline and I know we are all unique, but it's funny how I'm coming to many of the same conclusions. I can't bring Jeff back and I can't live my life for him anymore. I have to continue on in the best way I know how for me. I recently moved from our "home" and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. This new house is a symbol of survival. It's a symbol of healing and of faith in myself. I brought the most important things with me - my memories of that wonderful life that I used to lead. But, I will not allow myself to get stuck in that life or the memory of that life.

    I think you have done an amazing job of surviving the absolute worst circumstances and I wish you peace along your journey.


  3. I am at 11 weeks and learning. I appreciate all that I read as it helps me to grow as I attempt to figure out whats next for me. Thank you for sharing. <3 to us all
    I too would like to borrow your last line here, a little something for me to focus on.

  4. Good article, bro. It took me 4 years to start thinking of the future again.

    Peace - Barney

  5. Good for you Dan. My daughter just hit the 6 months mark of widowhood, and for the most part, I think she is moving along nicely. Your post gives me hope for her. My hope for her (& you)is that she will love again and be happy again. Thanks for sharing.
    Bless you,
    A hopeful mom

  6. When I first thought about this. was when I was thinking about the grieving process. At first, it hurts to think about the past, but you do not want to forget it. Next it hurts to think about the future, because you can not see it. Later thinking about the past brings both joy and sorrow. But I think I finally knew I was healing when I could start to dream about the future again and even start to plan for it, while thinking about the past and remembering what it meant to feel happy. Grief isn't something you get over, but something you learn to live with. I will always miss my loved one, so it should not stop me from living in the present ot planning for the future.

  7. EXACTLY! For so many months I lived in the past terrified if I let go, I would be letting go of my memories, my husband and all of the love I feel for him. But it was so painful to just live in the past because I could never get back to "before he was sick" if I tried to think about the before memories it always led to his diagnosis of cancer and his death a year and a half later. Eventually, i was having so much actual physical pain (i felt like I was always on the verge of a heart attack) my body actually gave in and i kept getting sick - one virus after another. Finally, I made myself start again. Get out of bed on time, exercise, eat breakfast, go to bed at ten rather than one, two, three a.m. sobbing.
    I had to start thinking about the future and allow myself the slim possibility of hope for a future that didn't feel like being on the edge of dying of a broken heart.
    I am slowly moving forward. While I still have many hard days, i have occasional good afternoons, or evenings. Sometimes in the morning I wake up and i can feel grateful. i want to live, desperately.
    Even if sometimes the grief makes that seem incredibly hard.

    I come here - to widows voice, each morning - to find inspiration and to read the journeys of the writers and others as a way to remind myself, if they have survived, so can I.
    thank you.

  8. Thanks so much for this, I really needed this perspective tonight.