My name is Derick, and I am here because I lost my partner of 15 years to a sudden heart attack in Puerto Rico. Family and friends have encouraged me to seek a support group to help cope with his loss, and I have always felt more comfortable writing down my thoughts and feelings than sharing them in a live setting.

A little bit about my partner and I:

We met in 2000 in St. Cloud, MN where he was an adjunct professor at the university there in communications. During our first year together, he was offered a tenure track position at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, and we quickly jumped at the chance to move there so he could solidify his career as a researcher, professor and academic administrator. His career options were limited so it made sense for us to go down there as I would have an easier time finding something in tourism.

Our lives together we're a bit isolated down there at times, but we loved each other deeply. He was not only my partner, lover and best friend, he was also my greatest teacher.

He was a Ph.D. teaching communications, GLBTQ literature, film, GLBTQ studies, and rhetorical criticism to name a few. He was one of the forefathers of the Queer Theory movement in academia, having written important articles in his field that are highly cited across the US and even the world. His influence on our community may have been relegated to textbooks and journals, but his ideas were profound and groundbreaking. During his career he taught thousands of students, many who have become leaders and champions of justice and equality globally. I will always be so incredibly proud of his accomplishments in life, and I miss our intellectual barn-burners while making dinner.

During the economic collapse of 2008, we were hit financially as I struggled to find long term work after being laid off. For four years I took odd jobs here and there but nothing substantial, so after much soul searching, hand wringing and a few tears I took a position that was offered to me back in MN so that we would get us back on track and eventually move our lives back to the states. So in 2012, I left our home, our dog, our cars to work 3000 miles away. I never left him though. Physically, perhaps...but never emotionally. We struggled with the distance, but it never diminished how much we loved each other. We saw each other as often as possible (which wasn't much due to the distance. Still, we talked for hours every day....EVERY DAY.
He was my best friend and my closest family, and I was deeply concerned about his wellbeing and mental health after I left, but we really didn't have much of a choice financially. We still shared the costs of the condo, the cars, the dogs, the taxes...he was my spouse and someone I was responsible for (and vice versa).

He had suffered some heart disease in 2013, and had other health issues that also contributed to his untimely death at 46, but nothing prepared me for the feeling of collapsing shock I got when I was informed he had died suddenly of a heart attack in Costco on November 1, 2015. He hadn't been feeling great for a few days, and on Halloween - the night before he died - I begged him to go to the emergency room if he felt really that bad. He didn't take my advice, sadly. But I do know that my final words to him were "I love you".

I spent the entire month of November down in Puerto Rico to address our affairs. I had to empty our condo, deal with the cars, finding a home for my dog, his retirement, the general estate...while writing his eulogy for the memorial his department put together. The memorial was beautiful and all, but none of my family could attend from MN due to the distance, so I was effectively alone through this. A couple friends helped for a couple days and my dad flew down for the first two nights to help me ID his body in forensics. He couldn't stay, sadly. Even his own parents and sister didn't attend - which hurts.

I never got the chance to fully grieve his loss while going through that. When I returned to MN in early December, my work was pushing me to get right back into it, but after what I went through emotionally, physically and financially coping with his loss alone in a different culture...I wasn't ready. They ended up giving my job to someone else, and I am now unemployed.

This last Monday, my attorney needed our bank account information and I had to go through all of our old text messages to locate it. I had been avoiding going through those (they were our most consistent form of communication, even though we talked daily too)...but I ended up reading two months worth of messages until the day before he died. I had avoided doing this previously. So the floodgates opened this week.

I am here at Legacy because I want to read others experiences, how people learn to cope...if I am in serious need of counseling to help me through this transition. I have always been adaptable, but I am struggling to find the correct methods to move forward.

The first two months I didn't have time to grieve, as I was too busy handling professional affairs and then the holidays. Now January comes and goes...and reality is setting in that he is gone and I won't get a chance to talk to him, communicate with him, laugh with him ever again.

Up until now I have felt many emotions come and go, but the one thing I felt the most often is numb. I am concerned that I am keeping all the grief bottled up. I am also very frightened of going down the ugly rabbit hole of emotional grief, even though I know it's the only way to move on.

Everyone keeps saying "You're so young and you still have half your life ahead of you" or "don't focus on the negative, stay positive". Intellectually I know these statements are true and are meant to be helpful.

But lately, when people say that to me, I just want to punch them in the face for suggesting that my grief and remorse aren't valid means of expression, especially when I haven't had the chance to fully feel them.

Anyway, struggling up here in Minneapolis. I know things get easier as time goes on. Every post alludes to it here. But I struggle to see how this pain will heal. My family and friends can only do so much when they don't really understand the life we shared together. Yes, they always accepted him - but they didn't really know him well. So in many ways, I feel like I am the only one who cares that he's gone. As I mentioned, his own parents and sister opted to not attend his funeral. While he influenced many, no one knew him like I did. Not even his own family.

I guess I need a shoulder to cry on, someone who knew and loved him personally like I did. No one that I personally know...as of yet...has been capable or willing to help he share the burden.

To me, this feeling of grief is the most isolating thing on earth. And being isolated/abandoned is the thing I fear the most. I want to feel better, but I am not sure where to begin, maybe writing this out will help.

Maybe...just maybe an objective someone out there knows what I am going through.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hello Derick
My name is Mike
I lost my partner Danie to cancer almost 11 months ago. In fact today is the 1 year anniversary of when we got his diagnosis.
We'd been together for 36 years.
I wish I could say that this kind of grief is a straight line toward healing.
But it's not. It's a freaking roller coaster.
What has helped me most is the widows support group that I've been attending since about 2 months after he died. It consists of me and 4 wonderful straight women with whom I've become very close. We meet every other Tuesday evening.
They are all at about the same point in their grief as I. It's true that everyone's journey is a unique one, but amazing too how similar feelings can be. It really helps to be able to share your feelings with those who really can empathize.
I do suggest that you try to find a live group in MN. This online thing is useful, but nothing beats a shoulder to cry on and a hand to give you a Kleenex.
Hoping tomorrow is a little easier than today.
Thanks Mike, and I am also sorry for your loss. I have considered the "group" route, and continue to do so today. I have been researching various options in my area, and fortunately Minnesota is a progressive state. There are many options available to our community.

I agree that everything feels so up and down all the time. The roller coaster metaphor is apt. I will try the group route once I find the right fit, because this ride needs to slow down.

Thank you for your kindness and advice. It helps some to know I am not entirely alone and that there are those who can provide inside information on the process.

Hi Derick,

I lost my partner Dave 3 years ago to cancer.  We had been together 13 years.  Like you have heard, time does soften the sting a bit, which I know is hard to believe right now, but it does.  Everyone's grief journey is unique but they all have one thing in common - it sucks.    Mike is right, seeking out some local support groups or individual counseling might be helpful.  You can do a google search to see what may be out there.  I saw this link which may be of help. 

http://www.griefloss.org/contact-us.html

Take it one moment at a time.

Best,


Scott

Thank you Scott, and my sincerest regrets for your loss. It is incredibly useful to see different perspectives. Cancer is awful. A very very close friend of mine had died of cancer two weeks after my partner's death, and I was there by his side every day helping him through the process and difficult choices hospitals provide you. I truly understand that trauma.

I checked out that link you provided, and thank you! Due to the distance from my home, that option won't be viable, but there are others that are closer so I am considering locating a group. I have never done a group thing before, but at this stage I would give anything to feel a little like the old me again.

One moment at a time indeed.

Hi Derik,

My name is Janet. I lost my partner of 21 years in October to pancreatic cancer. We only had from May (initial diagnosis) to prepare for her moving beyond our world here. I can't begin to fathom how alone you must feel. We had family on both sides along with friends. Judging from how difficult my getting through the last 4 months was for me, really pales in comparison to your grief of going at it all alone! What I can tell you is that I decided I needed counseling to help me cope. In my opinion, I was a complete wreck! What helped me to make that decision was, even though I had family and friends to support me, I did not feel comfortable leaning on them. Especially when it came to crying. For me, it got to where I did not like the person I was and wanted to "fast forward" through the really difficult process. In the city I am from, we have a GLBT center. Counseling is just one of the many services they provide to the community. I am just sharing this because I am not sure if you know or not, but counseling is offered on a sliding scale. If you are asking for advice, my suggestion would be to try to get into counseling or find a support group somewhere around there. Time does help and everyone has their own agenda for getting through the loss of a loved one but no one should have to be totally alone through the process! Take care.

Janet, I am so sorry for your loss. Cancer is a horrible thing. And like you, I have struggled to relate to my family and friends ever since he passed. They try, believe me they do...but the look of pity and then helplessness on their faces when I try to talk about it sometimes makes me feel worse.

I don't want to have to go through this alone. My family assures me I am not, but they really do not understand. They only met my Tony a handful of times, due to the long distance we lived from my home. They see my pain, but I hear a lot of things like "he was sick" and "you'll get through this" and a lot of "I love you"s. They feel surprisingly empty at this time.

As mentioned to Mike and Scott above, I am researching options for a group to join. My goal today is to call three or four numbers and get the ball rolling.
Thank you for your advice, and I wish you a speedy recovery as you find your path.

We stoic Minnesotans are taught from a young age to 'suck it up and put on your big boy pants' to get through difficult things (like winter). Guess I should figure out what pants to wear.

hi derrick. my name is eric. first off let me say how sorry I am for your loss and being in this situation myself believe me when I say I am very sympathetic to your situation. I was with my partner for 15 years as well. he went to the superbowl last year and when he came back his eyes were yellow so I made hi go to the dr. turned out he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. in 5 months he was gone and it wasn't a good 5 months, he was plagued with a gallbladder infection that I had to give him iv antibiotics at home for, he could barely move and I suddenly became his caregiver. His was a diagnosis that I thought would kill us both. I do not know how I am still alive as I had little help other then his hospital stays which I stayed there too, then hospice the last 10 days. I could go on and hopefully we can talk some more. I am not on here much but will check my emails for notification and if you want you can email me at johnsonericdale@yahoo.com. maybe I can tell you some things that help a little. I know its hard to reach out in this time believe me but you must reach out to anyone you can you will find this to help. this is a long process my friend so reach out and please be gentle on yourself you are going through a fate worse than death I think, sincerely eric Johnson. I also have a profile on here    

Hi Eric, thank you for responding and I am very deeply sorry for your loss. I can't imagine how difficult it was to get that diagnosis and the resulting five months would have been torturous.

I do have some perspective on the horrors of your partner's diagnosis, as a very close friend died of colon cancer two weeks after my partner died. I had promised my friend that I would be there for him every day as he struggled to survive in the hospital, but I was unable to keep that promise due to my Tony's passing. Kinda got hit with a double whammy in two weeks time this past November.

I appreciate any advice and commisery provided. It's funny how I get more useful information and advice from total strangers than I do from my own family. I love them, they love me....but they do not understand nor do they know how to help me other than to say "Go to church...God solves all problems". I am agnostic (sigh).

I can be reached at norwegiano@gmail.com, and I am grateful for your offer to reach out to you via email. I will be seeking some therapeutic grief counseling or group discussions in the near future, but also would like to know what you've dealt with since his passing.

I wish I could say I was an objective someone but I experienced something similar - since no one can really feel what you feel.  All I can say is I am unemployed and my rock in life has passed.  He made life worth living and I am lost without him.  I am so sorry to read of what you have experienced - please know you are not completely alone - my name is Robert and at 45 I am creating a new life - leaving a tropical climate where I loved my BF and we loved living in our condo.  I have moved back to my home state of Rhode Island only because I didn't know where else to go.  I pray this will make some sense someday

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