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.