Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Experiencing True Grief

Coming out to everyone is the best thing I have ever done for myself and my children.

In the days, weeks and months after Krista's death, I was a wreck. What I really needed was the voice of my best friend, the empathetic, loving, and wise-minded perspective she could always readily give. Anyone who has ever spoken with Krista KNOWS exactly what I am talking about, and while you all had a limited experience, I had the benefit of living with her everyday for 26 years. I also had the benefit that Krista knew so much about me, that she could readily key in on something that was really troubling me and offer perspective. You see already we felt that the high level starting point at which we communicated topics with trust and love was already far beyond what most self help books and gurus end with.  Besides Krista was a recognized field expert in Resiliency, and had recently been putting together materials for healthy workplace culture at HCMC at the time of her death. 

Well here is was June 2, 2017 When the worst thing that has ever happened to me occurred and the person who can help me most is the very person who was ripped from my life. 

So, knowing I was sleep deprived, grieving, and not in a good state of mind, I asked close friends and family to help fill the gaps. I sincerely appreciate all of the advice and I received from others who are also deep in experiencing their grief. They offered their perspective, their own experiences, their empathy, their faith, books, videos, etc. on how one can help process grief. From each person I found I could draw some value, but never the fully integrated perspective of one who intimately knows me.

Much of the well meaning advice did not apply to me. I have been with Krista for 26 years. To the outside world I was perceived as a widower "a man married to a woman." But so much of the literature and advice was biased to a marriage where the man works all day long and the woman is the primary care giver. So already I had to flip that to apply to our marriage because I have always been the parent closest to the children. Then put on top of that that I have always been a trans woman who is keenly aware of the discrimination and bigotry out there in the world and worried about what would happen to others perception of my wife, our children, and me IF they found this out while they are still processing Krista's loss.

October 2, 1993
Then add on top of this, that while Krista and I were both raised ELCA Lutheran and we respect people of faith who act with unconditional Love, neither Krista nor I found use for religion in our own lives  nor do we believe in the afterlife - at least as developed through the variety of metaphysical literature and human interpretations which more often served as a hindrance to morality, Truth and Love and abdication of personal accountability rather than its claimed commitment toward it.. This of course should be no surprise to anyone. We were married by the state of Iowa in Nature openly in Love and valuing Truth and Honesty in each other, without any mention of God. And I was determined to honor our Family Values by giving her the same Love in her send off. (something about having an always inquisitive mind, being a Classics major who has researched the history of how religious texts have been developed and compiled and the various ways in which those texts are received and interpreted has been of great benefit.),

Nonetheless the children and I gladly receive the outpouring of support from our friends of Faith, because we KNOW they are doing so out of love! That is the message which brings us comfort. Throughout the first 6 months, however I found myself in a self-imposed protection of others feelings in their grief and not allowing myself to fully experience my own without fetters. When I'd get advice on what helps "men" cope with loss of their wife, I would say thank you. When well meaning friends of Faith offer their sincere advice about Krista in the afterlife, I would say thank you. And while I know there are some others who fret over the souls of Krista, Me and our children, not understanding that Krista and I came to our non-belief quite honestly, investigatively, and independently (one of the other things we had on common when we met). Trying to comfort me by assuring me that Krista is now in the afterlife doesn't really address OUR grief. It is a distraction from grief. Like "shop therapy" or "stress eating," it does not help us in our day to day living without Krista's physical presence, and how we can come to acceptance that she is no longer here. (* NB: if there is an afterlife and if my bride were threatened by eternal damnation for not believing while on Earth, I am comforted by the knowledge that Krista has thrown that tyrant off his throne and now she is leading Heaven with Love for ALL living and nonliving things. Putting to work all of her brilliancy to build and support each other.-- and having that assurance comforts me.)

So with the exception of a few friends, plus my therapist and physician, I had to go through grief alone. Fortunately they all, as did Krista, knew that I was living the life of a closeted trans woman. That Krista and I had discussed it often throughout our marriage and we were discussing my beginning hormone replacement therapy as an option as we were recognizing that my being closeted was really beginning to take its toll. Then she was killed, the day after I had a great therapy session and was looking forward to discussing with her. But once I got things in order in the weeks after Krista's death I started hormone therapy. Within a week much of the stress I had been carrying for years: the depression, the anxiety, my ADHD like symptoms dissolved. Colors were becoming more vivid, breathing was easier and I was able to reach out easier and process grief in a mature and honest way. While still closeted I began opening myself up to more people. 

I continued to seek advice, yet found most had no experience in what it is like to be a trans woman, let alone one who is grieving the sudden death of her wife. While often not openly articulated, much of the early advice was, "You need to remain in the closet for the sake of your children." And I was at first inclined to think that a good idea. But this is what living in the closet does to one. I am so sensitive to the negative views of society regarding Trans women (and atheists for that matter) that it was negatively affecting my judgment. But still I was closeted to most of the world, like tourniquet which swells and makes painfully sensitive the flesh to the slightest touch, so too would I react every negative anti-trans tweet. In lieu of outing myself on a spur of the moment rage, I would back all of that energy into a private email to members of my inner support team. But I hated doing that because that really isn't reflective of me. 
I knew first hand how good and capable I was feeling. My self-confidence in my own decision making was growing. My therapist, physician, and close friends noted a switch in my writing and communication style -- for the better. Plus through my blog entries this summer finally writing as Xenia, so many people commented on how much they loved what I expressed. How can this be a bad thing? Still I was determined to wait until after the sentencing hearing of Krista's killer before I came out. ALL Hearts and Minds must be on Krista!

I learned what the agreed sentence was going to be in September of 2017, and I knew the date of the Sentencing Hearing. So I gave myself at least 2 weeks until after the hearing before I revealed myself to everyone. By that time some of my physical changes were becoming noticeable (the fact that despite my exercising my reliable Levi 501 regular fit 30x30s no longer could get over my thighs drew some remarks about my health and if I have been tested for diabetes ;)

A Revealed Life
When I finally came out in December. It was a feeling comparable to having experience a partial solar eclipse Then suddenly having witnessed a full solar Eclipse. There is nothing to compare. The partial eclipse representing the few times I stepped into the real me, but always with the dread that I had to return to my fictitious male identity. With the Total Eclipse,  All of these dampers on my heart, mind and soul, began to loosen. Things which I never thought I'd be interested in doing or I had previously thought impossible were now free and possible to do and try. I am pretty sure I broke some peoples brains with my revelation. But I didn't mind, I could breath and live as me.

I am really appreciative of all of the love and support and advice I have received from all of my friends. Though there was nothing that had ever given me the total wise-minded empathy, and shared perspective and background I had with Krista. I was still missing her daily wisdom that I have discovered is such a rarity. Within just a few days of me coming out, I discovered through mutual friends on Facebook, a friend of ours from our college cohort. She and I had not seen or spoken with each other since 1992. I never could conceive I would ever want nor desire anyone but Krista.  Now, Suddenly and Serendipitously I am conversing with a queer identified woman who is personally and professionally  aware of trans issues. We are discovering many shared experiences and have a lot to offer each other.

I recalled a conversation I had with my father-in-law just a few weeks after Krista's death. He provided some wise perspective which at the time I was really not interested in hearing. Nonetheless it was advice I needed to hear. He himself having lost his wife, the mother of his two children in 2001, and remarried two years later to my remarkable step-mother-in-law --  fore-warned me about possible new loves. I should be on guard not to give my heart so freely that I risk jeopardizing my family's security, but also I should not feel ashamed for when I do feel new love.

Here is one who affirms my gender--knows me as a woman, a widow with two children. Her own unique essence, lovely expression shares this rare high level communications of honest wisdom and empathy my mind, heart and soul has been craving. She brings to me a refreshing outlook, a door to new experience as I engage the whole world in my true identity. I have since visited her twice at her home in Iowa City, and this experience has be Great for our souls, health and well-being.

To be honest, I am incredibly drawn to her. She is so different from Krista yet I feel our souls share a natural familiarity as if have been long-time best friends. This is not something I say or do lightly, I do not freely give my love or open myself up to just anyone. I have many close friendships, but none which has so sparked my whole being as this happen-chance meeting has done.  I am fully aware of the multiple things with which I have on my plate: grief for Krista, my children, my coming out, my new experiences -- What I do know that speculators and detractors don't is my own soul and my own feelings. I am very practiced at rolling through my emotions, distinguishing base inclinations and lusts, and the fears of "rebound relationship."

I know myself and I know this is not wrapped up in any of those doubts. So I refuse to worry about what outsiders think of me -- about any of it.  I do value advice, but I do not need those without the experience of being a trans woman, an atheist, a father of two children, who has been grieving the loss of her partner of 26 years - to judge me, discount my intelligence and my awareness of my true heart because when it comes down to it, you aren't me and you really have no clue.

With her I no longer feel the need to explain myself nor coddle the feelings of cisgendered-heterosexual "traditional" society. This in itself allowed me the freedom of after 7 months of "grieving" to finally experience True Grief. And this wasn't just the grief of losing Krista, this was the grief of living for nearly 48 years in the closet and finally letting go and experiencing the whole world finally as ME.

What happened to Krista, my brilliant empathetic and wise minded woman was an act of stupidity. Whatever others may think about the man who killed her, his background is completely irrelevant to me. Krista was killed by a reckless, drunk driver. Anyone who has ever driven under the influence is just as guilty as he is. 

It has taken me 7 months, but I am now confident, I can tackle any problem. And how I live does not negatively impact others. We each process grief in our own way at our own pace, I have been assured and have since discovered that there is no time frame on Grief. I will always have patience, empathy, love, and a strong shoulder upon which friends and family can cry as they need. It is however no longer necessary for me to rob them of that strength by remaining closeted 
So one need not worry about my children and me. If you know me, you can rest assured that I live openly with them as I continue to raise them with the Virtues of Truth and Love.

No comments:

Post a Comment