Loss. You can never get used to it. No matter how many times you go through it. Every single time you lose someone it feels different. You react differently, but your emotions are the same.
I lost my father in September, 2018; after a decade long battle with cancer. In his last year, we were preparing to say goodbye. He was a fighter, but it became obvious that the cancer would win in the long run. My relationship with my dad had its ups and downs. He was a builder and worked a lot. As a result, there wasn’t always much time for me. We didn’t play catch in the back yard until I was 37. We went long periods with little to no communication. However, around 2002, we reconnected, opened our hearts, and bared our souls to each other. From that point on, the past was the past. We built a relationship, spoke often, and saw each other a few times a year. When he called me to tell me that he’d been diagnosed with cancer I instantly thought the worst; that he could go any day. I prepared myself for what I thought was inevitable, only to learn how truly tough my father was.
When I finally accepted that I am a transgender woman it was in my dad’s final year. I debated whether to tell him or not; afraid that it could destroy what time we had left and the relationship that we’d worked so hard to build. I eventually decided to come out to him; first trying it out with my brother, sister, and their spouses. It was a nerve-wracking experience. I started by tell him about my depression and suicide attempt and then explaining gender dysphoria and what I had to do to deal with it. He got quiet, stood up and went into his drawers, saying that he had something for me. Imagine my nervousness, thinking what is he going to pull out of those drawers. It turned out to be a Playboy magazine. But this issue was special, it featured a transgender playmate. That was his way of showing me his acceptance. My dad hugged me that night and I felt more love from him than I had ever felt before. Over the last few months, he would message me and asked for photos of what I looked like that day. He wanted to get used to his new daughter.
When my father passed away it was not unexpected, but it was still painful. I remember being stoic until I woke my son up to tell him. I held it together again until I saw him in his casket, then broke into heaving sobs. They returned again and again over the course of months. I still miss him. But one thing that stands out to me is that right from the moment that my brother called me, I accepted that he was gone. I was never in disbelief.
With my mourning of losing Keira, it’s been very different. Obviously, none of us had any idea of what was going to happen, but that wasn’t the whole case. Unlike most of her friends, I saw Keira in an unresponsive state. Literally the opposite of the vibrant, highly intelligent, and inspirational woman whom I had fallen in love with. When people were there, be it family, friends, doctors, or nurses, I stayed brave and strong for them. When updating our online community as well, I was always focused. However, when everyone left the room, leaving just her and me, I would bury my face in her neck and just weep. This became a frequent occurrence every single time I was alone with her for the week that I spent in the hospital at her side.
Since she’s passed, the tears don’t come as often. I’ve been around friends, family, colleagues, and students. I’ve been busy, running errands and working. It seems that now, the only time I cry is when I’m alone in my bed, smelling her scent on her shirt. I think about her frequently during the day, almost all of the time, but I think my emotions get set aside.
This bothers me. Why am I not crying more? I love her with every ounce of my being and miss her like a part of myself is gone; shouldn’t I be a heap on the floor? People have been saying that I’m strong. The truth is that I don’t feel that way. I feel like I’m weak, hiding my feelings behind activity and distraction. I think it’s possible that I still haven’t accepted what happened. It’s equally possible that I said my goodbyes in the hospital and felt a sense of relief when Keira was finally released from the limbo that she had been in during her last week. I’m worried that all of the strength that everyone is seeing will just come crumbling down like a house of cards.
I’m stuck in a limbo myself. Holding on to what I had and letting go simultaneously. How can I do both? Sleeping, but awake. Coming and going. Strong and weak. I’m a walking antithesis.
I could just crawl into bed and stay there. But then, I hear Keira in my head, gently prodding me to get up and start my day, the same way that I had done it to her over the summer when she would get up for work while I would stay home.
Losing a spouse, especially one whom you are at the threshold of a life with, is uncharted territory. I just hope I’m doing it right.