When I was in high school, I had one guy friend named Matt. He was the only guy that gave this outgoing, unconventional kid a chance. The feeling of belonging holds tight space in my heart. I was supposed to have lunch one day with Matt but he didn’t come to school. At the last class, the principle got on the PA system and asked each teacher to read a statement he had given them. My teacher struggled to start and began to read. The world faded away and there I was alone without my friend. He had died by suicide. Matt, I didn’t know home was so bad. I didn’t know. I wish you told me. I don’t know what I would have done but I would have done anything to help you. I lost my belonging.
I still think of Matt often. Our short friendship and my loss had a huge impact on my life. Every time a streetlight strangely goes out I know he’s here. Losing Matt left a deep mark on me. I am very sensitive to the conversation. Seeing his family going through their grief and knowing my own, I just want to help everyone see positivity and light in hopes it helps just one more person feel they belong.
Inevitably, when Clayton passed away, a number of my friends and family asked that question:
“Are you ok? No but really are you ok?”
It’s understandable. There were definitely days that I didn’t know up from down but the dark gift I was given early in life reminded me that I bring light to others and that light needs to stay lit. So I honor where I am in my journey knowing heavy days get lighter and I will continue to shine for others in their dark. When I lost Clayton I lost my belonging. When you are widowed, you sometimes don’t feel like you belong in lots of situations and that’s ok to feel that way at times.
I always share where I am in my journey be it bright or dull. I’m grateful to say that the journey gets easier and lighter each day. I have had fewer blog entries and social media posts on the grieving side because life just seems to be getting more abundantly positive. My grief will always be there and revisit me sporadically but I see changes in me. I can talk to Clayton now without tears. As a matter of fact, there was a man behind me at the post office yesterday. I noticed the box he was shipping had Clayton’s exact handwriting, very distinct, block style of a designer or engineer. I looked up and he stood Clayton’s height, same build, similar tattoos and warm smile. A year ago I would have immediately looked away and choked down the emotions but my heart was flooded with good memories and I smiled at him. Something that would seem so simple as a friendly smile to that man was a monumental step along my journey. You just never know the impact you can have on someone.
That being said I had an opposite reaction to a simple statement on a social media post. I had made a fun dance video. I love dancing and people gain joy from my posts. Part way through the comment thread there sat a side thread. A woman had exclaimed that I reminded her so much of the actor and comedian Robin Williams. Dozens of others commented back agreeing we looked similar and I just was the guy who was always happy and bringing positivity to everyone. For many people, that would just be a compliment but for me I was immediately reminded of my friend Matt. My heart dropped. Her comment unintentionally brought up old grief. I felt stereotyped as the “happy guy on the outside” griever. Being widowed comes with a lot of novel social judgments that most don’t recognize. So now I wonder, although everyone sees me being positive, are they stereotyping me and internally asking “But really? Are you ok?”
I’m widowed. I’m learning my new life. I’m learning to live with grief. In some situations I have lost my “belonging” but – Yes. I am ok.