I lost someone very important to me last week. I knew he was important, but didn’t realize how significant until after he was gone. Sadness kept reminding me with a nagging, empty feeling. Suddenly the world looked like a different place and it took a while to get my bearings. The words of the great philosopher Lemony Snicket said it best for me,

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.

That’s pretty much exactly how I felt. The steps of grief aren’t predictable like a staircase in perfect light. Grief is more like losing your footing in the dark. I discovered that the denial stage of grief is not so much an outright denial as if nothing has happened, and more of a gradual awakening to a new reality that no longer includes your loved one. It comes through all the “firsts” that you don’t anticipate; the first time you walk into a meeting he’s usually at, the first Mother’s Day without her, the first time you see his Facebook page. The sickly feeling follows, and the mini denials give way to outright sadness.

Sadness has so many faces, and they all bite hard.

The question is, how do you find solid ground again once loss and grief take away that top step? How do you readjust the way you think about things?

For me the answer has always been the same- family. My family is my true north. I come back to them after everything seems to fall apart and I immediately feel whole. I come back to them after a heavy day and feel light. They know me. They accept me. They love me no matter what.

What is your true north? What people, relationships and communities keep you grounded? Where do you turn to readjust the way you think of things?

For many people the old comforts of religion no longer offer this grounding. We’re looking for something tangible, something here and now. We’re not looking for a stairway to Heaven. We’re looking to step more fully into life now; sadness, grief and all.

I want everyone to know the feeling I have in the presence of my family. Not everyone will find it in family. Wherever you find it, whether its friends, partners, or communities, hold these people close. Cherish these relationships. Nurture them. Give them time. Because soon enough you will walk into some crisis or other and that top step won’t be there, and you will reach out for a shoulder to balance you or to cry on, or to hold you.

I spent some time with my friend’s family a few days after he died, and this is exactly what they were doing. They alternated between laughter, as they found Ron’s stash of hidden candy and enough coins to cover a lifetime of parking meters, and tears as they realized that their husband, dad, grandfather and brother wasn’t in his usual seat making them laugh. They wondered who would start the grill at the next family function, and they made new plans. All the stages of grief were happening, and they were doing it together. It was so healthy, so honorable, so essential to the healing process.

Every person, and every family, deserves the right to this sort of support through the stages of grief. It’s tragic when someone doesn’t have this support for whatever reason. It’s unjust when society’s laws rob people of the chance for this support. Everyone should have the right to love who they love, marry if they choose to marry and grieve the loss of their loved ones. No law or homophobic insecurity should get in the way of this basic human right.

I was so moved by the story of Tom Bridegroom and Shane Crone. They were lovers, business partners, and planned to be married as soon as they could. When Tom tragically died, his family who never accepted his sexuality took his body back to their hometown and cut Shane out of the picture altogether. He was threatened with harm if he turned up at Tom’s memorial service. He was refused information from the hospital, and completely robbed of the chance to grieve the love of his life.

You can watch the very moving video of the story here.

Some people argue that same sex marriage will threaten the values of society. They say that the Bible encourages monogamous heterosexual marriage, forgetting that the wisest one of all, Solomon had more wives than Mitt Romney’s ancestors. Even the Catholic Church has endorsed same sex marriage at various times through the centuries. (See here for more information on this)

I don’t need to defend the institution of marriage. It’s not for everyone. But no one should be excluded from marriage because of their sexuality.

I believe that society is stronger when ALL people are given their rights to live in freedom, love in freedom, and give and receive support through the crises of life.

I couldn’t say it any better than Elizabeth Gilbert in her book “Committed; A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.”

Still it is true that many same-sex couples want nothing more than to join society as fully integrated socially responsible family-centered taxpaying Little League-coaching, nation-serving, respectably married citizens. So why not welcome them in. Why not recruit them by the vanload to sweep in on heroic wings and save the flagging and battered old institution of matrimony from a bunch of apathetic ne’er-do-well heterosexual deadbeats like me.

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  1. Joan says:

    So good, Ian.  I’m sorry I missed c3 Sunday, but glad to read and reread your message.  Thismis a gifted one.  Thank you.

  2. Karen says:

    The person that is not physically here was obviously loved by you and others.  We have a choice;   this is now a void or  it is a chance for us to continue to live with that person, for that person and to understand our true selves even more.  Yes, they will be missed and we should honor the moments of sadness – but the other side of the sadness is that person and what they meant to us and what we might be able to express as we continue our physical lives here.  The only thing that matters is how each one of us felt about the life of the one that is gone, not how others handled the departure.   To let others take away what we knew and what we loved is ego-based and it does not need to be that way.  Be at peace with the one that is no longer here and don’t let the acts/opinions of others take away from that.  The step is missing right now but with rebuilding, it will be there, stronger than ever.

  3. Eileen says:

    Wonderful to hear your thoughts on what you emotionally experienced during the grieving of someone you’ve lost that was close to you.  Interesting how you tied it into what you call ‘homophobic insecurity.’  In fact, I often hear that many homosexuals feel as though they might commit suicide if they do not choose this life style for themselves.  When my sister in law came out of the closet, she was literally changing her identity from living like (I suppose) a ‘traditional woman’ to living like (I suppose) a ‘feminist.’  To some in the family, her coming out was as if part of her had really died.  To others, it was fine.  The question is:  in which identity do we find true freedom?  Might one of the answers be found in the way individuals handle grief when a loved one dies?  How does the living remember and refer to the individual that past away?  What kind of life will they be remembered for?  Are these depressing memories or joyful memories?  When I say joyful, I do not mean like one is behaving like they are at a fun party.  I mean memories that bring one blessings and peace to have been part of the individuals life that has passed on.  …  Just some thoughts to ponder.  My true North is in the Lord who is also the Nucleus of our family.  He is the one who is the powerhouse behind our unity, love, and all our actions.  So – yes, I agree that there is strength found in families who are devoted to the true wisdom which is knowledge in relation to God.  Religion may be stronger than you’ve been lead to believe.  Don’t be so quick to throw it under the bus for the majority of people nor use what appears to be past Church doctrine.  Or does this justify some of your opinions?

  4. naomi says:

    Such a shocking story that you tell of the gay couple. Death can make you do funny things  – real feelings good and bad can be shown and people act in ways you dont expect. I always hope that families will stick together and be closer and wont if I live in the real world with that ideal.

  5. If only we learned to use our  natural abilities for communication with the departed, grief would not have such a deep bite. Death is not what separates us from the departed, fear is.

  6. The politics around the deathbed, the vying, the anger, the denials, usint the dying to assert authority or to hurt, the hope of hearing the long-awaited words before somone dies, all this and more present an area that deserves serious study. Too many deathbed events are not about the needs of the dying but about the  needs of the survivors. If we realized how close the dead are to us, that communication is possible and relationships live on and grow with those who have passed, much of the ugliness that arises when death is near would dissipate. We have a lot to learn.

  7. Eileen says:

    ‘Natural abilities for communication’ – interesting wording.  Is there a description?  What about natural abilities for life too?

  8. Eileen, everybody is telepathic and afterdeath communication is mostly just a matter of telepathy. Telepathy has been proven over and over again in clinical trials.
    We privilege life to such an extant that we have lost of perspective of immortality. There’s much more than this physical body, for that matter, there is hardly anything physical about our bodies!

  9. [...] from  the great writer Lemony Snicket (and brought to my attention today by this blog post at SoulSeeds.com) It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom [...]

  10. Rosie says:

    Hi,
    I visited this site for the first time today because it was recommended to me by a friend.

    I am about to lose somebody most dear to me and was looking for ways to learn how to deal with the grief that I have felt for the last six months and the anticipated grief  for what is soon to come.

    I started to read your article and was finding it helpful and interesting at first, but then as it started to change to a completely different subject – I.E pushing the point of how being gay is so right and how nobody has a right to any other opinion, I must say that I found it very distasteful and it has made me very angry that somebody has chosen the heading of Grief/Loss on this website to push their views on sexuality.

    Why are you so desperate to get this point across that you have no regard for what people are feeling when they select a category of Loss/Grief  ?

    Have some respect for what people are going through will you instead of making the loss of someone dear about sexuality instead !

    Do you really think that someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one is the slightest bit interested in peoples sexuality and whether they are gay or straight ?

    What’s that got to do with it ?

    You must really have some serious issues that you need to deal with, instead of trying to persuade other people to agree with your views about sexuality !

    There are more important things in life than that !

    Please, Please,  GET OVER IT   ! ! ! !
     

  11. Israel says:

    Very impress article.., applies to me at some how., knowing about the loss of some people I loved so much.. and now they are not here with me any more., and it’s hard to live with having so much memories, and can’t do nothing about it to bring them back.. God only knows why…?.. but I do still keep them in my heart so much..