Personal

Six months on

Today it’s been six months since we lost Rana.

My therapist urged me to do something today to honor the day and honor Rana. I decided to write about her, about her funeral, and about how I’m doing. But first, this photograph.

Rana (then Ross), me, Damion, and Garrett, Christmas 2003.

This photo is from the last Christmas before Rana’s mom and I split up. Rana (still Ross then) a was a senior in high school. We were gathering for a family photo and someone pressed the button to grab this candid shot. I just love seeing this interaction between Rana and me. Just look at our faces. Those are two people who love each other and are happy to be together. I’m going to cling to this image today.

I don’t think about Rana every day anymore. But often enough something will remind me of Rana or our time together as a family, and I’ll be sad and irritable the rest of the day.

I’m still seeing a grief counselor, and will for some time to come yet. Yesterday we talked about Rana’s funeral, really plumbed the depths of that day. It helped me finally unpack and process it. It was difficult, of course, as the funeral for any loss like this will be. But that day I was the ex-husband in a room full of people primarily from Rana’s mom’s world, and I was very anxious about it. The end of that marriage was 100% my fault and 100% her fault; we both did very destructive things. What did everyone know? Was anyone judging me harshly?

I saw Rana’s biological father for the first time in 20 years, and a great deal of his family. I knew many of them a long time ago, because they were surprisingly open and welcoming to me. A couple times I even visited their farm in rural Illinois when we dropped off or picked up Rana/Ross for a long visit there. They treated me like family.

I also met some of my ex-wife’s new family for the first time. I wasn’t prepared for that, even though I knew it was going to happen. It was awkward for me.

I was extremely disappointed for my ex-wife that none of her family came. She has two sisters, and her father is still living. They live in distant states, but apparently none of them could figure out how to fly in for the funeral. As much as I worried about how I might be judged in that room, I judged her family very harshly for their failure to support my ex in this time of extreme loss and pain.

But the most surprising thing about the funeral was how much time my ex-wife spent with me. She sat with her husband during the service, which lasted all of 20 minutes or so. 75 percent of the rest of the time, she was either with me or within five feet of me. I had not spent that much time with her, or spoken with her that much, since 2004.

There’s no denying that we will always share an important and deep connection because of our children. Even though I didn’t enter the picture until Rana/Ross was 7, I was present and active during the majority of Rana/Ross’s childhood. I was far more involved than Rana/Ross’s bio dad was. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that my ex wanted to spend time with me. Because of that connection, I also was comforted to be with her.

But it was also challenging to be with her, because she was cruel and abusive toward me, especially in the last few years before we split. Appropriately, I’ve since maintained a strict separation of our lives and strong boundaries around our interactions — boundaries that on that day came tumbling down, if only for those couple of hours.

The last time I wrote about Rana I said that I was about to try an antidepressant. The first one we tried improved my mood considerably, but gave me strong anxiety at bedtime and made sleep harder to come by. The doctor added a second antidepressant that he said for most people reduces or eliminates those side effects. The combination is working well for me. I’m happier, I feel hope and optimism, and I’m brighter and more cheerful in the world. It’s the first time I’ve ever had SSRIs/SNRIs not lead to frightening, serious side effects, let alone work. These two meds absolutely make life a lot easier while I continue to grieve.

It’s ironic, I suppose, that this anniversary of Rana’s death falls on the last day of Pride Month. I wonder how she would have participated. I’d like to be able to ask her.

Rana lives on in my heart and mind, but isn’t there anymore to visit, call, or text. This is the most challenging thing for me day to day, knowing it’s not possible to reach out anymore.

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19 thoughts on “Six months on

  1. To say that I’m sorry for your loss seems shallow and insufficient, but I do have to say that your bravery and willingness to share your loss is inspiring.
    I’m glad you feel hope again.

  2. Victor Villaseñor says:

    That’s a great candid shot of a bunch of happy people. Lets all focus on that! Big hug Jim!

  3. Grief is fickle as you probably know. We each deal with it in our own way as best we can. May you continue to grapple with your process until you are where you feel at peace.

  4. DougD says:

    That’s very tough Jim. But you’re rather self aware and have a strong commitment to move forward in a healthy way so keep moving.

    My grandparents always had a photo of a small boy in their room. I asked my dad about it once, I’d assumed it was him but it was his older brother who had drowned at 4 years old in 1939. So I guess they moved forward but held on to that memory for almost 60 years.

    • I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a child. My cousin Doyle and his wife Sharon had four kids and one of them drowned when she was 5. They all still carry that grief around, even though that happened in the 1970s.

  5. Charlie Audritsh says:

    I’m glad things are moving in a positive direction both with your mental health and the incredible grief. I don’t think I could be as open about something like this as you are being. I’m so glad you’re weathering this storm and approaching an acceptance that can someday make life feel right again. Hang in there my friend!

    • Thank you, Charlie, very much.

      I write about things to help me process and make sense of them. I didn’t used to share writing like this here, but some years ago I started to share it here just to see how it would be received. People really seem to appreciate it. It helps that I have a fairly low need for privacy.

  6. Grief is a tricky. I have never decided which is worse – the mind numbing way it seizes control of your every waking moment in the early stages or the way it ebbs and flows, sneaking up on you just when you think you’re getting better.

    I thought of you the other day. I read a story about a non profit that offers support to young members of the LBGTQ community. It’s all grass roots and some of their work is as simple as offering free dad hugs or mom hugs on college campuses. They also have something similar to big brother big sister where they just hang out with people whose families have turned them away.

    I loved the idea and wondered how many lives they might save. After all, even the people closest to us may not recognize how hard life is or how desperate we feel. But the kindness of strangers can make all the difference.

    Be kind to yourself, Jim.

    • I have enough experience with grief to know that it comes in waves, and in time the waves spread out and hit less often. It’s nice to know that because now I know to just trust the journey.

      I love the idea of being a Big Brother of sorts to LGBTQ people who have been shunned by their families!

  7. I didn’t get to this when you posted it, but am glad I got here.

    Losing a child is a life-altering thing, and I’m sure it’s not easier when that child is biological. I have been blessed to not have the experience directly, but have been close with others who suffered that loss. I can offer nothing but my deepest sympathies.

    • Thanks Jim. I often wonder why this doesn’t crush me every day, but it doesn’t. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about that. I try to shake it off, as I know that my life goes on and grief is what it is.

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