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Grief Woman to Woman

Updated on July 10, 2013
A quiet moment is captured at our ceremony.    copyright 1996
A quiet moment is captured at our ceremony. copyright 1996

I Lost Her to Ovarian Cancer

Fourteen years before I lost Debbie to Ovarian cancer, we celebrated our ceremony of commitment. The state of California did not legally recognize our relationship as a marriage. We could not share in the many rights that heterosexual married couples have. However,our hearts would not allow that simple fact to alter the commitment and love that we felt for one another. Holding her face in my hands, I felt the treasures of her warmth pressing gently to my palms. She was amazing and kind and my wife!

The Wretched Day of Passing Arrives

June 6Th 2008, 11:37 pm. The love of my life passes to a better place as I hold her in my trembling arms. Her “fish out of water” breathing has been the norm for a day and a half now. It is so unbearable to watch. Her loss of bladder control, speech and the ability to move her own body, it is horrifying at best.

I knew the end was coming swiftly. Only able to nestle as close to her as I possibly could to hold her. I softly whispered to her, “It’s okay baby, just rest now, you have fought long enough, no one could have won this fight, you are my super hero.” I watch her struggle to continue the fight, it is uncanny the strength this woman possesses.

Family and friends are at our home offering support and to wish my love farewell; I have never witnessed such a thing. Friends & family, holding her little hand, so frail now, so vulnerable now, so weak. They each tell her goodbye and speak of how much they love her. Laying tightly to her in the hospital bed positioned in front of our living room window, I never thought that ten days ago, when I called 911, that it would be the final 240 hours of her life.

The sun sets on a beautiful life...

photo by India Arnold   copyright 2006
photo by India Arnold copyright 2006

The ten days in the hospital were arduous and terrifyingly painful for Deb. They had to place a drain tube in her right side to free her lung of well over 2 litters of fluid. Then a talc material was used not once, but twice, to adhere her lung to the wall of her chest. This was in an attempt to prevent more fluid from building around the exterior wall of her lung. Three times she had to undergo the drainage of chest fluid. Three times...I could not have found the courage to face this experience even once.

Deb explained the sensation as feeling certain she was going to die right then and there. She told of the sheer panic in having a lung 're-expanding'; even as her expression spoke louder than those words during the actual procedure, so I am told. You see, Debbie had to be awake for this kind of procedure, why, I do not know. She said she felt as tho she was suffocating and on the verge of imminent death. She maintained her bravery and endured the awful procedure with grace and courage. I can’t recall a situation in my life that took greater personal strength than that which Debbie exuded. I was amazed by her.

Hold on, here I go...

Following my beautiful wife's departure, I wrote an email to our dear friend Sherilyn. She was and continues to be a wonderful friend and more family to me than some of the same blood. She went through the cancer ordeal with us, side by side, by side.

The awareness of the loss spun me into a depression that, two years later, I still battle. This was one of many outburst that occurred as I attempted to deal with the grief and loss of my lesbian spouse. Where do I go for understanding? *Why is my loss any less devastating than that of a Hetero couple? More on this later...(see below, 'Lesbian grief is deeper than Hetero grief')

The email reads as follows;

Hi Sher,

Every so often I seem to lose myself in thoughts of my Debbie. The tears at times seem to rule my actions to the point where I find myself absent of control...I am told this will pass with time. I truly hope this to be true. I expect her to cross a threshold or come through the door or pull in the driveway... I suppose these are things that take longer to forget than others. I am bewildered at just how lost I find myself daily, almost frightening if I dwell there to long.

I hug her jacket or her clothing to find the faint scent of her, but nothing of her hugs me in return,... it's as if my mind believes one thing and my reality has become another. I'm really not so sure I can make it through this pain. I love that woman so deeply that even the inside of my flesh screams in agony at the recollection of her passing. I find my control to be slipping away. My logical mind knows this is just the mourning process, however; my heart does not care what you call it, it only knows it has been fractured, fragmented and turned to dust. Something I have no control over. It just simply is.

I keep hearing how I am simply human and these feeling are to be expected. I find the concept to be trite and truly inhuman. I may certainly be a simple human, however the love we two shared was far beyond that which most know to be human emotion. It had become an entity of it's own creation, even alien to those who simply love one another. The depth is so north of our feet that it rarely remained of this earth. To recall being held in that woman's arms, feeling her body share itself with me, so gracious, so giving, so united, only serves to remind me that I shall never be so safe, pleasured or entwined in love the rest of of my living days.

At this point Sher, I truly know nothing. I don't know if I will see tomorrow, or if I will feel sunlight as before or if I will return to my mind with thoughts which I can comprehend as my own. Without her, I guess it doesn't really matter, without her it is simply existence, waking up and walking through life in some sort of Zombie-esq manner. I just wish I could be with her, next to her again. To breathe deeply-in her scent and see clearly her smiling eyes. Until then, I walk; walk through this place with her name dancing on my lips and her memory playing over and over again in my brain, waiting for the moment when I can join her again.

Deb hard at work for the Sheriff's department transportation unit.    copyright 2005
Deb hard at work for the Sheriff's department transportation unit. copyright 2005

She agreed, which was even more shocking!

The entire horrifying situation came to our attention one evening in August 2007. My wife of 14 years, Debbie, who was 40 years young worked as an officer with the Butte County Sheriff’s department. She was a strong, vibrant, positive, funny and intelligent woman with the purest of heart. She had been experiencing some lower back pains and discomfort in her abdominal area, bloating of sorts. Now, you have to understand that Debbie also carried the burden of rheumatoid arthritis. So, she usually had some intense pain somewhere throughout her body. But this woman went to work everyday, worked overtime and on some evenings at home would work on reports or itineraries for the Officers Association (for which she was president). So, my point is, pain was nothing new to her. She would just power through the day in what seemed to be perpetual motion.

One evening she came home from work with an exceptional pain in her lower back; so much so that she fell to her knees at the foot of our bed placing her head down in an attempt to find some… any relief. Seeing her in this kind of extreme pain was shocking. I immediately insisted that we take a ride to the emergency room right then. She agreed, which was even more shocking!

We drove the block and a half to the emergency room where they got her right in. She was still in her Sheriff's uniform which was like a free pass, no waiting around in the lobby. The place was a mad house. No rooms were available due to the high volume of emergencies that night. Those emergencies included a fatal car accident that took a very young girls life...drinking and driving are a deadly cocktail to be sure. The staff was wonderful and managed to find her a gurney to stretch out on in the hallway. An IV was started so they could administer some pain medication. She claimed she was getting some relief from the medication. But, no matter what she tried to tell me, I could see in her eyes that my sweet, brave wife was still in much, too much pain.

lesbian grief

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Who Hopes For Kidney Stones?

The minutes turned to multiple hours until a room became available. They got her out of the hallway and into a room and started examining her. All of her symptoms seemed to be indicative of kidney stones. So much so, that after she gave a urine sample the staff was certain it was the stones causing the pain. They drew to this conclusion because blood was found in the sample and this is a sure sign that the kidney stones were the most probable culprit...if only . Just one thing the doctor failed to ask about…yep, you guessed it ladies... Deb was on her menstrual cycle and was bleeding. After bringing this to the attending Doctor’s attention and requesting that he do a CT (a scan that shows internal conditions of the body, something like an X-ray), they took her for the “photo session”. After about 45 minutes she came back to the ER room and we waited to see what, if anything was found.

We were hoping for the kidney stones, but we didn’t want to miss anything that may not be the stones. The wait was rather lengthy and as it often does, boredom and impatience start to creep in. I tried to settle down and regain proper direction as to why we were in the ER. The noise and playful antics of the young couple across the hall from us became distracting. The longer we waited the more difficult it became for me to hold my tongue and simply continue to wait. I really didn’t want to upset Deb, but I gotta tell ya, I truly wanted to give these two a lesson in proper ER etiquette. But, going 'off' on them could have caused Deb stress and that would just be self serving on my part. So, I cooled my jets and let it go. We continued to wait...

A LGBT family isn't so different after all!
A LGBT family isn't so different after all! | Source

"Bedside manners? We don't need no stinking bedside manners!"

The Doctor returned to the ER room where we were waiting. His once curt and ‘angry guy’ personality had subdued to an arms folded, shoulders raised and head down demeanor. This was quite obvious and had me instantly on alert and caused me to shift forward in my chair. Deb was medicated so she was less aware of his Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jeckle transformation. With guarded posture he blurts out with no bedside manner,

“The specialist reviewed your results and found that you have huge masses that look like ovarian cancer. You have to get in to see a specialist immediately because you need treatment right away.”

The recollection of my response is blurred, but I believe it went something like this;

"...Wait", "...what?", "Huge masses of what?", "... Cancer?", "... Ovarian?", "Specialist?", "...You're kidding right?" , "...It was just Kidney stones when you were in here last time!",

"...Oh my God, Ovarian Cancer."

My mind swayed to the thought,

"where is this guys' bedside manners?"

Then, what I imagine to be a shock induced reaction, I spouted out,

"Bedside manners? We don't need no stinking bedside manners!".

To which the doctor responded,

"Someone will be right in to give you some information",

and he shot out the door. Our lives would never be the same or as beautiful again .

Portraite in February 2005   Photo by Dean Gurr
Portraite in February 2005 Photo by Dean Gurr

Just her eyes locked on mine...

I had in the same moment encountered my deepest fear as well as the pure courage. Fear twisted around where I stood, pulling me to my knees. I knew this to be the end of everything important in my life. Yet at that very moment, the deepest bit of myself found strength and capabilities beyond that which I believed to possess.

My breathing became constricted and consciously voluntary as I strained to hold back tears which at the edge of my eye lids seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. They were jumping off and conspicuously trailing down my face. I struggled to swallow the missing moisture within my mouth. The visceral response my body encountered brought with it bartering and the desire to convince myself that, “Ovarian Cancer”, was not the diagnosis just given to my beautiful wife.

As a screening within my mind takes place, I saw the actively bright and crystal clear future we had planned together now fading to a low grade black and white 1930’s circa flick, as it slips its reel and tangles around and around the projector sprocket as the knowledge of cancer sinks in. The many years to grow old together,… the promise to always be by each others side,… the immense desire to simply fill the years with endless caresses and a plethora of passion..., gone. A love story for the ages, or so we thought. Cut short by a beast which lurks in the shadows, lying and teasing and murdering its prey with absence of compassion. A flurry of infestation not unlike that of Locusts during a feeding frenzy. What’s left behind is the desolate shell of a woman, my wife, who once was and is no more that which she chose to be.

Her eyes locked to mine and mine to hers. The attempt to reassure one another was thick in the room. We both were aware of the others disbelief. This moment, this very moment a shift in dynamics took place. No words spoken, none written, not a gesture in play. Just her eyes locked on mine in a silent wordless conversation that searched for any way out. This changed the rolls of our existence as humans forever. At that moment we were no longer within our bodies. It seemed as if what breathes within us had lifted free of our carcasses and was now observing from a suspended location above all others in the room. In my heart the cancer had already taken the wind from her sail, worst of all, I had no idea how to help her and I certainly couldn’t make it all go away... if only it were that simple.

I am certain that the many words thrown at us, survivability percentages, and test results; none of which offered any reassurance, were the cause for the odd reaction we encountered. What lingers with me to this day is that I was overcome by my inadequacies to save the woman I love. 10 months later while lying in my arms, her mother holding her hand, our home filled with friends and family from all walks of life, Debbie took her final breath. The reality is that, from a medical stand point, no one was able to make any difference . From a personal stand point, my heart weeps when I recall that very fact...

Deb's favorite self portrate taken in the balcony doorway of our stateroom while cruising to Mexico years prior to her cancer diagnosis. (Debbie on the right)  copyright 2004
Deb's favorite self portrate taken in the balcony doorway of our stateroom while cruising to Mexico years prior to her cancer diagnosis. (Debbie on the right) copyright 2004

*Lesbian grief is deeper than hetero grief

Okay. So here we are. The, “More on that later” part…” The real reason for this article. When I lost Debbie to Ovarian Cancer 10 months following her diagnosis, I was frozen in time. I had this wonderful family and circle of friends for support (which many LGBT don’t have). But, the issue of grief was out of their scope of knowledge or ability. And besides, they were contending with their own grief when Debbie passed away.

Grief was something I knew nothing about. I had no idea how to grieve (Yes.You have to learn how to grieve). I had to do some research to discover what to expect and where to begin. I knew that when you went to build something, a house, a contract or a future, you needed to have materials and tools to build with. These same requirements must have held true with grief, or so I presumed. I had to acquire the materials and tools to complete the grieving process, hell, to even start the process. Having the gift of knowledge along with the proper tools would allow me to set sail in a healing direction. Thus, the search began.

"Just keep breathing"

I discovered that to some extent, we naturally go through the phases of grief. But, if we plan to come out on the other side of grief somewhat congealed, we need tools. The best and first tool I acquired during that time was a three word sentence given to me by Dan Young, one of Debbie's good friends and a sergeant she worked with at the Sheriff's department. It was the day before we took Debbie home to complete her journey here on earth. Dan walked me through the hallway of the hospital heading for the elevator. As Dan and his wife Janice stood with me waiting for the elevator in the Hospital hallway, the fear and uncertainty welled up and flowed over into an emotional panic. Words burst out of me with their own agenda aimed right for Dan,

"How am I going to live without her? What am I supposed to do?"

Through tough guy dampened eyes, He simply Told me,

"Just keep breathing."

Wow. What a huge statement that became over the next two years! That simple concept seemed so ridiculous and stoic, yet became the mantra that brought me through the worst moments. To this very day those three words keep my sails full and righted toward continued healing.

lesbian grief

Lesbian Widows: Invisible grief by Dr.Vicky Whipple

And So, I Just Kept Breathing...

I found out some interesting things during my healing process. For example, while doing some comparisons on how women grieve, I discovered one very liberating and still surprising fact.; lesbians' grief is deeper than hetero grief. Everyone seems to be aware that when a straight woman loses her husband of many years she is in anguish. How much he meant to her is clear by the title of husband attached to the relationship. That he was the love of her life and the one true thing she could always count upon, it is implied. Now he is gone and her broken heart lingers battered yet unashamed. Her community understands when she begins to shout of her loss atop a mountain or even at the town hall meeting. On the other side of the coin (or On the other team), when a lesbian loses her female companion of many years and she feels all of those same emotions and anguish, she is supposed to grieve quietly. Everyone knows the two were “together” and that she surely feels badly, but she is supposed to keep it to herself or only talk to her family and close friends about it. It is as if she doesn't have the ‘RIGHT’ of full disclosure. The community knows them as a couple, but they just don’t want to talk about it (unless she's out of the room). The comparison is rarely noticed or spoke of socially. Yet it is as loud as a clap of thunder when one of our own; a lesbian, grieves in silent exclusion.

"We are simply being our human selves, lesbian humans ...a deeper sect of our species...high-bred, if you will."

Finding the confirmation in writing that lesbian grief is deeper than hetero grief was a revelation. I wanted to feed on that information for days. You see, Deb and I were very 'out' and proud of our relationship. We never hid who we were together. So, I was really confused when suddenly, other than with her family or mine or with close inner-circle friends, I had to be something we never were, silent. I discovered in reading a book by, Dr.Vicky Whipple, Lesbian Widows: Invisible grief , that the fact of the matter is that two women in a committed relationship have deeper more connected lives.

According to Dr. Whipple's book, therapists have said that Lesbian relationships are too close, too enmeshed. But, this is when compared to Hetero couples. She continues by making the point, that the simple fact is, two women have a richer deeper more intense relationship than do Hetero couples. This is not pathological, but rather more satisfying to the women.

In Dr. Whipple's book she states that one Nation wide study concluded that 95% of lesbians who participated in that particular project expressed hope that they would grow old together with their current partner. This is a very clear reason why the news of a terminal illness or death of a lesbian partner is so traumatic. Thus, we are not being over dramatic or emotionally unstable. We are simply being our human selves, lesbian humans...a deeper sect of our species...hybrid, if you will.

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Surely a Social Condition in Their Eyes

In further pursuit to understand my loss, I tried attending a grief counseling group. I called local grief counselors and agencies to find a group that would be starting sooner rather than later. A very nice therapist called me back and conducted a phone interview and invited me to join a new group. I asked questions and intensely expressed my concerns regarding being the only gay subject within the group. She assured me that I would be welcome and that grief is grief no matter who you are. She also promised to maintain a great level of awareness about the problems that could arise during a mixed group (me being the only 'mix' on the list). Feeling as if the situation sounded pretty safe and might be worth a try, I accepted her invitation. I got directions from the therapist after she reassured me my grief would be sympathetically received in this mixed group.

The following Thursday I went to my first grief group. I could barely inhale without my throat constricting. I attempted to hold back a wealth of tears while the involuntary gasp of breath heaving out of me as I tried to conceal the pain became more difficult to restrain. I sat quietly listening to these many women speak of the loss of sons, brothers and husbands. It was very clear that they felt great heartache and deep grief. But, the reality was that my grief had no place among these women. I had no doubt that my “friend” could not be compared to the fact that they had husbands, or shared a blood line with there deceased loved-ones.

My loss was surely a social condition in their eyes.

"... the loss of a lesbian lover? Those relationships don't last, right? It's just sex, a one night stand, friends with benefits? It’s not like they were married!"

But, damn-it! We were married in our hearts and as closely defined to marriage as the state of California would legally allow. Simply because the state we live in calls it domestic partnership, doesn’t make it any less committed than legally recognized marriage. It was and is committed. We devoted our hearts, our minds and certainly our lives to one another for a lifetime, even one that is cut short by cancer. We wanted to be together so badly that we were willing to do everything we could to make it clear that our committed lesbian relationship went above and beyond that of most others. I wanted to shout this loud and clear for these women to understand. However, my heart could not bear the possibility of causing any further anxiety for these saddened few women. Their troubles were many and their pain was as big as the gap between our understanding of one another that evening.

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I was in the Wrong Place!

"...the things they were speaking of were minimal, petty things that held no value..."

Once I realized that my grief was as great, even greater than that of the women in group counseling, my healing began. The way they spoke of economic concerns, organizational issues and pandering topics... I could barely breathe. My comprehension became alive. Even as my heart was still dripping with the bleeding anguish of Debbie's death, the things they were speaking of were minimal, petty things that held no value in my mind. I realized I was in the wrong place and began a fresh healing journey.

The realization that Hetero women and Lesbian women grieve differently was etched into my mind well before I ever read Dr, Whipple's book. I just had no idea it was anticipated, quantified and happening to me. The very discovery was digested through my experience that evening. I knew this would be my last grief group with these women. The first step to understanding that we lesbians grieve so vastly different than Hetero women, more deeply, even purely, brings me peace. It also brings with it a little hesitation to try this measure of love once more on this ever healing heart.

Comments for "Grief Woman to Woman"

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  • Georgiakevin profile image


    8 years ago from Central Georgia

    My heart is deeply touched by your hub. My deepest sympathy for your great loss. It took great courage for you to share your heart with your readers, opening your heart to those you know is one thing opening your heart to readers who may not be kind to you in your grief takes greater courage than most people have. As I send you my deepest sympathy I also find my self greatly admiring you.

    By sharing Debbie's final day with your hub readers you not only keep her memory alive you introduce her to those would never have met her and gives us a chance to know her at least a little. The world is better place because she was on it and a sadder place because she no longer is.

    I don't know of a more beautiful story than a love story. The love that you two share is a beautiful one. Love stories like yours are soo needed.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Amazingly beautiful thank you for sharing

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Well written and deeply moving. I lost my wife to a brain tumour earlier this year. She was not even 30 years old. I don't know any other lesbians who are widows. I don't feel my grief is deeper than that of a straight woman. But that might be because I am not in a social situation where I have to hide it in any way. Everyone I know sees my relationship with my wife (hurrah for Civil Partnerships in the UK) as exactly the same as a straight marriage.

    Anyway, I am learning how to grieve but it turns out nobody knows. Because everyone is different. So I plod on in the hope life will get better again soon. I keep a blog about my new life as a widow ( and I also kept a detailed blog of the 6 year journey with my wife's brain tumour (

    I hope life will be kind to you again soon.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Phoebe Pike~ I appreciate your kind words, thank you.

  • profile image

    Phoebe Pike 

    9 years ago

    That is absolutely tragic... to lose any loved one, especially one who changes your entire world. My heart goes out to all those who have lost their soul mates.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    livelonger~ I am so moved that you felt a tug at your heart here. I can say for certain that Deb is forever etched deeply into my heart and that the relationship was well beyond what most experience. I do find also that our community (LGBTQ) must accept this deeper, richer type of love. We are far more connected to our same sex partners than others can comprehend. I hope with all of my being, my dear friend livelonger, that you never have to find the understanding first hand for the loss of a partner. I believe strongly that the same manner of love holds true for same sex male partners as with females. Hold one another close and love like there is no tomorrow.

    I am honored that you came by today. My HubHugging arms are wrapped fully around you~



  • livelonger profile image

    Jason Menayan 

    9 years ago from San Francisco

    Wow. I'm at a loss for words about something so incredibly move. Your love for Deb literally leaps off the page, and tears at my heart. You've put into words what is incomprehensible and so hard to explain: the loss of your life partner. Thank you so much for your sharing the story of Deb's medical struggle, your struggle at trying to comprehend everything that was happening, and for those pictures that show two women so clearly in love. That you still speak to Deb to this day is testament to a bond that even death didn't break.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    MsLizzy~ My heart warms with your warm encouraging words. Thank you my friend, you are a treasure to be sure!

    Huge HubHugs~


  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Dear K9--

    What a powerful and courageous article. I can certainly feel your pain in your words, and offer my most sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved wife.

    While the writing of this hub was no doubt painful in the extreme, it was also probably in some measure theraputic. When we lose someone to whom we are committed, it hurts. Badly. It just plain freaking hurts, and no words can make it better.

    I cannot imagine the added anguish of suffering in silence, and I have zero tolerance for the bigots in our society who refuse to accept everyone as they are: simply human beings with feelings as deep, as genuine and as legitimate as anyone else's.

    May you find peace.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    slaffery~ Thank you for your kind words. I am so sorry to hear you lost someone close recently, I will keep our heart in my thoughts. You make a very good point in your comments, Debbie was so worth knowing, and she was nothing less than a spectacularly kind and strong human I was blessed to call my own. I will always miss her.

    I appreciate you stopping by for a read today, and I hope your healing is swift~ Blessing.



  • slaffery profile image


    9 years ago from Kansas, USA

    Debbie had to be a wonderful person. You have portrayed her in such a way that I wish I could have met her. I lost somone close to me recently and unexpectedly and I was angry that the world still went on without this person. Coming to terms with the loss is not easy. You have been through so much and you write with such grace. Thank you for sharing your story. Voted up and beautiful. I am sorry for your loss.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    SimeyC~ Thank you for stopping by for a read. I am glad I kept breathing as well.



  • SimeyC profile image

    Simon Cook 

    9 years ago from NJ, USA

    Wow! There's not much I can add to what everyone else has said. Thank you for sharing - and I am thankful that you kept breathing!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    delindab~ I am moved that you found the hub special; it was a difficult thing to write. You are kind in your words and I have considered putting this into a book form...time to take it seriously I suppose.

    I truly appreciate your encouragement, it means the world.



  • profile image


    9 years ago

    K9, I am so moved by your story I am finding it difficult to form a comment. I understand from my own experience with grief how personal and painful this telling is and yet I beg you to use your amazing talent and the amazing truth of the love you experienced and share it in book form with the rest of the world if there is anyway you have the strength to do so. Just imagine if you had been able to go to a local bookstore and buy this story in the early days of your loss. What a comfort to know someone in the world had once felt what you felt, that as unbelieveable as it seems it is possible to live through this. What helped, what didn't? Imagine having that information before you as you lie curled on the couch in her favorite blanket, the house too quiet and wondering if you would ever know your own mind again, if you would ever care what the weather or even the season was. Someone who understood and believed that you did not know or care if you had somewhere to be or had eaten or showered that day or week. If there is a book out there that fills this need for lesbians experiencing loss I do not know of it. You possess a powerful gift of the knowledge of feeling grief and healing from it. Please share this so the next lesbian widow does not have to be alone. You said you had to learn to grieve and I know too much and too little about learning to heal and how to let go and move forward. You have an amazing thing to share. I had to say thisThank you beyond measure for what you have already shared.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Hi Rick~ Thank you so much for sharing some of yourself here with me. I actually understand your 'envy' quite clearly; before Deb, my life was similar emotionally as you described yours to be. She taught me the grace to feel, care, and be cared for. Because of her I take with me these things which I hope for you my friend.

    It was always much easier to show feeling for those that couldn't hurt me as deeply than for those who could annihilate my very soul. It was a protection strategy; Deb freed me from this. My heart is now open again and able to care, truly care, for those closest to me. And this is a gift that has value beyond anything monetary.

    I am so honored that you read my story Rick-- you will remain in my thoughts now, as a companion who I hope will come to understand the fears and freedoms, healing and grief associated with immense love. In all of its tragedy and unmistakable pain, love has been the one beautifully ugly emotion that has actually saved my life.

    Thank you for your comments and your truth. I most certainly I am not worthy of the latter, yet remain humbled by its offering.

    ~Always Choose Love~


  • Stump Parrish profile image

    Stump Parrish 

    9 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

    K9, As has been mentioned by others, your experience as well as your ability to express your love had me drying my eyes repeatedly. This may sound strange but I envy you, your grief. I have never had anyone I cared about that much nor anyone in my life who cared for me this deeply. I know that when I go, I will for all intents and purposes be alone. Perhaps not physically but most definately, emotionally. It is an odd sensation to feel closer to people yoy have never met than you do to people you have known your entire life.

    Your story simply confirmed what I have always suspected about myself. Something, somewhere was knocked slightly off center very early in my life. I often feel the grief you mentioned and desribed in relation to the people in my family and they are still alive. As they do begin passing, I find that I am emotionally numb about the entire experience.

    If you can, take comfort in the fact that you had something that very few will ever come close to, and some of us will never eperience. Perhaps this is why I am so vocal in my support of my chosen causes. These causes have taken the place of the basic human emotions most people take for granted.

    It never ceases to amaze me where and how we find the oportunities to learn about ourselves. Thank you for the opportunity to do so again, Peace and much heartfelt respect for you and your love. Rick

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    CalifGirl~ I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you on all accounts. It is not easy and won't be for some time. The feeling of loss (3 years later for me) is still there, but has minimized some. Before Deb passed, I had to promise her to find new love and that I would not go through life alone. I wrote a little hub about it, "Death of a same Sex Partner - A True Love Story" that may help you to find a little comfort.Sorry for the link suggestion, I don't normally do that, but I wil make an exception here.

    I hope your heart finds the room for another, and that the weight of your Sweetie's absence can become manageable with time. It is by no means an easy path, yet remembering that the life you shared with your partner gave you happiness for 10 years, also gives you a strong foundation for loving again. Studies show that those who found true happiness with a lost spouse remarry into another successful relationship. I thought this would never be the case for me, but than goodness I was wrong.

    Debbie will always hold the prominent space in my heart, but with her love came the lessons of how to love again. My hope it that you will find the same results. Email me anytime you need support or just to vent.

    ~Always choose love~


  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my sweetheart of ten years recently. I feel your pain. It is so hard to lose someone that you loved and continue to love so deeply. I totally agree that grieving is harder as gay women. In my case, most people I know did not know of our relationship. So, it was hard when people thought that I had lost a friend when actually I had lost my partner, my lover, my sweetie. It's still hard a year later. I miss her so much that sometimes I feel that I'll never get past it. I miss the little things....calling her during my work day, calling her as soon as I got in the car to come home, laughing with her, holding her. I can't believe it when I hear of men losing a wife and then getting remarried within a few months or so. It's been over a year for me and I don't have any desire to date yet. I hope that that changes as I miss loving and caring for someone and having someone love and care for me too.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I was moved to tears. I am so sorry for your loss. The loss of someone you love as much as you loved Debbie is excruiating. How brave of you to share what had to be the dakest time of your life. Alway keep in mind that her love still surrounds you, she still loves just from further away.

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 

    10 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    Your grief is real. Your marriage to our beautiful wife was real. Your hub evokes a range of emotions -- I want to scream at stupid California and Proposition 8 and everyone who dares to put their own love and rights above anyone else's.

    Your description of the ER visit and diagnosis and the shock -- so powerfully written.

    Then into empathy for the utter, utter loss you've expressed with heartwrenching detail.

    Then back to the indignation of ignorant, self-righteous people who can't even get over themselves in a friggin grief group.

    I hope writing this has given you some minimal catharsis.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. MM

  • heavenbound5511 profile image


    10 years ago from Under the shadow of the Almighty God!


    I'm very sorry for your loss. I can't tell you the pain will go away ever because Debbie was the the closet one to you in your life. A bond with a loved one doesn't end at their death.

    My mother dies of cancer 3 months after being diagnosed and she was my mother and I had to watch her wither away so quickly all the way down to 80lbs. To this day if I think of the good times with her I still cry in pain even though it's been over 5 yrs. I pray that God strengthens you in Jesus name. God loves you both and I send His love to you.

    I found this on the forums and this page has been done very well and cuts to the heart of all that have lost a loved one.

    God bless you.

  • Sher Lessons profile image

    Sher Lessons 

    10 years ago

    Wow, beautifully written! Thank you for sharing and I think you should take it as far as you feel you need to. I think it is much needed. To help others going through the same and educate people who don't understand. I am a grown women raised by a gay mom and her partner of over 30 years. Although it was difficult at times as a kid, I am who I am because of who they are. Their love and connection is like no other I have ever seen. Even to this day. They raised me and my sibling's to be kind, work hard, give to others and treat others the way you want to be treated. They both are my heroes. Grief is unbearable for anyone, but when your put in a group that society say's you should be in, like you don't have the normal emotions as other human being's or the right to feel them that does make it much worse. I would fight and back my mom and her partner(my other mom) up to ensure they are treated fairly. The way it should be. Good luck and god bless.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    kathryn1000~ Thank you, and "Just keep breathing" :)


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    Ladyface~ I accept your hug and offer a big squeezy-hug in return. It is a special thing you give; this gift of comfort, it will not be squandered.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    Shadesbreath~ Your deep understanding of the human condition is refreshing. You make a good point regarding the measurable differences of love, I will keep your perspective in mind. It is very well presented.

    I too have struggled with the social distance we have still to travel on terms of understanding and acting as one true species, despite our differences. Judgment is a dangerous and powerful entity to be sure.

    Thank you for such an in depth look at the subject. And for your well wishes. It is a very humane thing you do here...


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    Diffugere_nives~ Thank you for your support. Your comments are very sweet. I appreciate the read.


  • profile image

    L a d y f a c e 

    10 years ago

    I'm so sad that you had to go through this. This was beautifully written. Allow me to send you a hug; thank you for sharing this.

  • Shadesbreath profile image


    10 years ago from California

    This is a beautiful and brave sharing of your loss and agony. I am very, very sorry that Debbie is gone from your life, you describe her wonderfully and she was clearly an amazing person. No wonder you have such trouble recovering. I expect writing this will have helped, and then, as it's been said so often, time.

    It's too bad in this age, after so many centuries of great literature and philosophy have revealed the consistent sameness of the human condition, the essence of love and its universal singularity despite the diverse and nuanced social and cultural variance across the globe and time, that anyone has to hide their grief - not just a shame that it must be hidden, but that we as a species haven't learned anything yet about ourselves and how much we all share despite our many, in the end, minor differences. While I'm not sure I am willing to believe that lesbians as humans are somehow better at love or inherently possess more genuine, deeper grief (how could anyone possibly know that? There is no way to go into the heart of another and quantify such things), I certainly can see how grief is made worse and deeper by having to endure it with some social onus that belittles the agony in any way. That is is tragic and speaks of how far our culture has to go. I do have hope that we are getting better though. People see the injustice in greater and greater numbers, seek to understand it, and work to make it go away.

    Anyway, beautiful story, very moving. And again, I'm very sorry for your loss.

  • Diffugere_nives profile image


    10 years ago

    A really moving piece and a topic so rarely discussed. I can't begin to imagine your pain but just through your writing you can see and feel the strength that you and your wife had, even if you sometimes doubted yourself just writing this shows strength and determination. Keep fighting, sorry for your loss x

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    Pcunix~ Your few words speak volumes.Thank you dear sir, you are a giant among those who are really big! And know that I consider your long virtual hug as priceless.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    Hi Lisa HW~ Wow. As you mention, I have considered writing it in a little book form, for whatever reason, but wasn't sure how to go about it. I really like your idea about the "thing" you wrote for your dear friend, this is a direction I will consider for the work. And know that my heart goes out to you regarding this loss, it is never easy to find absent those who make our life worth the trouble. I hope your healing continues. Also Lisa, know that no matter what your loss, it is no less or no more than that of someone else, we all grieve inside and at our own level of anguish. I respect the pain you felt/fell surrounding your friends passing.

    Your idea on using the work as a means to comfort another rings very loudly in my ear,...and something that gives me a true tangible path to follow with the piece, after some serious re-work of course.

    I am honored you made time to assist me in the my quest to complete this hub with good direction. Your advice will be put to good use.

    ~Always choose love~


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    habee~I did find a moment of release when I stepped away from the keyboard following a rather long writing session. It took me a couple of days to even go back and read what it said,...I couldn't make it through in one sitting. Now, I just want it to be worthy of Deb's kind spirit. Thank you soooo much for taking a look at it, it means the world.


  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 

    10 years ago from SE MA

    I have no words. Please accept a long virtual hug instead. It can't take away the pain, but it is all I have.

  • kathryn1000 profile image


    10 years ago from London

    So moving and a stunningly beautiful piece of writing.Just keep breathing.I shall remember that

  • Lisa HW profile image

    Lisa HW 

    10 years ago from Massachusetts

    K9, this is the rest of that forum post about this Hub:

    I think you should do what you feel you want/need to when it comes to the Hub. It's your personal story and your grief, and if you think there's more to write, then you should. On the other hand, if you think the Hub should stand alone, you could always write more separately. In view of your grief, I'm wondering if you might like to publish (even a small) book, dedicate it to Deb, and have it as a keepsake (or for whatever purposes you might like to have it).

    I'm not comparing this (at all) to your loss, but my long-time closest friend died when I was younger. On one anniversary, years after she had been killed (car accident), I wrote a "thing", "Thoughts to Michelle". I just kind of needed to "put the thoughts out there into the air somewhere". I knew she wasn't there to hear or read those thoughts, but I needed to express them and put them out there. I decided to send them to them to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, as a victim-impact article. They wrote back and asked if I'd send a picture of myself and Michelle, so they could publish it in their publication. I declined because I knew Michelle was like me - a private person who wouldn't have wanted her picture published somewhere. Writing that "Thoughts to Michelle" thing, though, served a purpose for me, because I was able to feel as if I'd "sent" Michelle the thoughts I wanted her to have, even though I didn't believe she was "out there somewhere" to know about them. It was kind of a closure type of thing for me.

    I'm just wondering if you started a book for her, or dedicated to her, and even include the Hub along with whatever else you choose to; whether it would give you some "concrete act" or "concrete thing" that might, in some way, give you just a touch of a sense of control by being a "concrete action" at a time when (I'm guessing) you may feel as if the ground has been pulled from beneath your feet. Maybe, too, you could market the book if you wanted to; and maybe it would be a comfort to someone else in your situation.

    Your loss is pretty recent. I think you should let your own heart and wishes be your guide about what you do with your Hub or other parts of this personal story. I'd imagine the fact that Deb was as young as she was may have introduced yet another element of grief to process.

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 

    10 years ago from Georgia

    What a powerful piece! It had me in tears. It was beautifully poignant, and I hope writing it was cathartic for you.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    d.williams~ Thank you for your kind words. My heart feels for you and the many years you have spent missing the touch of your companion. No other pain compares. I will add you to my list of broken-winged soldiers who wait to once again join the one who makes them whole.

    ~Always choose love~


  • d.william profile image


    10 years ago from Somewhere in the south

    I read your story above crying all the way through it. My love died in 1972. It was quick, sudden, accidental, but my pain and grief was, as yours, so overwhelming i thought i would not survive it. Now 38 years later, while reading your story that pain came back with a vengeance. I have spent the last 38 years living in limbo and in solitude. He should have been with me all these years, we should have grown old together. I still give him hell for leaving me here alone. Just the other day, when i had a dizzy, odd feeling, i yelled to him that he had better be there to take me to the other side. He is still so much part of my life, i never really got over that loss and never had the desire to try again. That pain was so over powering, and the loss so profound, that i never learned to get past it. I had no support system, and still endure the loss by myself. I have always felt that no-one else on this planet could possibly understand this pain. I pray that you will find the strength that i never did to move beyond it and find some peace of mind that i never could find. God bless you, and you surely have my heartfelt sympathy for your loss.

  • profile image

    My Inner Voice 

    10 years ago

    K9k, it is You who is strong! You are a very powerful writer. You showed me something I was always sure about. Some subjects are avoided in this hypocritical world, and gays and lesbians are not granted the honor of being the same people as heterosexual. As a fact, their feelings are even deeper than of heterosexuals'. Their relationships are less egoistic and more mutually sacrificing. That's why they grieve deeper....

    You are an amazing partner. Sorry for your loss.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    C Ramsdell~ Thank you for such kind words. I truly hope you never do have to feel the anguish of losing the one you love most. I am certain all who have lost such a person, straight or gay have felt the illusion of the floor drop-out from under their feet only to discover they sit knealing on the floor in a spinning wave of dispare. I miss her so very much and love her still...

  • profile image

    C. Ramsdell 

    10 years ago

    I can't honestly say one way or another who grieves more, purely because I've never grieved the loss of a lover as either a hetero or lesbian woman. But I will say my heart ached just reading your article, and I'm so very sorry for your loss. It's clear by the love with which you write that your souls were intertwined. I hope your heart has found some semblance of peace.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    SB~ you are correct. Much healing, lots of pain. I appreciate you taking time to read it.

    GV~ Glad you found some understanding within the page. Thank you for the read.

  • glassvisage profile image


    10 years ago from Northern California

    This is a very heartfelt Hub. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think this is a very good Hub to have because what you write about is generally something people don't really think about, including me.

  • Scarlett Black profile image

    Scarlett Black 

    10 years ago from New York

    Unbelievable story. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am sure as healing as it was it was as difficult.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    UniquelyJen~ First, I am so sorry for your loss. This emaotional oppression seems at times to take over and rule the day. This month(June) on the 6TH, it was the 2 year anniversary of Deb passing. I was a big mess. Unlike last year it seemed quieter in my head. But then the emotions seemed to creep up slowly over a few days and then crash in all directions around me.

    You speak of 'talking' with her after she left, I too, to this day, talk right out loud to Deb. Only now it brings me comfort and is mostly free of questions. I can not tell you that your pain will ever depart. I can reassure you that it may become less dominant in your life. It will however take some time.

    I wish for you a quiet soul and comfort in your heart. I know your pain and it is much. Thank you for the read and the comment.

    ~always choose love~

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    I cant believe no one has commented yet. First, you express yourself beautifully. And second, I actually know what you are going through. Everyone says that statement but its true. In December of last year, I lost someone I had been intimate with at some point, but we had still lived together for 4 and a half years and were close. I felt like you did. The breath knocked out of me. Completely gone. The only way I could get through it, even though I am not religious, is turn to a weird kind of spirituality. I believed she was definitely alive in another plane of existence and I started talking to her, every day for awhile, sobbing. it took me ages to get over it, and there are still some things that trigger crying episodes, but I was able to go on, barely. She was my rock, and lived a sad life, and died unhappy and I hated that worse than anything. So, yes, I understand. And I also agree with you that of course grieving as a lesbian is just as worse as grieving if you are hetero.


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