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Advice | Ask Damon: My boyfriend passed away. Then I found out he had another partner.

Hi Damon: About four years ago I became involved with a man who was a friend of my late husband. We had some wonderful moments of romance. Who doesn’t love a man who kisses well and gives you vintage Joni Mitchell vinyl? But he had some boundaries that I could never figure out and maybe because I was naive or attached I didn’t ask many direct questions.

He recently died of a heart attack and I heard he had a long-term partner who lived abroad and came to visit a few times a year. This explains a lot. He covered it up with some deception and some lies. I have a connection with his family and have a huge desire to tell them that I knew nothing about the partner. I want them to know that I was not deliberately cheating on this woman. And part of me wants to make sure she knows too. People grieve, so I give it some space. As things stand now, I am cut off from some of the main avenues of grieving with other people who loved him. And even though I’m furious, I miss him. Should I just shut up, even if it feels impossible?

mom: I’m very sorry for your loss. Grief can be random, sneaky and cruel, and this seems to be particularly difficult for you due to the complicated legacy of your deceased friend.

Unfortunately I have more questions for you than answers. So many questions.

1. Does the partner know about you? (If so, how?)

2. What exactly were his limits? Asking because “he had certain limits” can be anything from “he only drank Aquafina and refused to try other bottled water brands” to “in four years together I never saw where he lived.”

3. Are we sure he cheated? hair? From what you wrote in your question, it is possible that he was unfair to you, but practicing non-monogamy with his partner. Which, given that they lived on different continents and would only see each other twice a year, is conceivable.

4. What are these main lines of grief from which you have been cut off?

There are so many information gaps here that it’s hard to grasp anything concrete. Which is not your fault. You were in a relationship for four years with someone who presented you with a false reality, and this lack of clarity is reflected in the vagueness of what you share about your feelings. But I think you should find some clear answers about it before moving on.

For example, what exactly are you furious about? His dishonesty? Or the feeling that you cannot grieve? Are you upset that the family you said you were in a relationship with didn’t tell you? Is it your drive to let everyone know that you were a big part of each other’s lives and that you deserve the same “mourning status” that a family member or close friend would receive? Or is it to let everyone know you had no idea?

If the family wasn’t aware, I wonder what value your confession would have. Of course it would reveal a part of him that they may not have seen, and maybe that’s your goal here. But again, what would it be for? you? I doubt the family would soon give you that elusive grieving status, and so you’d probably still find yourself on the outside. (And to be honest, I’m not sure anyone would believe you had no idea he had a partner. I believe you. But I’m not them.)

I keep coming back to what you said about the ways of grief, and I still don’t know what stands in your way of grieving him. You may not be able to do the same kind of public remembrance on social media as his partner and the rest of his family. But what’s stopping you from grieving in private? And maybe work through these complications with your friends and family instead of his?

I’m sorry I don’t have a clearer solution for you. But maybe – hopefully – you will answer some of these questions and your path will emerge.

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