A Polyamorous Widow’s Journey Of Grief And Healing With Elizzabeth Cannon

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow

 

It’s easier for us to wrap our brains around anything if it’s put within the context of the mainstream. As far as widowhood goes, we almost by default put it in the context of conventional monogamous relationships. We don’t hear a lot about how the experience of loss works for someone who is in a polyamorous relationship. That is the perspective we’re going to hear from Elizzabeth Cannon, a polyamorous widow who makes the rounds on TikTok, talking about all things in the intersection between polyamory and widowhood. Liz shares her grief and healing journey after losing her husband, Josh, to liver disease. She shares how she was able to carry on with life and choose joy despite the pain of losing her soulmate. Tune in to hear her amazing story!

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

A Polyamorous Widow’s Journey Of Grief And Healing With Elizzabeth Cannon

We are about to have a conversation with Lizz Cannon who is a polyamorous widow. This should be very interesting and insightful. Let’s get into the conversation.

 

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow

 

Let’s welcome Lizz Cannon to the hood. Hello, Lizz. The question comes up on how I met Lizz. You know I’m always looking for people who want to share their journey. I saw Lizz on TikTok and she was sharing her journey. I thought it would be a great opportunity for her to bring her story to the Widowhood, so here we go.

If you want me to take the reins, I can give a little bit of a background.

Go right ahead.

I was married for twenty years to a fabulous soulmate and wonderful partner. He was a chef. His name was Josh Velasquez. Early on in our marriage, I guessed that his drinking might lead to some problems. He was, like many people in the restaurant industry, a heavy drinker. I never saw him drunk. He was so good at drinking that he would start early on his shift and keep drinking all day long. I kept saying, “You probably want to slow your roll.” He kept saying, “You don’t know my family. My grandmother used to drink a whole bottle of Ramade.” I thought, “Maybe a small bottle.”

He continued. I thought he would become ill when we were in our 50s or 60s. Instead, when he was 38, he became very ill. I almost lost him three times in a row within about a month and a half. The verdict was liver disease and cirrhosis. His numbers were so bad that the doctor was trying to get him to have a transplant immediately. However, I noticed that since he had begun being sick and stopped drinking, his liver numbers had dropped precipitously. I said to him, “I am willing to go on this journey of seeing if you can heal yourself.” He tried and he did a very good job initially. He was doing everything he was supposed to and did get a lot better. Unfortunately, he wasn’t all better because you can’t get all better quickly from liver disease.

One of his liver specialists made the mistake of saying, “Do you know why we call you around here?” He said, “What?” He said, “Wolverine.” I knew that was not going to be good. Sure enough, Josh started to do things he shouldn’t have been doing again. That wasn’t drinking so much as eating poorly, eating fatty things late at night, and smoking cigarettes again. When you’ve got advanced liver disease, you have to take care of that thing like it’s a little baby. He knew that, but as time went on, it got harder. He got sicker again. He got depressed. It became a vicious cycle of not taking care of himself.

I ended up being a caregiver for the last two years of his life as ammonia started to affect his cognitive skills. I have so much respect for people who are caregivers to long-term ill spouses. I cannot imagine going on longer than I did because two years almost broke me. I learned so much about compassion from that. I’m amazed that people can be caregivers for long-terms because two years was so hard for me.

One of the things that I’ve wanted to do in sharing my journey of being a widow is also to say to people who are caregivers that they need to take care of themselves, too. It’s becoming an epidemic in this country of people who are struggling to take care of their spouse or other loved one and they don’t have that much support. We don’t have a village anymore. We are a viciously individualistic country, and that leaves a lot of people stuck where there’s no one to help.

We don't have a village anymore. We are a viciously individualistic country, and that leaves a lot of people stuck where there's no one to help. Click To Tweet

There is no safety net in this government. There is nobody coming to help take care of your spouse. It’s hard. I have so much compassion for the caregivers, too. I learned a lot about compassion through being a caregiver, watching him struggle, and watching him try so hard to do the right thing and not have the capacity to do it. That’s the other thing. There’s this community of TikTok widows. We talk a lot about each individual person’s journey. One of those facets is, for me, recognizing capacity. Where you come from is going to inform what capacity you have. For example, if you’re a widow who knew that your spouse was going to pass away, that’s going to create a different capacity on how to heal when you are trying to heal.

You jumped right into Josh. Can we back up a little bit?

Sure.

Tell me about you. Who you are? Who is Lizz Cannon?

I’m the daughter of a firefighter and a police officer in rural Maine. When I say rural, I mean rural. My town was 1,000 people and the town next to mine didn’t have a name. It’s a territory. There aren’t enough people for it to be a town. I had a very interesting childhood because I was so separated from a lot of greater societal things and didn’t get exposed to certain things. My exposure to a lot of the world was through my parents who happened to be liberal for that time period and happened to be extremely liberal for rural Maine. When I went to grade school, I was the victim of some incredibly deep bullying. It’s the kind of stuff that they make movies and TV shows about. The stories I could tell you are ridiculous, but it toughened me up in later life.

Feel free to share one of the experiences and how that impacted you.

On a daily basis, from the age of 5 until 12, students would harass me verbally and/or physically. I remember one specific moment, and this is one of many, where all of the students turned to spit spitballs at me. This was in first grade. The teacher thought that was super funny. That was her response.

I am so sorry. I have experienced myself being bullied when I was younger, so I can relate to that. It was very difficult. I can recall being bullied, especially in grammar school right up until high school. It was getting to a point that was like, “I’m not going to have to tolerate this anymore, so I’m going to need to stand up for myself.” It wasn’t much of the hand-to-hand interaction with people, but the choice of, “This needs to stop.”

I’m 57, so we’re talking in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Bullying wasn’t frowned upon as much then as it is now that there’s a big movement towards doing that. I can relate to how that shapes you as a person to some extent in that happening. I’m sorry you had to experience it but I’m glad you endured it because it is much different now. It is so intense, whether it’s virtual bullying or people in person, where people are succumbing and taking their life because of that. It seems so much when it’s happening to you. You can’t see past that situation. It will swallow you up. I’m glad that there is mental health and suicide prevention. There are laws against bullying that probably were not in the act when you were experiencing it.

Not at all. There wasn’t even a real awareness. It was demonstrated by the reaction of that teacher, which was funny. It did toughen me up. Also, it gave me a very interesting perspective on being abused by the majority and being the other. When I went to college, I, interestingly enough, became super active with the Black organization at school. I was the only White member. For the rest of my life, I have found myself crossing lines, and I am always crossing lines in communities.

I have been a member of different African dance troops since I was seventeen years old. I was in Afro-Brazilian dance troops and Afro-Cuban. I practiced Santeria. My godfather was the head of one of the most respected houses in Cuba in Matanzas. I’m always an outsider everywhere I go. That’s why Josh and I got along because he was half-Puerto Rican and raised in Connecticut and Tennessee. He was too White for the Puerto Ricans and didn’t speak Spanish. He was too Puerto Rican for the White people, so he was always the other as well.

How did you and Josh meet?

I had broken up with a girlfriend that I had been with for two years who was Brazilian and ran off and got engaged with a Brazilian man almost immediately. He and I had known each other for a long time, and then, that Brazilian man broke up with me. In the meantime, a friend of mine from college had been saying, “You need to talk to this guy Josh. You need to meet this guy Josh.” I kept saying, “I’m so busy right now. I have a fiancé.” When I didn’t have a fiancé, Josh swept in and said, “Do you want to come over for dinner?” I went over for dinner, and that was the end of it because he was one of the most amazing chefs I’ve ever met in my life. The way to my heart is through my stomach.

We had a whirlwind relationship. I was 28 and had been in some long-term relationships and some short-term relationships, and then I’d spent a long time being single. I was having fun with people, but being single. I knew who I was and what I wanted. At that point, I wanted to settle down. I really knew that. I remember looking across the table at him. We were having Thai food and had been dating for three whole weeks. I thought to myself, “If this man doesn’t ask me to marry him, I have to leave.” The next day, he asked me to marry him.

Three weeks of dating and Josh says, “Will you marry me?” How did he present that?

I was eating some of the gnocchi that he made from scratch. He had potatoes cooked in the pot, mushing it all up, making it, and boiling it. It was in this white wine sauce that he would make that was out of this world. I had the bite up to my mouth and he said, “Will you marry me?” By then, I had put it in my mouth and was like, “How can I say no?” I already wanted him to ask anyway. He didn’t know that. We announced to our parents. His mother and he always had a fractured relationship, which is part of what led to his alcoholism. He had a very violent father and a distant mother. I don’t think she cared when he told her. My mother, on the other hand, was interesting because she knew me so well. We were good friends.

She’s always known everything about me and my life. She said to me, “Your father knew at three weeks. He didn’t ask me until three months which everyone thought was crazy, but look at us.” They were together until my father died tragically at 49, suddenly, of either a heart attack or a stroke. No one knows. My mom was 50. They were together from 24 until then, after a very short whirlwind romance, so she could relate. I have to say that that’s also an interesting thing. I’m going to jump forward far.

We’re going to get there. Put a pin in that. I want to know. He asks you for three weeks. What happens from there? How long before the wedding?

The wedding was soon after. It was on Cape Cod. We’re going to get to something interesting about little Lizzie. I was already married. He was my second husband. What happened was, in the interim of me meeting Josh and us getting married, I also met another person. I’m polyamorous. That other person and I had long discussions about whether or not we were going to get sexually involved, but we were very emotionally involved. 

Let’s back up a little bit. Before meeting Josh, you were married to someone else already?

No. The timeline is clunky. I’m polyamorous.

To make sure, what does polyamorous mean? I don’t want to assume that someone understands that.

That’s a good point. I’m polyamorous and there’s a little bit of a discussion about what that really means. It’s interesting how it changes depending on different communities. In my understanding and my usage of the term, it simply means that I am able and enjoy having more than one romantic relationship at the same time. I expect my partners to be able to have that same freedom. Whether or not they exercise it, it is up to them.

I have always been like that. I have never had a monogamous relationship. I don’t understand them. I respect them but I don’t understand them. When I first met Josh, I explained that then we didn’t have a word for it. I said, “I have open relationships.” He had never encountered a person who had said that and he thought, “That sounds brilliant. I’ve always thought that was the smartest thing to do anyway.”

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow
Polyamorous Widow: I have never had a monogamous relationship and I don’t really understand them.

 

Polyamorous, that’s the multiple partners. Does that mean being married to more than one person at a time?

Not necessarily. Relationships can come in different forms, which is what happened with my other husband. My other husband, whom I still refer to as my other husband, was a person I had met and we developed a very deep connection. We thought, because of the way it felt, that it was going to be romantic. We then had some very serious conversations about that because we were both a little confused and didn’t know what we were doing. We realized we didn’t want to be romantically involved but wanted to be together. We ended up getting married on paper.

What year was that?

That was in 2000. Josh and I met right after I had met this person. Josh and I were romantic.

You met Josh in what year-ish?

Towards the end of 2000, so very soon after.

You had married your other husband already?

I had married my other husband already. We all lived together for about six years. It’s something that’s so hard to explain to people except for people who’ve had this kind of relationship. There is a term for it. It’s a partner who you are platonic with. People say platonic partner. For some people, their platonic partner was a romantic partner, which shifted into a platonic relationship. For some people, it’s always been platonic. I’ve had people say again and again, “Isn’t that your friend? Doesn’t that mean it’s your friend?” I cannot explain it to you. It is not. Ricardo is my husband. 

You said you guys were married. I’m tracking.

Even though we did eventually get divorced because I wanted him to have the freedom to marry somebody else on paper and he wanted me to have the freedom to finally marry Josh on paper, which I decided against because of his alcoholism, we had married first, Ricardo and I, and then Josh came into the picture. Josh and I are romantic but he accepts Ricardo for what and who he is. We all end up living together. We moved to New Orleans together and had a great life together for about six years.

How did you introduce this to Ricardo and Josh?

I don’t know. Everyone cared about each other. We met each other pretty quickly. I am a whirlwind person, which you are going to see in the rest of my life as we go forward. My dad, before he passed away, he’d say to people he knew about me, “Lizz always jumps in head first but that’s why she’s always okay.” It’s the way I function.

You don’t remember the first time you introduced Ricardo and Josh together or what that conversation looked like or anything?

No, I really don’t. It was very natural. They knew about each other. I was living with Ricardo. Josh and I couldn’t live together for a while because he was working on Cape Cod. Because of my work, I couldn’t commute. I would go to see him on the weekends and things like that, but I was living with Ricardo. We all then moved in together. We all got a place together eventually.

What was life like in New Orleans together?

It was fantastic. I didn’t want to leave, but Katrina happened. That destroyed the restaurant Josh was working at. We all ended up back in Boston. Ricardo was supposed to be going to college, and college wasn’t happening. He was at the University of Massachusetts. It jumbled up our whole lives like many other people’s lives, but we came out for the better in many ways. I am fine with what happened to myself. I’m not fine for what happened to a lot of people I know. I lost people to suicide because of the struggle that they went through after the aftermath. It was the destruction of everyone’s reality.

That shook a lot of people, and it shook into a way that life will never be what it was before.

For some people, that was okay, but for some people, it wasn’t.

I don’t want to minimize how Katrina impacted people on an entire scale. I am sorry for how that is done. As we stay in this particular conversation speaking about your life, you guys moved from New Orleans back to Boston. You were saying that you and Ricardo divorced on paper to give you space to marry Josh.

He calls me mama. He kept saying, “Mama, I want you to be able to marry Josh.” I kept saying, “I’m not worried about that.” Eventually, that’s what we did. Also, he was starting to get to a point in his life where he was thinking of maybe moving to New York City, which neither Josh nor I wanted him to do, but people have to do things with their lives.

That’s something we would never want to stop him from following his dreams. At that point, his dream was that he really thought he was going to be able to possibly start a photography career. Like many people who go to New York with a dream, it didn’t necessarily pan out that way, but he’s doing great. We’re still super close. He was supposed to be the person giving me away at my wedding but something got in the way of it as far as his work stuff goes. There was nothing to be done about it and I understand.

What year did you and Josh get married on paper?

We never did. I have never talked about this with anyone, but I did notice that there were some widows on TikTok who were saying, “If you weren’t married on paper, you weren’t married.” I thought to myself, “If I spend twenty years with someone and I’m taking care of them when they’re dying, I’m sorry. I’m married.”

There are many ways to look at it. I’m tracking that. It’s how everyone’s situation is different. That’s what this conversation is about. The reality is that every one that is grieving the loss of a loved one is different from everyone else. Not to say no to that, but giving you space to talk about your journey. Thank you for pointing that out. Whatever community you are in, people will try to validate or invalidate someone’s position. It’s not what we’re doing here. We are giving you space to talk about what your life is and the person that you’ve lost. You and Josh became an individual couple outside of Ricardo. About what year was that?

 

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow

 

2007.

When did Josh start noticing that he was sick?

That wasn’t until 2012. 

There was a bit of time of health and enjoying that part of life.

We did. We bought a restaurant together. He named it Lizzie’s. That restaurant won Best Bar with Food in New England from the Yankee Magazine, which was a lovely thing.

What type of cuisine?

It was a mix because Josh was always a mixed bag as far as what he liked to cook. He could cook classic French. He was schooled at NECI, the New England Culinary Institute, which no longer exists. That’s where Alton Brown went. They were very science-based. He did Italian. He did some other stuff that was random, but he did it very well. He could cook Ethiopian food like nobody’s business. Ethiopian people would be like, “How did you learn to do that?”

The restaurant was a weird mishmash of food. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand what was going on at that time, but from the beginning of owning the restaurant, he was having a problem with the economics of it. I was baffled because he’d always been so good about books with every job that he’d ever had and every position he’d had as an executive chef. Suddenly, he couldn’t figure out what was going on with the finances. That led to quite a bit of stress. About a year and a half into that restaurant, and I’m going to be a little graphic here, he started throwing up blood in the middle of the night.

The stress was that horrific.

It was the liver disease.

Let me circle back a little bit. I have a major in Finance and Accounting. I had my own accounting business for 13 or 16 years and did bookkeeping. What I found was that people were extremely well at the subject matter expert part. For Josh being the cook but trying to manage your bookkeeping, strategically managing your business, and taking care of all those things can so easily get lost. The money is coming in and you’re buying the product, but you’re not paying attention to the Return On Investment or ROI. There’s enough money to come in and do that.

There are little things like payroll taxes or sales tax. Tax returns will start coming in, and that will be the downfall because of the rent and all the different things. I say that to share, it’s easier to happen more than not unless people start a business and they make a designated bookkeeper accountant. It is someone to hold them accountable as they’re running the day in and out of the business. That is a downfall for many people, unfortunately, because there’s a lot to juggle in the business.

I’m aware that’s a thing. That’s how I understood what was going on at that time. I thought to myself, that’s what was going on. What I didn’t realize was that he was having mental problems because the ammonia in his brain was keeping him from thinking straight.

It was on top of that. When Josh is doing the business, what are you doing during the day when that’s going on?

I had gotten my license and had started my own law firm. I had started Lizz Cannon, Attorney at Law. I started an immigration law practice and was super busy with that. I would come by and would check on certain things at the restaurant. I would also check on, “When am I going to get a look at the books? What’s going on?” I kept getting, “I’m going to get to it.”

I couldn’t understand that because he’d always been so good at keeping the books at these other businesses even as he was running “the business.” When you are an executive chef, you’re running the business. Half the time, the owner is never even there. They’re coming by to harass you from time to time. He had been running the exact same type of business for a few years for a couple of different companies. All of a sudden, he is not able to do what he needs to do. I’ve always said to people, hindsight being 2020, “If your partner suddenly can’t seem to do something that they’ve always been able to do fairly easily, get them to a doctor.”

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow
Polyamorous Widow: If your partner suddenly can’t seem to do something that they’ve always been able to do, get them to a doctor. That’s a sign.

 

That’s a sign.

Maybe everything is great. I’ve also met a couple of other widows on TikTok who had similar stories where cancer or some kind of disease was eating away at their spouse’s ability and function. Initially, they thought to themselves, “That’s funny. He’s always able to do that thing. Maybe he’s really stressed out.” If your partners suddenly can’t do something that they’ve always been pretty darn good at, get them to a doctor because you need to have at least basic blood work done or some basic look to see if we can figure out what’s going on.

You’re in Tampa, not in Boston?

Yeah. We moved to Tampa in 2015. It was soon after he had been diagnosed and started to do better. The idea was life is short. You don’t know how long you’ve got. We had come to Tampa because I had a green card interview. We fell in love with Ybor. The historic area of Tampa is called Ybor City. It looked so much like New Orleans because this is a Creole city. We fell in love with it. When we looked at the real estate, we realized we could afford to buy a house, which we could not afford to buy a house in Boston, Massachusetts.

The dollar goes differently in different locations, doesn’t it?

Big time, even me being an attorney who was doing pretty well. He wasn’t able to work at that time because of his disease. In fact, he never regained his ability to work. He would try to work in a kitchen and look so ill by the end of the afternoon that he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t work in kitchens anymore. He tried to figure some other things out along the way, but none of it panned out and then he got really sick.

How were you balancing managing your business, your own firm, and caring for Josh?

I don’t know. I have no idea how I pulled it off. On top of that, I was performing with the African dance troop here in town, so I was rehearsing 2 or 3 times a week. I was working on different legislative campaigns. I was always a very active person. I was a community organizer back when I was a professional dancer. When I met Josh, I was a professional dancer. I segued into being an immigration attorney because I realized I was going to starve to death.

There is that, but maybe the dancing was feeding your soul for all the other things that you had to show up in. 

The kind of dance that I do feeds the soul amazingly. I went to an insanely fast, wonderful class. One of my best friends here in Tampa is moving to Pittsburgh because she had a wonderful opportunity to run the department there on mental health and the intersection of racism. I don’t remember. I wish I could remember the name of that program at the University of Pittsburgh, but that’s what she’s gotten a great opportunity to do. Our dance class was insane.

Was that her last one?

That was her last one.

She was an instructor?

She is an instructor and a choreographer. Kaya is one of the best dancers I’ve ever met as far as African dance goes. She can see a choreography and remember it. I’m like, “How did you do that?” I don’t know how I balanced my business and Josh. It did get harder. Things did have to go by the wayside. In a bizarre way, COVID helped me because suddenly, there were all these things I couldn’t participate in anymore because they shut down.

I didn’t feel the need to say yes to anybody anymore. Things that I’d already been doing, it was like, “I don’t have to tell them I can’t do it anymore because it’s not happening.” In a bizarre way, COVID was helpful for Josh. I don’t agree with what happened in Florida as far as policy and the way we carried on because so many people passed away due to that decision.

That is a whole conversation in itself, so we’re going to put a pin on the. The next time, we’ll unpack that.

We’ll not really talk about that but for us, in a bizarre way, it was helpful because Josh could carry on living for the last year and a half of his life. He could go to a restaurant. He could go to a music show. He could go do things. I will be forever thankful that he had those opportunities before he passed away.

When did Josh pass, if I may ask?

He passed on December 19, 2021, right before Christmas. He had been in a home hospice for two weeks. Back to the things that I want to tell other widows, home hospice might not be a good idea. You need to find out what’s available in your area and in your state. I thought I was going to have some help. There was no help. One woman came by once a week and then once every four days to help bathe him.

To that point, if you were to do this over based on 2020, if home hospice was an option, what are 2 or 3 questions a person should ask to help them become more informed?

Number one, and this is huge, “What availability of drugs will we have in the home?” In Florida, you are not allowed to have any kind of liquid painkiller. I did not realize that as a person progresses in their journey to the other side, they cannot take anything in their mouth. You are going to have to crush up pills and put them in their cheek and hope that somehow that painkiller is getting through their system.

You mentioned something that a lot of people do not know. Correct me if I’m wrong or fill in. As we get closer to this body finishing its job in this world, the functions start shutting down because the body is trying to preserve the energy in other ways, such as the ears being pinned back or the inability to swallow. You think someone doesn’t want to eat or is not hungry, but that capacity is starting to diminish because the body is no longer taking in. The need to reduce those tablets into something that could be swallowed is how that’s happening. That is an important question to ask. What type of medication, based on your state law, can you have available to you?

What kind of form and what kind? I had wanted to have liquid morphine of some sort and I wasn’t allowed to have it. Instead, I had to crush up morphine pills, put some water in them to make a paste, and then rub it in his cheek. I couldn’t get enough morphine in him at that point.

What is the second item?

One thing is the drugs. Another thing is, “What will be the schedule? Who’s going to be coming by and how and when?” If you know that you’re going to be looking towards hospice and, often, if you are doing at-home hospice, you do realize it’s going to be down the road at some point. If you’re going to be asking these questions, “What kind of aid physically am I going to have in the home if any?” I know that there are some people who had someone coming by their home and helping them. That was not my situation. I was, in the first week and a half of him being in hospice, all by myself trying to take care of a 280-pound man. That was not easy. I am a powerlifter but there’s only so much I can lift. That’s another huge question as far as hospice goes and end-of-life questions.

Also, if you’re trying to make that decision between, “Am I going to have them at home? Am I going to have them at a hospice house or a hospice center?” If you are going to have them at a hospice center, one of the other strange things that I didn’t understand and wasn’t explained well to me was this idea of he could go into hospice, but you might have to bring him back home. I thought to myself, “Why would I bring him into hospice?”

People need to have a good solid discussion with their doctor about what they think the outcome would be. If I had had a good discussion with Josh’s doctor at that point, he would’ve said, “He is not coming home. They’re going to keep him in the hospice house. They’ll take care of him. You won’t have to do all of this physical work and he’s going to have liquid painkillers.”

You’re saying that at home, you could not have had the liquid painkiller, but if Josh was at the hospice center or care facility, he could have had them. That also would’ve helped his last days of quality of life in care that would’ve been made available to him. Let me ask you this. Do you think it’s more of an emotional pull about having someone at home than having them in the center? What were some things you were juggling or comparing between the two when you were looking at that decision?

By the time we were in that situation, I didn’t get very good information. One of the providers or one of the doctors said, “He wouldn’t be getting anything different at the hospice house than he does at home.” I thought, “That can’t be true. There’s got to be more.” I asked around and people didn’t know the answer. Unfortunately, within less than a year of Josh dying, one of my very good friends died of pancreatic cancer. I went through her journey. Since she was not partnered and didn’t have adult children that she felt could handle things, I was the person helping with a lot of different decisions as far as her end-of-life care. I was there with her end of life.

She did do hospice house because she saw what Josh went through. It was a whole different experience here in Florida in the same town in Tampa. She was comfortable. People were taking care of her 24/7. She had liquid drugs. When she passed, she passed so gracefully and so quietly. Josh struggled to pass for three days straight. It was the most traumatic experience of my life.

I have been through school shootings. I have been through a bunch of other traumatic things in my life. That was nothing. It was watching him struggle and die slowly for three days when he could have been eased out of that transition. The hospice nurses who came by would see him and go, “This is horrible.” I’m like, “Help me. Help me figure out how to do something.” Everyone felt like they didn’t know what to do and they didn’t know where to go. I would say, “Can we take him to the hospice house?” They’re like, “He won’t get anything different there,” which is not true.

It was an exceedingly frustrating experience for me. I’ve decided that, at some point, when I’m ready, I’m going to try to see if we can change the legislation here in Florida so that people can have more options at home. Our decision to have him at home was because he wanted to be at home. He thought it was going to be one kind of thing. I thought it was going to be one kind of thing. When we were in the midst of it, it was nothing like that.

Lizz, I am so sorry. It’s one thing to lose your spouse. This journey is different from watching them agonize. The suffering that he endured is a lot. Being his wife, lover, companion, and friend and watching someone you love like that suffer is a lot. I suppose that’s part of why you have become so vocal as you are sharing your journey on TikTok.

With your friend who passed, they were able to find some value in his situation that other people have been educated and do not have to endure that. At least ask the questions to know what it would look like between a center and being cared for at home. If you make that decision to care for them at home, at least you’re aware of what you’re signing up for or the level of commitment that you’re going to have. I know it’s a lot if you want to take a moment as we’re talking about all this. If there are other things you think people should maybe consider in that decision-making process if you’re comfortable with still talking about it.

I’m comfortable. His physician or general practitioner was wonderful. We talked after Josh passed. He insists that Josh’s nervous system wasn’t working the way it had been because he was so close to death. What I perceived as being painful probably wasn’t. It was his body trying to do what it needed to do to survive. I do hope that’s true. I don’t want anybody to go through watching their partner like that because it doesn’t look good.

I am so sorry.

I didn’t sleep for the last three days that he was alive.

I could see that being by his side and wanting to do anything possible to comfort him and let him know that you were there.

Luckily, I had my mother and some best friends come. They had been helping, and then they had to leave because of different scheduling issues. We didn’t know how long he was going to be with us. We had no idea. They had to leave, but they were going to be coming back soon. They didn’t realize they’d be coming back the day after he passed.

All the people who were in the house supporting and their timing were out of the house on his last final days. 

I’m happy about that. I don’t want my mother to have had that memory. She has gone through enough of her own things. She didn’t need that in her head. His sister was here. She will forever be my sister because we spent the last three days awake together. It was just us and I could not have done it without my sister-in-law.

That is wonderful.

It was rough. That was really hard.

Thank you for sharing that because it is very painful and I’m sorry for that. How did you celebrate Josh after he was no longer here?

We had two celebrations for him because he had friends in the North and he had friends in the South. We wanted people to be able to not have to go too far out of their way. This is funny, but it is very apropos.

We’ll go for funny now.

I have a get-together. I’ve only had a couple of them. I call it the Whiskey Weekend and we take over this bed and breakfast on the coast in Maine in the middle of the winter. It’s very romantic. We’re all cuddled up around these fires in this inn drinking our whiskey. Josh couldn’t come to participate because he wasn’t supposed to be drinking. At that juncture, he didn’t like traveling on planes very much because it was painful. I would go and do the Whiskey Weekend by myself and other friends and we had a Whiskey Weekend for Josh. He was an alcoholic and that is what took him down, but he would’ve loved that Whiskey Weekend.

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow
Polyamorous Widow: Yes, he was an alcoholic, and yes, that is what took him down, but he would have loved that whiskey.

 

You’re celebrating his life. Was there a particular type of whiskey?

All kinds. Everyone brings a bottle. We try each other’s. It’s not about getting blasted all weekend. We’re all too old for that. It’s more about enjoying nice whiskeys and bourbon.

You’re sipping that. You’re taking time and enjoying it. These are not those days when you have a keg of beer and you’re chugging stuff. This is one glass that could last you for hours if it’s correct. You’re smelling and taking in the aroma. This is a different level.

Beautiful scotches and bourbons. We are comparing and tasting notes together. We are eating lovely charcuterie. It’s a great weekend.

You had a weekend that was celebrating Josh’s life in a way that honored him.

We’ll get to this in a second a little bit more, but Josh was there. His spirit was very present for a while after he passed. Initially, no. For the first couple weeks, no, and then he came back. When he came back, he came back strong. My mother doesn’t believe in ghosts, supposedly, but she believes now. I have too much footage of orbs in what we call lanais. They are screened-in rooms here in Florida. I have a screened-in room. I call it my She Shed. It suddenly had these very large, bright orbs setting off the motion-detecting camera. The orb would move around and then disappear. It would do that repeatedly over the course of a few weeks. He also moved a chair at one point in the lanai. I have footage of that. That’s what he was doing there.

People can say whatever they want. I don’t blame people for not wanting to believe in the spirit world, but I do and I always have. Josh talked to me. He talked to me with words and I could hear him. I demanded it. He hadn’t been around. I hadn’t felt him. Ricardo came and was like, “He’s not here. I don’t know where he is, but he is not here.” I’m like, “I know he is not here.” Ricardo couldn’t come while Josh was falling apart. It was too much for him. He couldn’t handle it, and I don’t blame him. I learned a lot about capacity. I’m not angry at the people who couldn’t come.

Everyone is not made for every part of our life. People show up how they can and, much rather, to me, for people to be honest about what they can and cannot do. You’re trying to manage them and the situation you’re in. I’m sure you have found out things that you didn’t even realize you were capable of doing until they came to you and accepted the challenge of what life presented. I can understand that. You said two celebrations.

One was in the Whiskey Weekend, and that was in Maine with people from his life in Boston and that time period came to that one. We had one here in Tampa, and we had it in the lanai. Friends from Tennessee who he had known when he lived there came. Friends from here came. Both of them were lovely. Many funny stories were told. Chefs are funny guys.

Do you want to share one of the stories, if you recall any?

They’re not appropriate.

This is not for eighteen and under. This is for adults.

I suppose.

You don’t have to, but you’re welcome to.

I’m trying to think of one that’s a little bit more PG.

We’ll skip over it then. Both celebrations were good.

I still can’t quite tell the story, but there was a time when he and a chef friend of his got kicked out of a bar in New York City. Who gets kicked out of a bar in New York City at 4:00 in the afternoon? They were really blasted. His friend was dating a woman who was a performer on Broadway. They all started canoodling a little too much is what happened, all three of them. The bartender came over. I’m not sure if this is an appropriate thing, but it was funny. The bartender was deaf and he said, “It is way too early in the day for this kind of shit. You got to get the fuck out.” I was like, “That’s how you got kicked out of a bar in New York. Good job.”

There was nothing that he would not do for a good time, it sounds like.

He was ridiculous. He was the nicest guy to a fault, which goes back to not taking care of himself and putting himself out there too much for other people sometimes, especially when it came to work. As a chef, he would work sometimes 120 hours or 140 hours. He shouldn’t have done that. That also hurt him physically over the years. That’s part of the reason why chefs end up being such victims of substance abuse. It is because your body hurts.

How old was Josh when he passed?

47.

You said your dad died at 49. Did I hear that correctly?

Yes.

When you think of Josh, what are some of the great memories that you’ve had with him? 

I have so many fantastic memories with Josh. We traveled to the South of France because we had a man who worked for the airport. He had done English as a second language classes and stayed in our apartment. We became friends with him. We ate our way through the South of France and drank so much rose wine. It was amazing. That was such a good trip. This is a really good memory. We’re leaving. We’ve been eating and drinking for two weeks straight. We were done. We get on this little plane that’s going to take us from Marseille to Paris, and then from Paris, we’re going to go to Boston. It’s a 35-minute flight. I’m sure that the people working on the plane had some kind of game about, “Let’s see who we can get trashed early in the morning on this plane.”

The guys who were working as employees for this airline were very scruffy. They all looked like hipsters, which is an interesting look for a bunch of people who were working on a plane. They came by immediately and saw us. We were dressed in our leather jackets and whatnot. It was 11:00 in the morning and they said, “Would you like something to drink?” Josh says, “I’ll have some orange juice.” He looks at him and says, “You want some orange juice? You don’t want a beer or some wine?” This man plied us with alcohol for 35 minutes. We could barely get off the plane. We each had three drinks. 

I thought you were going to say mimosa since it was an orange juice, but he went on a whole different way with that. 

He went for wine and beer, which is what he had. It was ridiculous. We got off and we were in Charles de Gaulle. We were like, “Where are we? How do we get to our plane? How did this happen to us? We’re supposed to not be drinking. It’s 11:00 in the morning.” This was all before we realized he was sick. We had a lot of fun. I’ll tell you that It wasn’t always about drinking. I found it interesting that when he passed, it was hard to remember the bad times.

They do seem to move away. For me, what is important at that point and what is important is that love and what were those good times. Generally, if we’re lucky, there are more good times than there were bad times. 

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow
Polyamorous Widow: If we’re lucky, there were more good times than there were bad times.

 

Josh and I never fought. To be honest, me and my now-husband never fought.

You threw that in there. When you and Josh were together, were there other relationships as being polyam? How did that work?

The idea always was, “You can have whatever kind of relationship you want. If you fall in love, that’s fine. If you fall in love and you want to leave me, that’s fine because I will be okay. I wouldn’t want to stop you from doing what you want to do.” That being said, I never imagined falling in love with someone and wanting to leave Josh. I did fall in love with a woman in 2012, right before he became ill, and he did, too.

The same woman or two different?

Same woman. We were not looking for that scenario. It happened. It was a person I had been friends with for ten years already. She came to visit and one thing led to another. We started this very intense relationship, all three of us.

Did she move in with you guys?

She said she was going to, and then she didn’t. When she didn’t, that’s when Josh decided he wasn’t going to continue with the relationship. He said, “You can do whatever you want, but I am out.” She’s terrible at communication. She’s on the other side of the country. She was living in California. He was like, “I’m not doing this.” I couldn’t seem to get myself out of the relationship for another year. It was long-distance at that point. We weren’t seeing very much of each other so it’s not like it took up tons of my time, but it took up mental space.

For sure. It starts there. That’s fair. Were there any other relationships while with Josh or no?

Not something that was so deep. There were lots of lighter relationships where it was like, “This is a friend. We’re having fun.” I wasn’t deeply in love. That was the only time I was deeply in love with a person that I was involved with. There were a couple of people along the way who I was in love with, but they weren’t in love with me. It wasn’t mutual and that’s fine, too. Josh never had any other serious partners either. We were open to it. I’m a picky person in some ways. I don’t have that many people I’ve met in my life that I feel that deep a connection to where I want to have a serious relationship. I do have lots of friends in my life who I’ve had romantic feelings that weren’t quite so intense.

That was the word I was thinking.

It was like, “I feel romantic about you, but I don’t feel this need.” In polyamory, we call it the relationship escalator. It’s like, “I don’t feel the need to put you on the escalator.” Where you are is fine. You don’t have to move up into a, “I’m moving into the house. I’m going to be called your girlfriend. I’m going to be called your wife.” I haven’t had that happen very often.

We’ll jump into your husband. Since that is not something that you give yourself to since you’re so picky, how long has Josh passed in this relationship?

Josh had only been gone for a little over 3 months, almost 4 months. I had gone through a period where I told people I went through this initial period when he passed, where I was shattered in a way that I was never expecting. I thought, “I’ve been through grief before. I lost a good friend when I was nineteen in a shooting at my school. I lost my father when I was only 22. I’ve got practice at this. I’ll be fine.” I was not fine. I went to an existential reconstruction of myself.

Let’s back up. I don’t want to belittle that. Those words could mean different things to different people. Would you mind sharing what that looked like for you?

That’s a good point because sometimes, when someone throws out the word existential, people might jump to the idea of, “She was depressed and she wanted to kill herself.” That’s not where I was at. I put it that way as existential because I was questioning reality. I couldn’t figure out if reality were what I thought it was anymore. Everything was thrown into such a level of questioning for me, like, “Who am I? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of all of this?” It was not in a way that I was depressed but in a very honest existential questioning space.

 

 

I would often tell people, “I feel like I’m floating. I don’t feel like my feet are on the ground.” I started going back to my normal routine only two weeks after Josh passed because it was super important to me to do that. I am a person with certain exercise routines. I started going back to the gym and dance class. I found that I wasn’t very physically present even while I was doing these physical things.

It was that widow fog.

It wasn’t even widow fog. I felt like I wasn’t in this reality at some point.

That’s part of that fog. That sounds about right. The brain is detached and you’re someplace else. You’re not present.

I was on another plane of existence half the time, where I felt like part of me was on the other side of death. It was on the other side of that veil. Initially, Josh’s spirit was not present. It wasn’t around.

It was even more of an absence than a gap in loneliness with that.

At first, I was fine with it. When he was actively dying, he said to me, my mother, and my very good friend, Michelle, that there was a woman who needed his help. We all said, “Who is it?” He said, “I don’t know.” We’d say, “What does she look like?” He said, “I don’t know.” He’d get frustrated and we’re like, “It’s okay.”

When he passed, I figured that’s who he went to. I don’t know who that woman is. I have no idea. No one has told me that they think it’s them. I don’t know who he went to, but he went to help whoever that is. I am sure. He wasn’t around and I started to get frustrated. I do believe in the spirit world and feel like I have had connections with other spirits in my life, including my father who passed. I suddenly decided, “I am going to start asking Josh to show up.”

I remember one day, I was at the beach. It was probably late February or mid-February 2022. The water was barely warm enough to get into here in Tampa, but I got into it. I was screaming and yelling at him saying, “You need to come and talk to me. I need you to come back because I can’t deal with this without knowing that you’re around. You have got to come back,” and then he did.

What was the first instance of him coming back? Do you remember what he told you?

First, there were the orbs in the lanai. He was haunting the lanai by turning on the motion-detecting camera with these orbs of light. I then started hearing him. I would say something and I would hear him say something. I’d go, “That’s you.” I could feel it. Skeptics can say, “That’s in your own head. You’re inventing it.” That’s fine. They can say that. I don’t care. In my mind, I know that was Josh. He was very present in the house all of a sudden. It wasn’t a little bit, but he was here almost all day, every day for a little while. I was feeling better about myself. I was meditating for the first time in my life, which is something I had always thought I should do but never seemed to be able to do it. All of a sudden, I could do it and I was.

I was working a lot with my godfather who was the head of a very important house for Santeria. We don’t call it Santeria there. We call it Arara or Lukumi. He was the head of a house of Arara La Paloma in Matanzas. He was helpful. My godbrother in Cuba was so helpful. Honestly, I was on the phone all the time with friends and family. Some people close themselves off and don’t talk to anyone. I was on the phone all the time. I was like, “What are you doing? Do you want to talk? Let’s talk.”

It’s because you’re up at all hours of the night when this happens.

I had friends in LA that I’d call. I knew that they’d be awake. I had a friend in New Zealand I’d call because I knew she’d be awake.

That becomes really important to be able to have people do that. I can relate to that.

It helped so much. In that time period, I had also started posting on Facebook. My Facebook is very private and curated, so it’s only people who really know me. I started getting good feedback from people about, “This is so wonderful for me to read because not only am I being able to see how you’re doing, but I’m also learning so much about the process of grief,” which, to be honest, I didn’t know anything about.

You were using it as a blog and pouring your emotions out as things were going. Did you find that helpful for yourself after writing or sharing? How did that feel for you? 

Always. Mostly, it was because of the reactions that people would give me and comments and stuff. Somebody would call me and say, “I saw your post today. I figured I’d call and we’d talk.” It was super unifying and helpful for me. I know everyone’s ability to share is different and everybody’s desire to share is different. I found all of the work I was doing on Facebook was super helpful for me. I got good feedback from people about it being helpful to them and their learning, too, so that was good.

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You said something I want to circle back to. You had no idea what grief was. What did you find grief to be compared to what you may have thought of it before?

People were saying to me that they didn’t know what grief was.

You were saying before that with your dad and your friend. You thought you were going to be able to handle this because of past experience. This, in comparison to what you thought it was and what it was, looking back on that, what does that look like?

That is a big thing that I was not expecting. I had lost a good friend when I was nineteen. We’d gone through a shooting at our college. My father died when I was 22 suddenly unexpectedly. There was a lot of grief in those situations. When I lost my friend in the shooting, I had PTSD for a while. There was a lot to work through and a lot to process.

I thought that I would be more prepared to lose my spouse. It was nothing like those situations. I don’t know exactly why. Part of it is because this person’s with you all day, every day. I don’t know exactly, but the grief that I went through from losing Josh was nothing like the grief I’d had for my father and my friend. It put me in a place of spiritual breaking point, which was, in the end, fine for me because I rebuilt myself. Back to capacity, not every widow or widower has the ability to do that quickly or do it at all. I’ve known people in my life who were widows or widowers where that break, spiritual break or emotional break, stays broken.

I don’t know why I was able to work through so much stuff so quickly but I was feeling really good about myself, where I was at, my future, and my life. That’s when I decided to go to an adult roller skating class because I wanted to try something new. In the very first class, this gorgeous man started talking to me. I think to myself, “Who is that?” That was Gabriel.

He surprised me by continuing to talk to me in that first adult class even though I didn’t know how to roller skate and looked like a completely ridiculous mess on the roller skating rink. He then continued to talk to me after the class. I was so befuddled and flustered that I ran out of the roller skating rink going, “What is going on? Is he flirting with me? He couldn’t possibly be flirting with me. I am a widow. I’m done. I’m old and haggard. I’m over it. I will be a spinster for the rest of my life.” That’s where I was in my brain.

I ran out of that roller skating rink, and I kid you not, I heard loud and clear Josh say, “I wrapped him up with a bow.” I went, “What did you say?” He didn’t say anything else. I went, “We’re going to have to see about this.” I went back to the next roller skating class the next Monday and Gabriel was there. We exchanged phone numbers and went out on our first date that first Friday. I thought, “What am I doing? I am not ready for this. This is a stupid idea.”

Did you tell anybody you were going on a date? If so, how did they respond?

I told all kinds of people and they were all like, “You’re Lizz Cannon. You’re going to be fine.” In my group of friends, I’m well known for being the one who can run around and have romantic fun. On that first date, I was floored. I could not believe how emotionally intelligent and put-together this man was. When I did finally tell him I was a widow on that date, his response was perfect. I said, “I’ve been talking to you and asking you quite a few questions about yourself, but you haven’t asked me too many questions about me.” He said, “I know.” I said, “Aren’t you going to ask why I’m single?”

That is the question when dating. It is, “Why are you in this predicament?”

He said, “I was wondering.” I said, “I’m a widow.” He looked at me and said, “How does that feel? How is that for you?” I was like, “Let me tell you.” I started telling him about Josh and the experience that I’d gone through. He was only interested. He only had curiosity. As time went on and we started dating, Gabriel would come by the house. He said he could feel Josh every time he came in. He said, “It’s not unpleasant. It’s very pleasant. He’s here and he is looking out for you.”

We’d only been dating for about three weeks and I said, “You got to meet Ricardo. You have to meet my other husband because Ricardo has got to know that this is okay.” Ricardo was a little worried. He was like, “What are you doing? What’s going on?” Ricardo is Colombian. He is aware that there is a strong penchant for toxic masculinity in Latino culture. It’s not everybody, but it’s quite common. Gabriel is half El Salvadorian and half Mexican. When Ricardo heard that, he got worried. He was like, “What kind of guy is this?” Ricardo is not a toxic masculine kind of guy.

I bring Gabriel to New York City to meet Ricardo and Ricardo falls immediately in love with him, too. He is like, “This guy is great. I’m so happy for you.” As we were spending the weekend with Ricardo and his fiancé, Kristen, Ricardo, at one point, turned to me and said, “Josh was here. He said he is going to stay with me.” I said, “That’s good because you guys need to spend some time together.” I didn’t say anything to Gabriel about that.

When we got back to the house after a couple of days, I said, “Have you felt Josh in the house at all in the last couple of days?” He went, “Not at all.” I told him what Ricardo had told me and Gabriel was like, “I believe it.” Josh stayed with Ricardo for a couple of weeks, and then he came by. Over time, Josh’s presence is here, but it’s less. It’s because he’s feeling I’m okay.

You talked about social media. When was the transition from Facebook to TikTok? I want to throw that in because you mentioned something about Josh and being in the house around the wedding. I want you to share about that. What brought you to TikTok? How did that work?

Gabriel is the one who got me more into TikTok. I had an account, but I never went on it. I was like, “That’s that thing for the kids to do the dances.” People can’t always tell. I am 49 years old, so I am no spring chicken.

Neither am I. I am 57. I own that proudly, so I’m good with that.

Gabriel is only 28. That has been an interesting thing, too, because you wouldn’t know it. My mother, when she was here for our wedding, she kept saying to everybody afterward, “I don’t see it. I don’t see the age difference.” We are very well-matched in many ways, but because he is that much younger, he is very tied into TikTok. He uses it in a way people of his generation do, which, in actuality, he gets a lot of information from it, for better or for worse. Sometimes, there are different news things that come through.

He was on it and got me looking at it more. I started to realize, “This isn’t just little clips of people dancing. This is people posting some pretty interesting content.” I started finding some widows and started watching their content. I started asking a couple of people I know. I said, “I’m thinking about maybe posting some TikToks about being a polyamorous widow because there aren’t that many people out there doing that and talking about it.” There seem to be people talking about being polyamorous and being a widow on TikTok, but there aren’t that many people like me. I have a perspective that could be interesting to other widows, too, even if they’re not polyamorous.

Some people said, “You should do it,” and I did. I got a pretty good reaction to the first video, and I thought, “I’ll keep going.” In the first couple of videos I put up, there were some widows and widowers who said, “I am so thankful to have found you.” That got me hooked. Anytime I put up a video and I get a response from someone saying, “You really helped me out today,” that’s everything.

 

 

What is your community? You talked about a community of widows that you connected with. You can blow somebody up and share what their hashtag is or mention how it’s been helpful.

I want to do that.

Feel free so people can check them out. Everyone sharing something on that platform is something someone can gain something from as they go through this journey.

Some of us widows connect with other widows a little bit more. There’s something about each other. One of the interesting things I have found, and I love it, is that I am connecting with different widows who are coming from desperately different backgrounds. They might be highly religious in a Christian type of way. That’s not me. They might be coming from a space that is, for lack of a better word, a little bit more conservative. That’s not me. I’m incredibly liberal. There’s something about our widowhood that connects us.

It puts everything and shuts it out. It’s like, “You are dealing with the death of your person.” Sometimes, a lot of things that would’ve separated people become irrelevant because they’re all trying to understand how to endure, how to live, and, “How do I get to creating what my life looks like?” It does have a way of shifting a lot of the things that are not that much of a focal point because this is front and center.

You’re not degrading them, the credence, but it becomes this is a point of connection. This is what it’s more of a focus on. That relationship is not focused on someone’s faith, their religious belief, political beliefs, or ideologies. It’s about, “My person died. How are you coping? I want to hear because I need to take some of that for me and how I’m coping only as it relates to that particular parameter.”

Exactly. In the end, it’s also been interesting because different people have learned to be a little bit more accepting of other people because of this experience. It is nice. That makes me happy. To blow up some people, there’s @TheReal_Sherri. I love her because she said, “I’m going to choose joy.” Not everyone can do that, but for both her and me, we both said, “We lost this person. They were incredibly wonderful for us. They were a soulmate, but there might be another soulmate out there.”

I really do believe that Gabriel is my second soulmate. He feels that I’m his soulmate. The reason why we decided to have a commitment ceremony was because we’re on this journey for the long haul. We weren’t expecting that when we started dating, but here we are. Sherri is like me. She’s like, “Let’s choose joy. Let’s also choose relationships and see where it goes.” She has found a new person and things are working out well. We’ll see how it goes. I’m super happy for her. There’s another woman who goes by Northwoods. She is funny and fun. I like her content. I love her to death.

There’s @KarenOfAllTrades2. TikTok had a problem with her first account, so we got to go to the second account. We got to support the girl on her second account. I love her. The metamorphosis of some people when they lose their person can be amazing and beautiful. Karen realized that she could do all of these things by herself. She has started her own contracting business. She remodels houses, and she is amazing at it. She can do so many things. I am so in awe of her talents. She can also put on some amazing makeup.

She can build a house and put your makeup on.

I can’t do makeup at all.

You don’t see me over here with anything either.

I’m like, “Wow.” Some of her stuff is super funny and enjoyable. All of us are also sharing moments where we’re in a lot of pain. There’s the person who got me to you, who I found not too long ago, who makes my life. That’s @LiteralBlackWidow. She is hysterical. I love her. It makes me want to do more TikToks that are more biting and humorous, but I can’t figure out quite how to do them. Maybe I can figure out some more of them. I don’t know. She’s so funny.

She is a hoo. We met in DC and met in person.

I was jealous.

We talked heart to heart and sharing. Two hours flew by. I was in DC visiting another friend. I texted her and said, “I’m getting ready to drive to DC if you want to chat.” She’s like, “You’re going to be in DC this weekend?” I was like, “Yeah.” She was like, “I’m going to be in DC this weekend.” I was like, “For real?” We met up and it was like we had known each other. It was such a wonderful connection. We’ll stay connected. This is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Different arms of it are the episodes that we do weekly, giving space for people to share their journey. We have lawyers and financial people talking about heartfulness. A lot of different things on the show are people sharing their journey and providing tools on how to manage grief.

The other thing is we have a Facebook group where people share content, and then we have a private Facebook group where we meet up once a month virtually. We have a book club going over books about grief and giving space for people to talk with someone you don’t have to qualify your feelings and explain everything. In October 2023, we’re having a conference on how to manage grief with four mental health professionals.

The 501(c)(3) provides an opportunity to support people who are grieving. As we’re coming out of COVID and so many people have lost loved ones in private and have not had that individualistic living or community with them, they’re suffering silently in private. They are reaching out to social media in ways like never before to understand, “How do I do this?” The people that you’re mentioning, I hope that someone looks at each one of their TikToks and grabs something that can help them in this process.

Different people relate to different people differently, too. It’s not like every TikTok that every creator makes. I’m like, “That resonates.” There are so many things that, because of our widowhood, you do resonate. The other thing is I do like being able to be here and be helpful to anybody when I can be helpful, too. You and I had talked about this when we were doing our preliminary discussion. One of the things I know that does set me apart from a lot of widows but I feel like I can be an example in a way, even still, is because I’m polyamorous, it was so easy for me to imagine loving someone else.

We’re going to talk about that.

I don’t think that’s easy for a lot of widows, but I want to be there to give them the idea that maybe that’s fine. You shouldn’t feel guilty about loving someone new. Even being by example, it is someone who is experiencing joy in a new relationship to say, “You can do it. Your person isn’t going to be angry at you because you have joy.”

 

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow

 

That’s a very interesting thing to talk about. The idea of finding joy does not diminish the relationship of who that husband was or who that wife or that partner was because you continue to live. There is a lot of struggle in that idea of, “I’m alive. Should I feel guilty because I’ve continued to live? Have I disrespected my partner? Have I done something wrong?”

It is a lot to work through mentally, physically, and spiritually to get to that place to say, “I can love somebody else again.” The possibility can exist. It is not that my full happiness rests in creating another relationship. That peace and rest generally need to be independent. Once you’ve done some of that work with yourself to say, “I could see myself in another relationship,” and engage that, that can be something that people are yearning to understand. They are like, “How do I unwrap my mind around this person I’ve been with to be with someone else?”

It is a huge challenge for most people. I know that there are people who are never going to be able to get away from that. TheReal_Sherri, too, says her situation was different than a lot of people’s because she knew he was going to pass away. It was a progressive thing. He even gave her permission to love again. That can be a big deal difference for some people. We keep saying this, and it’s so true. Everybody’s journey is different. I do hope that people can see my steps as I’ve come along because I started posting on the year anniversary of Josh’s death and here we are.

It has only been eighteen months. You said ‘21 December. It is a year and a half. We’re in June 2023.

It has only been six months since my first TikTok. I had my wedding with my partner and it was beautiful. When my brother came into the backyard where we were having the wedding, he said, “I went into the house and Josh is sitting on the couch.” I said, “He is?” He said, “Yeah, and he’s happy.” I said, “That’s good, but I knew that.” Somebody else also said they saw him. He was here. I honestly do believe that Josh brought me Gabriel in a lot of ways. A lot of my friends feel the same way. They feel extremely strongly that there is a connection between all three of us. They can see it. Ricardo will often say, “Josh is working his way through Gabriel sometimes.”

How does it feel to be in a marriage again and be in love? I want you to talk about what it’s like to still miss Josh in the presence of this joy. I feel like people think that if you’ve gotten remarried, you don’t think about the other person. They think that’s over and that’s in the past. What does that look like for you?

Also, that’s one of the reasons why I’m able to be in this relationship. It is because Gabriel has always been so open and able to be with me when I am in grief. He has encouraged me to share my grief with him. He says, “I want to be here to support you. I don’t want you to hide it from me. I don’t want you to pretend that it’s not happening.” He has seen me in the middle of the grief wave.

That’s not something you could put on your dating app. I need you to understand that I will always love my latest spouse, and I need you to be okay with that.” It is important to find somebody that will give you space. I’ve seen people say, “I’m dating somebody and they don’t want me to mention my late spouse anymore.” That would be suffocating and very difficult. I’m glad that you mentioned that because that is key.

WRT 34 | Polyamorous Widow
Polyamorous Widow: It is really important to find somebody who will give you space.

 

I can understand that a new partner might not want you to go on and on about your spouse. To mention them, talk about them, and bring them up to say, “I’m missing them,” As time has gone by, my grief waves are less. My difficult times are less. That’s to be expected, but it is not like it’s gone. The strangest things can trigger grief. It is like, “I saw this thing. I heard this thing. I smelled this thing.”

It could be like, “I went to this store. I drove past this place.” All of a sudden, it’s like, “Ugh.” What I have learned is that the grief wave that may have happened initially could have taken me out where I couldn’t get out of bed. I was incapacitated. I was like, “Don’t talk to me for three days.” It may be an hour. It may be, “I need to clear my schedule because I realized that’s the anniversary of this. I’m not going to do well. I need to spend some time looking in photo albums,” allowing that to give me space where before, it is strategic. Other times, it is like, “I’m going to pull the car over, let this happen, and then I can drive.”

Sometimes, it is that fast. Sometimes, it’s like, “I’m good,” and sometimes, it’s not that fast. I have felt that I am incredibly blessed that I have this partner who is so supportive. The other thing is, and this goes back to a certain degree, the idea of polyamory. Gabriel and I have joked that from the very beginning of the relationship, I had two partners because Josh wasn’t gone. As time goes on, Josh is taking up less of my time, energy, and head space. It’s true. He isn’t gone. Initially, when Gabriel first met me, I had a lot of time in the day that I spent thinking about Josh. I had a lot of time in the day when I was dealing with emotions. It’s become less.

Since I was dealing with certain grief things, I was in an interesting position. Gabriel ended up reconnecting with an ex-girlfriend when he and I had only been dating for four months. He has a girlfriend now, and he’s had a girlfriend for about a year. She’s long-distance. She’s married to another friend of theirs, Valerie. They live in California. I initially had a hard time with that because Gabriel and I had such a new relationship and I was still dealing with my grief from Josh.

One of the things that is very interesting about being in a polyamorous relationship is you have to confront some stuff. I had to confront what was my fear. I don’t know how long this might’ve taken me otherwise or if I ever would’ve figured it out, but what I realized was I was terrified of being abandoned because I felt like Josh abandoned me. I had never admitted that to myself until Gabriel got his new girlfriend. All of a sudden, all of these strange feelings of fear of abandonment are coming up. I’m like, “What is this about? Why am I so scared?” That’s when I made that connection. That was so healing for me to admit all the negative feelings that I hadn’t been admitting and all these sensations of being not just abandoned, but somehow as though, “What did you do to me? You made the decision to die.”

You say that and someone goes, “They didn’t choose that,” but when you are left and that person is gone, that’s what it feels like. It can feel like so many different things. Being on social media and platforms is like, “When your spouse dies and you think of this, people do think like that.”

It’s okay.

That’s one of the reasons for doing this show. It is people can ear hustle in and go, “I’m not alone with that thought. There are other people out here thinking about this.” I remember after Mark died, my son, Alexander, was in the military, and then my daughter left and went to the military. I remember being in the house and being mad like, “You left and didn’t have to parent anymore because you died. Now, they’re gone. You all left me in this house.” I can relate to that. 

Luckily, I have a really great therapist.

Talk about that. That is important.

We’d been working together for years. I have body dysmorphia. That’s where I started with her. It had a lot to do with the bullying. It had everything to do with the bullying. I was borderline anorexic for a few years. She was super validating when I was going through that stuff and helping me realize, “Everything that you’re feeling and thinking is fine.” At the same time that I was realizing that I felt that way, I was also aware that it wasn’t logical. Josh didn’t have the capacity to make any other different choice, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling that way. It’s okay to feel that way.

The brain is trying to reconcile all this. In our limited minds, we instantly can attach someone not being there with rejection or they’ve chosen different stuff. Your mind is going, “We don’t choose when we leave,” but the brain is like, “Eh,” and trying to do all that. It happens more often than not.

I am thankful for being able to process that. When I did and how I did, it made a huge difference for me personally. It also made a difference in my relationship with Gabriel, where I became much more secure and understanding like, “He’s not going anywhere. He’s here.”

Let me ask you this. On your TikTok, is it things that are happening or are there some things or some points that you want to make sure that you’re sharing? How do you develop your content?

I develop my content along the lines of, “What did I see today that made me think about something?” I do keep my content in general to being a widow and being polyamorous. I am a person of many facets. I could go on about anti-racism. I could go on about feminism. I could go on about the situation in Florida ad nauseam, but I’m trying to keep my content to that. Sometimes, that means that there is an intersection of the two things. Sometimes, it means I’m talking about a very thing that’s more widow-focused. Sometimes, it’s something that’s more polyamory-focused. There are intersections between those two things.

The community of polyamorous people on TikTok is very interesting because there is a politically adamant subgroup. I appreciate a lot of where they’re coming from. They’re coming from a very Marxist point of view as far as decolonization and decolonization of our brains. I appreciate that in a lot of ways but we don’t necessarily always jive because I personally feel that relationships are different from person to person. Their concept is relationships should be as egalitarian and equal as possible. That’s a nice thought in theory. My experience in my own life is that there tend to be people who are a little more special to you, which counts for friends, too.

Relationships are very different from person to person. Click To Tweet

I have friends who are important as my friends. Ricardo isn’t even a friend. He’s more than a friend. He’s a whole different thing, which is very hard to explain to people. They’re like, “He’s your friend.” I’m like, “It’s different.” I have very good friends who I consider my best friends. There are probably three of those people. I consider them all my best friends. I have friends who are close, but they’re not quite at that level of intimacy and connection. You’ve got the friends that you’re like, “We’re buddies. We do stuff sometimes.”

You said inner circle, outer circle, acquaintances, friends, and that whole thing.

To me, that also plays into my world of polyamory. I have people who are more important to me in a very tight, intimate way, and then I have people who are good. We’re going to spend some time together, but I’m not going to take huge amounts of my time and energy and invest into them because that’s not where we’re at with our relationship. To me, that seems normal and healthy. The idea of trying to make everything completely egalitarian and the same, to me, seems like, “Eh,” but that’s me. Everyone has their own thing that they’re trying to accomplish on their own.

What was it about Gabriel, knowing that you’re so picky, that wanted you to connect with him on this deeper level, have a commitment, and do this?

I wish I knew the answer to that. I‘m going to get a little woo-woo. I am a little woo-woo. Josh and I always felt that we were soulmates but it wasn’t exactly supposed to be husband and wife. Our energy was funny. People often thought we were brother and sister. I had a twin that my mother miscarried, and it was a boy. When she was about five months pregnant, she lost him. Josh and I have always thought that that’s what he is. That’s what we were. We were soulmates but we also had an energy that was very sibling-like.

You were not quite sure what that was.

It’s not even sibling-like. I could finish Josh’s sentences immediately upon meeting him. He could do to me, too. We would have the same dream at night sometimes.

There’s a deep connection there. That’s not your run-of-a-mill kind of thing there.

I’d wake up sometimes and start talking about a dream. He’d go, “This happened and this happened.” I’d go, “You had the same dream again.” He’d be like, “Yes.” I didn’t know this, but I hadn’t shared that with my mother until he passed. She had brought up the question that she had heard in some interviews with someone who had a similar situation. Their mother had lost a twin in gestation.

They said they always felt like they only had half of themselves and didn’t know where the other half was. They didn’t know that they had a twin, and then they found it out, which made all sense to them. She said, “Did you ever feel like that? Did you ever feel like you didn’t have a part of you?” I was like, “I found that part of me. That was Josh.” She said, “I can’t believe. I never realized that.” She could feel it and see it. She’s like, “How did I miss that?”

She never put those two together.

That was Josh. That’s not what Gabriel is. Gabriel and I are pretty convinced that we’ve been lovers again and again through history. This is not our first time around like this. I don’t know how to explain that.

You did.

We have these almost memories of each other. I had a soulmate and I am very happy that I was with him. I am so happy that I had him for twenty years as my partner and my love. I am thrilled that I feel that I have found another.

Before, we know how fragile this is. There’s a deeper sense of appreciation for it to have come your way again.

I am not joking when I say after Josh passed, I did think, “I’m never going to have that again. It’s impossible.” I thought maybe I could have some fun along the way or something. That kind of connection wasn’t going to happen. I was sure. Since it has, I do want to say to people on TikTok and the world that you don’t know. You don’t know how many possible loves of your life are out there. Who knows? I might even meet another one. That’s the thing. Since this has happened, I’m like, “There might be another one out there. I don’t know.”

This has been a good conversation. I have two questions I want to ask you. One, what makes you happy now? Where do you find joy?

I find joy in almost everything. I find joy in the little flowers I see on the sidewalk. I’ll find joy in holding my dog in my lap. I’ll find joy in that cocktail that I’m having. I’m like, “This is so wonderful.” Gabriel and I are constantly pointing to the sunsets, the clouds, and the trees. I find joy everywhere. That’s that.

If you could give advice to younger Lizz, what age range would she be and what would you tell her?

When I first introduced my mother to Gabriel, I said something to Gabriel about, “You’re really lucky you got me at this point because I’ve changed and I’ve grown so much. I’m Lizz 2.0.” My mom was like, “More like Lizz 4.0.” She can get you. She’s a sneak attack. What I was going to say is one of the things I would want to tell younger Lizz more than anything is, “Try to calm down. Try to go more slowly. Try to find more joy in everything.” I’m not trying to be negative in any way about Josh, but he was a pessimistic guy in some ways.

Find joy in everything. Don’t be scared to be happy. Click To Tweet

Everybody has different characteristics.

To a certain degree, I sometimes would reflect that pessimism. I’m not pessimistic anymore. I’m incredibly optimistic. 

That’s good. I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation. I’ll let you close us out. Is there anything you feel like you wanted to talk about that we didn’t cover or words of advice? Is there anything you want to share or offer as we wrap this up? 

The words of advice and the thing that I keep saying and I’ll keep saying to people is don’t be scared to be happy. I know it can be terrifying to do something new and do something different that might lead to happiness, but try to go for happiness. That’s all I can say.

Thank you so much.

Thank you.

I am so glad that Lizz took the invitation to come to be a part of the Widowhood. She was so lively and candid. This was the introduction to something that some people may have not been aware of. I’m grateful for her to share her love story with Josh, her love story that she has new with Gabriel, and where life is for her.

I hope that from this conversation, if nothing else, you will think of the ways of how you can find joy in your life. I am sorry that the person that you love is no longer in this world, but you are here. I hope that you’ll find some way to create a life that you enjoy. It will be difficult step by step, but you are not alone. The Widowhood is with you.

I want you to maybe look at some of the people that Lizz recommended that she finds interesting on TikTok or create your own community. Make your hood as you go through this journey and learn things about yourself. You can reach out to our website. Maybe you’d like to share your story with us, and then we’ll be able to hear how you’re going through this journey. I’ll talk to you soon.

 

Important Links

 

About Elizzabeth Cannon

WRT 34 | Polyamorous WidowLizz Cannon is a retired dancer, dancer having brought her to Brazil, Cuba, and Senegal. She is now an immigration attorney and actively advocates for progressive legislative change. (She still dances) Her late husband was Josh Velazquez – a chef recognized by his peers for his talent. He passed in 2021 after a ten-year battle with liver disease.

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide