Rachel, my wife, finally did the unthinkable. She got me on Facebook.

For years she’s been saying, “You need to get on Facebook.”
My response has always been, “I don’t like to be social in person. Why would I want to do it on a computer?” My anti-social behavior isn’t entirely true. I love people and being around others, but I’m not really into trivial pursuit and idle conversation. I love a good joke and hanging out with friends, but being with friends is different. I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than be in a social setting or a network meeting.

The losses I’ve experienced have changed me. All the years we hid the HIV infections of Bryan, Lydia and Matt unwittingly turned me into a semi-recluse. My desire for solitude also comes from the sheer energy depletion that I experience as I go to the depths of whatever I’m experiencing. It takes a lot of intentionality to lean into the deep recesses of life in the Afterloss when I touch my wounds.

So I come home the other day and Rachel announces that she has set up a page on Facebook called Healing in the Afterloss. We are about to launch the book I’ve written called Out of the Ashes: Healing in the Afterloss and she has been the driving force to get the word out.

I don’t know a thing about Facebook. In two days over 5,000 people have liked the page. She had to explain to me what ‘liked’ meant. People started putting posts up about their losses and my heart melts into their descriptions of what it is like living in their Afterloss.

I use the word Afterloss because I came to the conclusion that I was no longer in the world of before the loss. I have accepted that the world of before will never be again. And the ones that I love have moved into the world of the Afterlife. I realized I needed a way to describe the world I live in now and living in the Afterloss fits for me. It describes this initially foreign landscape in a way nothing else could. It is filled with both immense light and deep darkness. It’s a limitless land; or at least I have yet to reach any permanent borders.

The world of the Afterloss simply is what is. Dorothy had the Land of Oz. I have the Land of Is. And in this new Land of Is I have explored every inch that has unfolded in every minute, in every way, in all of me.

When Matt, my 13 year old, died we were at home together. The day before he died we were laying next to each other. He looked off into the distance and asked me what this apparition was saying. The whole story is in the book, but I’ll cut to the chase. Matt and I read a page from a book he loved on Greek Mythology every night for years. He completely resonated with that belief system for some reason. When I asked Matt whom it was he saw, he said it was the Boatman. The Boatman, in Greek Mythology, guides people across the River Styx into the Afterlife. I asked Matt what he was saying. Matt said, “He says he will guide us safely.”

Matt didn’t say guide him safely. He said the Boatman told him he would guide us safely.

That phrase, us, in the Boatman’s answer was featured prominently in my world of the Afterloss. I’ve experience so many alleyways and avenues in this land and this one sits pretty much downtown. As the Boatman guided Matt across the River Styx is there some portion of Afterloss that he has guided me?

Until Rachel pushed me into Facebook and I saw my world of the Afterloss unfold into our world of the Afterloss, I didn’t put together that Matt’s final words could help guide me into the foreign soils of Facebook.

It is my hope that the book, the website and this Facebook page that Rachel tricked me into will be an opportunity to share my understanding of the world of the Afterloss. More importantly, my hope is that everyone that touches this world finds the Afterloss is more of a shared journey than any of us ever thought. For many years I felt the sheer weight of the solitude in Afterloss. Now I’m beginning to experience the lightness of being in the solidarity in Afterloss. From solitude to solidarity.

Benjamin SolitudeNot a bad excursion, huh? And, perhaps we are all being guided safely across a river of sorrow to a land of healing.

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