‘Coming out’ at work about traumatic bereavement

Those awkward water cooler conversations

A new year, and back to the office. Spare a thought for newbies getting to know their colleagues. Hopefully 2016 won’t bring many of those awkward moments I think of as ‘coming out’ about bereavement.

Coming out is now old hat, but I reckon few straight people realise that it’s an on-going process in the life of most gay men. It’s those little day-by-day interactions. The ordinary questions where the gender implies heterosexuality, confronting you with the choice to say – or not – ‘Actually, it’s he’. Those moments when you suddenly become aware of casually using a gendered pronoun about your partner that reveals your sexual orientation. Or those times when you realise you’re either conforming to or breaking ranks with a stereotype.

When you’ve lost a close relative, there’s a more subtle but similarly awkward process of coming out to ‘new’ people. Ice-breaking conversations turn to that nice young man who was recently widowed – who expects that at 30? – and you find yourself having to decide whether to disclose how close to the bone this may be. Suddenly it’s not so much ice-breaking as staking on thin ice.

In my case, 20 years after my twin sister’s death, I’ve developed a sixth sense. I can usually tell if it’s going to happen. The conversation veers to nieces and nephews… Alarm bells! The logical follow-up question to ‘No, I don’t have any’ is: ‘Oh, do you have any brothers and sisters?’ So it’s a split-second decision. Do I just say no (which in itself is true), or do I volunteer that I once had a twin? Once down that road, where do I stop, when the circumstances of her death were terrible – guaranteed to shake up any polite small talk?

Where does this leave me? With an odd trade-off. I don’t want to become centre of the show, and to change the mood of those ordinary getting-to-know-you water cooler conversations. And yet I don’t want to act in a way that seems to deny my twin ever existed.

As you can imagine – or perhaps know from personal experience – it has to remain a work in progress.

About Ed Green

Writer and editor, Yorkshire bred, now living and working in Central London. This blog charts the writing of my memoir 'Twinned' - life with and without my disabled sister. It features disability issues, cerebral palsy, traumatic death, bereavement, twinless twins, guest posts, and throws in the occasional 'off topic' post.
This entry was posted in bereavement, death, family, human interest, twinless twins and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s