In 2019 I trained to become a death doula. I began working with clients, hosting death meditations and death cafes, and slowly immersing myself into the world of death care. I had spent a few years in my late teens working as a caregiver at an assisted living facility, and had spent time with people as they died, and it always felt like an incredible and important process. Once the pandemic hit, I took a step back from death work – partially because I was pregnant, and also because the pandemic brought death a little too close to me. I didn’t know if I could look death in the eyes and properly care for those who were making the transition.

I couldn’t stay away from death for long however. As I’ve written on TalkDeath before, death has been a lifelong special interest of mine. I had spent most of my time with a newborn freelancing and writing about parenthood and my transgender identity, so when I found a place where I could write about all things related to death, I was excited. Over the last year I have written on topics ranging from how cremation works to why the death care industry needs queer collectives – both of these articles returning to me as a reader as I would go on to process the most intimate grief I have known.

How Writing About Death Prepared me For the Loss of my Partner 

Fleetwood [left] and Sage [right]


On December 30th, 2023, my partner Fleetwood was hit and killed by a drunk driver. We had spent the past ten days together, celebrating solstice and rewriting our narratives around family and the holidays. He was going into town to do some laundry, sleep in his own bed, and take care of some city errands. He was going to come back the next day to celebrate New Years’ Eve together. We were going to eat American-Chinese food, do a puzzle, watch Saltburn, and jump into the freezing cold river.

I learned that Fleetwood died on the morning of the 31st. I have his location on my phone, the app he lovingly called “find my boyfriend,” showed his location at a random intersection for hours. We typically took time apart and could go a night without checking in so I didn’t think anything of it. His best friend called me at 4am and told me he had died. I remember in that moment appreciating the fact that they had said the word died. They didn’t try to soften it for me; there was no way to soften something so sharp. Later, his best friend told me that the first thing I said back during our phone call was “it was just getting good.” I didn’t even remember saying that out loud.

 Fleetwood’s death was instantly familiar to me, and yet so much more magnified. 

I think a part of my fixation on death and grief is that I like being prepared for what is to come. When a routine changes or I start a new job or hobby or enter a new relationship or friend dynamic, I take time beforehand to prepare and think through what my life will be like when the shift comes. I had experienced close deaths before. My grandpa and my aunt both died in 2020, I’ve lost friends to addiction and climbing accidents, but I’ve never lost a partner. All of my siblings and both of my parents are still alive. While I’ve lost friends, they were never best friends. Fleetwood’s death was instantly familiar to me, and yet so much more magnified.

Grief and Community

After learning about Fleetwood’s death, I called my sponsor. I’ve been sober a little over a year now, and Fleetwood was going to get his one year chip on January 7th. He was so excited. My sponsor reminded me that I have a community to hold me, and that’s what made this death so different. Not just that he was so close to me, but that I had people to carry me through my grief.

IMG 5729That day I found out he had died, my friend drove me to the river that Fleetwood and I had planned to jump into together on New Year’s Eve, and I jumped in alone. It was the river he had scattered his dog’s remains in, it was the river where we had spent all summer together floating on our backs with the current. I called my friend Kit, a death doula and a part of the Portland Queer Death Collective – someone I had met at the TalkDeath Cemetery Scavenger Hunt just months before. They told me I had the whole collective on my side, that they would help me with whatever I needed.

Then, I had a question about cremation, and I referred back to my own article. When the bigger community started to find out about his death, my article about the need for queer collectives in death care started to circulate. When I wrote that article, I was taking into consideration other people’s experiences, and now it’s my own too. I was preparing, and I didn’t even realize it.

 What I knew about grieving collectively in theory has now become absolute fact. 

What has surprised me the most is how okay I am. Before writing for TalkDeath, before I quit drinking and smoking, before I intentionally started building a life around unmasking as an autistic person and allowing myself to indulge in special interests such as death, I would have been a fucking mess. Fleetwood and I would have conversations about death all the time – he read every first draft I ever wrote and gave me feedback before sending it to the editors. I knew what he wanted in his end of life care. I sent him the paperwork for his advance directive. We talked endlessly about our higher power and what an afterlife might look like. We both knew that death wasn’t a bad thing.

IMG 2254That’s what gives me comfort in all of this. He and I are both disabled, and he experienced a lot of chronic pain in his body. The investigator said that he likely died from the initial impact – that he probably didn’t even see the car racing down the hill towards the intersection. I can only imagine the relief of leaving a body in pain. Since his death, my life has been filled with so much sadness and so much joy, because there is no way to remember him without remembering the joy. The way he spent his life cultivating and caring for community has allowed me to grieve alongside a huge support system, and what I knew about grieving collectively in theory has now become absolute fact.

The way grief is portrayed and often experienced in westernized and colonized society is isolating and painful. I have learned through writing about death and posting about death daily that grief is not meant to be felt alone – I know that so intimately now. I am so grateful I was prepared, and I am so grateful to have been loved and continue to be loved by such a powerful person.


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