Last year, I had an experience that I was not prepared for and I feel compelled to write about it because it could happen to any of us – particularly Dommes who have been around for a long time and built up relationships with long term clients. I found out that a long-term client of mine had passed away.
I hadn’t seen this man for a while; he was a long-term webcam client and he also came to see me for a few sessions in the dungeon. But, as with all clients, they come and they go, so I was not worried that I hadn’t heard from him in about a year. I still saw that he was active within the scene and I had no cause for concern.
The manner in which I found out was less than ideal, and purely by chance. Another Domme who had spent time with him had written a blog about it, and it just so happened to be retweeted onto my timeline. In this blog she described the circumstances under which he had died, which was quite a shock to me. I won’t go into the details because it’s not my story to tell; and it could be potentially triggering to readers. The salient fact was that he had passed away unexpectedly almost a month prior to this post she had written. I didn’t know this woman, so I did message her and speak with her briefly about it. I am grateful she gave me the information I needed to process the news.
The point I want to discuss is, where do we fit into the aftermath of a client dying? I had known this guy for five or six years. We had a “relationship”, I cared about him and he cared about me – he would often send a random message just saying hello, and that he hoped I was well. I didn’t know where to go with my grief, my loss – the funeral had been and gone, and I would not have been invited anyway – his family didn’t know I existed. I found myself questioning whether or not I had the right to be upset by his passing? I was just someone he paid to fulfill a need, after all – would a hairdresser or a mechanic expect to be informed if one of their clients had died? Invited to the funeral?
But the more I thought about it the more I realized that although sex work is work, it is also very different to many other jobs – our clients come to us with their deepest, darkest secrets; the vulnerable parts of themselves that they keep hidden from their families, loved ones, their colleagues – the bonds we form with our clients can be, on some level, deeper than some of their vanilla relationships, despite the fact that they may not know our real names or anything about us outside of the dungeon. A lot of the time, we are their secret, our relationship is clandestine and kept hidden from others in their lives. But are they any less real? Our connections may not be conventional, but they are no less real or emotionally charged than any other – so why on earth wouldn’t I feel sadness and pain to hear of his passing? How could I not?
Fortunately, another Domme he had been seeing during in the year or so I hadn’t seen him reached out to me, and I found that speaking with her was quite a comfort. I am very grateful to her for that. I am fortunate that I have an excellent support network of friends and family and was able to talk about it with them, as well as with my own therapist. I found it hard to articulate how I felt, because part of me was angry that he hadn’t reached out, part of me was confused as to how I was meant to grieve and deal with this, but most of me was simply overwhelmingly sad. Sad that such a lovely and kind soul had been so troubled, and left this mortal coil in such a painful way. I felt sad for his family, whom he had mentioned to me in the past, and I knew he was close to them. I still have messages from him, and I often read the feedback he left for me after our meetings. It doesn’t hurt quite so much now, almost a year later. But I still think of him often.
But I do wonder where we fit into our clients’ lives in moments such as this. I have heard of some Dommes and sex workers being invited to the funerals of their former clients, they were that close and the family knew about the relationship they had with the departed. Some families know the full story, some think they are just “good friends” and that’s OK, too. I heard of one lady who, upon the death of her husband, found his correspondence with his Domme and then called her up to vent at her. The Domme in question simply stayed silent and took the barrage of anger and hurt this widow hurled down the phone – what else could she do? The poor woman was mourning the loss of her husband and just discovered a whole secret life she never knew he had. I’m not condoning the verbal abuse of sex workers by disgruntled family members at all, but I can understand her need to lash out in this circumstance.
Grieving is a painful and ongoing process and there is no right or wrong way to do it. We put processes and rituals in place to help us mark the passing of a loved one and move forward in life without their presence – but, in my case for example, I was not party to those “normal” processes and rituals as I might have been with a friend, or family member. I felt incredibly isolated and not sure where to take my sadness, my grief, my loss. I don’t know what the right or proper answer is for these types of situations, but I do know that speaking to people that knew him really helped, as did speaking to other people who had had similar experiences. Being allowed the space to talk openly about it, and slowly unpick the yarn ball of feelings that came with the news, was vital in coming to terms with it.
I would love to say that I hope this never happens to anyone else, but it will. The only inevitable part of life is that one day it will end. Each situation will be different and we all have our own ways of dealing with loss and pain, but what I would like to say is that if you ever do find yourself in a position where your client has died – or indeed, the tables are turned and you find out that your Mistress has passed away – do reach out to somebody. A friend, a family member, someone who knew the person, anybody. Had I not had people I could talk to about how it had affected me, I surely would have gone mad. The grieving process in this particular set of circumstances is very different, or at least it was for me, and it’s important to acknowledge that and find different ways of coping. We are human beings just like anybody else, and we are just as entitled to our feelings and emotions regarding our clients. We may only share a very small part of each other’s lives, but the connections are just as valid and important.
Be kind to each other. Tomorrow is never promised.