What a Funeral Taught Me About Polyamory

Note: This week’s sex-and-relationships post comes from Kristin Luce via elephant journal. You can read the previous article by Kristin that we featured, about the healing potential of deeply intimate sex, here. — Amanda P.

By Kristin Luce

Love Does Not Belong to Us.

Osborn* came to my free, drop-in groups for two years. He was utterly devoted to the truth which was a quality that we shared. Sometimes there were 15 of us, and sometimes it was just me and Osborn. He was utterly reliable.

Kristin Luce

Kristin Luce

And then—every few months—he would ask me out on a date.

The first time I turned him down we talked about it candidly; I said “no,” and he voiced his experience of feeling rejected. Paradoxically, we found a kind of intimacy in our disconnect, and it became the basis for even more in-depth work. He left that day saying, “I came in expecting surgery, instead I found love.”

My groups ended about two months before his death (though we didn’t know it at the time), and Osborn sent me this email:

“It really feels like everything has changed. One huge piece that’s missing is the self-judgment. I really can’t even find it when I look for it.

So, there’s this lightness now, and a sense of both openness and possibility. Bottom line, for me, is that I’m experiencing myself compassionately. I feel complete. Lesson learned. Left with gratitude. I wanted to offer a testimony to how effective your work is, and to say Thank You.”

A few weeks later he called me to say that he had been diagnosed with leukemia.

We both cried, and for the first time openly admitted to the intense intimacy we had in fact been sharing these past years. When I said “I love you,” it came out simply and sincerely. It was the truth. I had never told a client that I loved him, though I have fallen in love with every one of my clients over the years.

This turned out to be our last conversation. For those 20 minutes we met nakedly, the way people are meant to meet. He was child-like in his simplicity and straightforwardness, and I was touched by his beauty. It was a beauty that had always been there just beneath the surface, palpable but slightly obscured by his passions, fears and ambitions—all now moot in the face of his bleak future.

I regretted that I had ever hidden one inch of my love for him.

I suddenly knew in my bones that what I felt for him was the natural love that I have for everyone, and that everyone has for everyone else—whether we realize it or not. It was, in a sense, impersonal and yet it was also intensely personal. I loved him.

He died a few weeks later, but rather than feeling that he was gone it was more like he had come inside me even more deeply. He began to show up in my dreams, and I felt a bond that can only be compared to the special, profound and exclusive relationship that one has to a beloved.

Until the funeral.

Today, I sat with about 35 people, many of whom had known Osborn for decades. I was shocked as person after person stood up and spoke to the same intimate experience that I myself had been having with him over the past two years.

At one point a friend joked about Osborn’s famous fantasy. He had been on-line dating to the point that he actually decided to fly to Siberia to be joined with his new and seemingly perfect partner. His friend then asked the mourners, “So, how many people know that story?” and about three quarters of the room raised their hands, including me. Each one of us seemed aghast that he or she was not the only one privy to such knowledge.

Osborn had seemed solitary, but in fact he had been sharing his full depth and details with many others. These people knew him; his quirks, his lusts, his capriciousness, the ferocity of his devotion to the truth—and each was as surprised as the next to find out that they were not the only one. Osborn had been in bed—philosophically, mentally, and spiritually—with many others, while each of us had thought our unique bond was, well, unique.

Death rips a hole in the fabric of our consciousness and, as Leonard Cohen said, “that’s how the light gets in.”

I began to realize that of course everyone here loved Osborn, knew him, and maybe even felt like a secret consort or his best friend. I imagine that if his regular barista or bank teller had been there they might have felt similarly.

And I guess that whoever shows up to my funeral might feel the same way about me.

The truth is that we actually do touch, vulnerably, nakedly and completely, even as we pretend not to. It is especially revealed in two places: great love, and the gaping hole left in the fabric of reality torn open by death.

How could I possibly think that I was the only person who knew Osborn’s depth, heart, and humor? And moreover how could I want to be the only person to be privy to that? I don’t mean this intellectually, or that it would be”wrong” to want to be unique in that role. Rather, it simply doesn’t make sense to my soul. It would be like not wanting my children to have friends.

This great love, the vast kind, wants others to have everything, both more of me and of everyone else.

As I listened to people’s stories at the funeral I was delighted. He had had friends to cheer him on even as he threw golf clubs when he lost a game. He had touched the lives of children whom he mentored in chess classes. And yes, he had had an exquisite rendezvous with a woman in Siberia which I hope surpassed even his wildest fantasies.

Polyamory means “to love many.” Except for sex, Osborn was very much polyamorous. He shared himself with many people, and not just superficially. He was also loved by many, and not superficially.

What surprised me today was that I am polyamorous too—I just hadn’t known it before. I realized that I loved him far more deeply than I had thought, and sitting in that room with his ashes it seemed patently obvious that I loved a whole lot more people in my life just as deeply.

And what about sex?

When we think of polyamory, most of us think about multiple sexual partners. I found with Osborn that uncovering truth was our work together—it was simply not a sexual context—but that didn’t preclude there being an intense love between us.

I can only surmise that by fully opening to others the truth of those relationships will be revealed too, sexual or not.

Admitting to the love between us as humans opens the possibility that shared connection—whether it be intellectual, emotional, spiritual, sexual, or some combination of all of them—is actually just normal. And further, that we are not in control of the form that that connection will take.

The connection may be a sexual one—and it may arise with more than one person, much like I enjoy having a glass of wine and a good conversation with different people. So far, for me, it seems that I am polyamorous and monogamous, that is, loving many and being sexual with just one. But who knows what might happen? Love is endlessly mysterious.

What Osborn taught me was that our level of connection is not really up to us, that love does not belong to us.

We can block it at best and pretend, but that just denies reality, which is a stance that always costs us. He shared his whole heart with me, and I was delighted to discover that he had shared himself that fully with others as well. His openness raises the corollary question: why is it so threatening when our lover shares himself that fully with others? But that is a topic for another time.

In a way, my love for him wasn’t particularly special. It’s more that the actual love that we all have for one another, underneath the pretense of social roles, is always special. Humans can’t help but to love—at best we can only pretend not to. And then one has to ask: why would we ever want to do that?

* Note that the name has been changed for confidentiality, though to be honest I don’t think he would have minded.


Kristin Luce is slowly going sane by using her actual life and relationships to wake up. Her quest for truth has led her through a B.A. in Philosophy, an M.A. in Buddhist Psychology, intensive retreat practice, certification as a Meditation Instructor, two life-changing relationships and two life-changing kids. She now provides in-depth coaching for individuals and couples who want profound and dramatic transformation. An avid writer, she has been featured in such publications as Mothering Magazine and The Buddhadharma, and is a regular contributor to elephant journal. Friend her on Facebook, Twitter, her website or contact her at info@kristinluce.com.

17 thoughts on “What a Funeral Taught Me About Polyamory

  1. Cowboyiam

    “The truth is that we actually do touch, vulnerably, nakedly and completely, even as we pretend not to.” “It’s more that the actual love that we all have for one another, underneath the pretense of social roles, is always special. Humans can’t help but to love—at best we can only pretend not to. And then one has to ask: why would we ever want to do that?”

    Why indeed? I so enjoyed reading your beautiful story because you acknowledge the truth, the truth that our society is so terrified of seeing. We are brought into this place and taught to feel differently than we do. We learn mistrust of the other and fearfully protect our hearts from the other by whatever means we learn. We are our own prisoners and we will go to great lengths to avoid looking at that truth.

    We learn that sex is dangerous and it is burdened with so many subtle rules – that avoiding sexuality in relationship becomes the single greatest barrier to emotional connection with the others. Once people get close enough to feel an emotional connection we often get very uncomfortable because the line between sex and emotional honesty seems blurred – because there is no natural difference. Naked emotionally is as frightening as naked physically. What seems so sad is that we try to be naked together physically but yet hide our emotional self. Emotional nakedness allows physical nakedness as a direct extension and I suppose vice versa, but having one without the other seems irrational. That doesn’t mean physically everyone is compatible but the openness to express everything (having no hang-ups) is essential.

    In truth we are already completely naked together in this space but we pretend we aren’t and that is where all our fear comes from. A Course In Miracles says that Ego obeys this rule – seek for love but don’t find it -. What we want the most is what we are most afraid of.
    I hope we all step out of the closet and allow our nature to mend.

      1. Stacy Clark

        I second that “Amen” and raise you a “Hallelujah!”

        I’ve recently been practicing authentic relating in a T-Group. It’s one of the most blissful things I’ve ever done in a group of people. The practice is to speak strictly of sensations and emotions in the moment – nothing more than 30 seconds old. The depth and intimacy that arises in doing that is profound – and somewhat polyamorous. We often end up in puppy piles because what is in the moment is, “I want to touch your hand. May I?”

        It is not particularly sexual. It *is* very intimate, much in the way Kristin describes in her article.

        1. Cowboyiam

          Stacy that sounds like the coolest group ever. Real intentional connecting.
          What we could do if more of us learned to relate honestly. We would stop fighting. We would love more. We would see our self on the other and so many problems would evaporate.

  2. Cowboyiam

    I feel like the last fucking thing we do in this world is express honestly and once we do we are doomed. Here I am. Speaking truly – do what you will – but I suspect Eric will delete my account.

    Maybe I shall be surprised.

    1. Cowboyiam

      I suspect that Eric is out at the area clubs and that he may wonder in at 3-4 am eastern time and take one look at my posts and simply delete me. My words may disappear as easily as that.

      I am aware. But there is a conundrum here that we must ponder if we want to be honest. Either we are the architect’s of our existence or we are not. Which is it? It Can Not Be Both!!!
      I will leave you, whoever you are, to ponder this, and decide what you think. Am I in charge of my experience or am I not.

      1. Jere

        I got your freakin’ back. I thought Kristin was brilliant. That was about as real as Love gets.. very cool.

        I retire upon this, does Love hurt? Does Love make one wish for less Love or more? I’m a sorry soul to define Love but, I dig me enough to give myself a shot at it.. I could be fucked.. but oh well, I’ll give the whole fucking existence thing a go.

        Am I to discredit myself due to others’ lack of perspective? Or do I accept the beautiful exchanges as I’m as fortunate enough to experience them?

        (Crazy crap from a ‘shallow stoner’ eh!?! You made me guffaw with that!!)

        From one field tripper to all others’,



          1. Amanda Painter

            Um, Cowboy, not sure what happened this weekend while I was taking a break from the Internet, but I hope all is well for you now. just seeing your thread of comments today.

            And, fyi, Eric does not go out clubbing. It’s not really his scene (and there isn’t really a scene where he lives, anyway), and he’s pretty swamped with PW business stuff these days.

  3. Lizzy

    Kristin, I had such a similar experience to you when my dear friend died last October. He too was someone who touched the hearts of many – and made people feel special. But all this emerged in an overwhelming way after he had died. And his death blew me open in a way that was very painful but also liberating (“Death rips a hole in the fabric of our consciousness and, as Leonard Cohen said, “that’s how the light gets in.”). And yes – I had a sense of unconditional love, that was there for everyone, and included ones sexuality. Lately I’ve been dreaming about him a lot – and I’m sure it’s because stuff is coming up for me to be healed, at a sexual leve tool.
    Thank you for this beautiful piece, and for all your touching, honest comments (as always). ((()))

  4. Amanda Painter

    Hi Nicholas —

    I am sorry you had such a disillusioning and disappointing experience with elephant journal. It can be challenging to get a full sense of something/someone through an online interaction.

    PW does not have any kind of formal relationship or alliance with elephant journal. One of our readers pointed us to Kristin Luce, and in my correspondence with her, she has welcomed us re-publishing her writing on occasion when I find a piece of hers that fits PW. I cast a wide net for writers to feature in our “sex and relationships” slot on Saturdays, but it can be hard to find pieces that are both well-written and fit PW in some way.

    If Kristin has articles she has not already published on elephant journal, I’m happy to use those — but right now, that’s not what I have to work with from her.

    I can totally understand your distaste for a publication that “sells mindfulness” and such — but I am aware that any business needs to find a mode of income that works for them. I’m not a big fan of anything that tries to “sell to me” a state of being I can find on my own — yet I also recognize that, for example, Planet Waves stays afloat by “selling astrology” in the form of Eric’s horoscopes and audio readings, which we offer through levels of membership/subscription as well as individual products.

    I think no matter how we encounter writing on the Internet, we need to consider not only what it says and the individual saying it, but also its greater context — that is, the website or publication it appears in. And then we take that layer of knowledge and let it inform us about what is being said, and why, and how much of it we take in and use to guide our lives — and why. PW is not selling “hipness” — but we are offering a point of view and tools for self-discovery, and we do have to sell those tools to keep offering some of the best astrology writing on the Internet — and to keep offering this space for people to talk about it, and connect, and heal and grow.

    Thank you for chiming in — and I hope you’ll understand that if we re-publish another elephant journal article, it’s because I or someone else finds value in the words expressed, not in an “image” or “Internet club of cool kids.”

    1. Nicolas Salinas

      Thank you Amanda, you always have a certain comforting quality when you appear. What I commented was something I had with me for some time and even though I could have said nothing, seeing an article of theirs here boiled me to a point where I had to express myself, I’m glad it was you who answered in your soothing way. PW has always been another kind of place for me, I don’t compare it, it is like a place of brightness. I understand what you say but I don’t think you sell astrology, I consider what you do here your work, with your tools, talents and gifts you make what I can find here, even though I could look up at the transits, it is how you guys see them and express them why I am here and I do realize there is a lot of work and time invested to achieve this. I thank you again Amanda for your reply, I’ll see this with what you say also.

      1. Amanda Painter

        And thank you, Nicholas, for seeing and articulating what we’re trying to do here, which *is* far more holistic than just trying to “sell” something.

  5. Michael Mayes

    Beautiful piece, smart outlook, and much needed. Openness is key. Just talking about polyamory with my girlfriend is a release valve for me. It’s brought up every few months or so between us, and we get closer after each time. I think the more we talk, and express what’s now considered taboo, the more open people will be in the future. We just have to be vigilant about keeping the conversation going, and sometimes taking a risk when everyone around us seems to be playing it safe. Love is a daredevil.

  6. Leilani Curry

    Thank you Kristin, for this beautiful piece.

    It brought to mind a colleague of mine, who encouraged me into charity work, and who relied on me for various projects, yet it wasn’t until he died, that I realised how much I loved this beautiful man.

    When I first met him I did feel an attraction, but he was devoted to his wife and family and knowing that, I just saw him as a friend and colleague. When he died, and we heard all the eulogies from everyone, it was the same thing you describe in your article about Osborn. He made everyone feel like they were his best friend, and I felt so much unconditional love for him and from him.

    A couple of weeks after his funeral, I was walking around our work compound, and I was thinking about him and how much I missed him, and tears started flowing again, when I tripped and stumbled into a gardenia bush, and there was the most perfect gardenia right in front of my face. I knew it was from Lui, and I knew then that he loved me too! It was a profound moment of grace and understanding, and love from beyond the grave. It helped to heal the gap he left.

    Thank you again, PW, for sharing such great stories that we all can learn and grow from.

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