“Year one you lost your person. Year two, you realize, you lost you”
And that is how I ended my most recent post as I begin to recap my second year of widowhood (bleh, I’m still working on a name that doesn’t make me feel 90 years old and wrinkly. Not that there's anything wrong with being 90!) Anyway, if you missed that post, I’ve linked it here
But if I'm being honest, it's more than just the word widowhood that's made me feel 90 years old or somewhere way beyond my 31 years of life, or, really, just not like myself in general. Being a widow is obviously a non-desirable, complex identity to begin with. And although the hopeless romantic side of me couldn't help but think, here, for a moment, that being a widow also means I loved deeply and was loved deeply just as much, given promises of forever, the reality is much less whimsical. When you then add the widow label to your name tag at 29 years old, it seems to swallow up the rest of your identity and you're left wondering where you went and where to start the search party.
Year two of grief and widowhood has taught me not to waste my time and effort on the search party. Well, at least, not in the traditional sense. You see, there's no point in searching for the you you were before your husband died or before you lost any other integral human in your life. That version of you only existed without the irrevocable loss. That exact person doesn’t exist anymore. So, don’t spend all your sacred, and often, very limited, energy on finding the old you because year two , or grief in general really, has a mind of its own and other ideas for you. It will force you, even if you are kicking and screaming (or numb and paralyzed) to look for the new you. Which really is pretty difficult considering most of her is still in the future.
It’s like missing the version of yourself you never got to meet. I don’t know who the future me was or is and I can’t be the person of my past, soooo, now what?
That’s sort of been my life motto these last two years. Now what? I remember pacing back and forth in the hospital, only a few short hours after Joe died and in between my crying, the staring at him and the soul shattering shock, I’d stop long enough to ask my dad, “well, now what?” I’m not sure if that’s my personality or a way I’ve coped with grief. Or a little bit of both. But so often, as I flop on the bed or collapse onto the couch at the end of the day, I take a deep breath having made it through another hour, another 24 hours, another trigger, another grief and joy moment, another rough parenting day, another beautiful parenting day, another day of swallowing the lump in my throat more times than I can count, another day of realizing I made it through without having one at all, I think to myself - ok, now what? And recently, that motto has been my question in learning to not just accept the new me, but figuring out who the heck new me even is and where do I find her? How do I find her? I had spent the last 29 years of my life discovering who I was and in so many ways, it feels like I’m starting from scratch again.
I spent all of my adulthood with Joe. I met him when I was 18. We got married when I was 24 and we became mom and dad when I was 29. When I tell you we grew together, we did a lot of growing and the pains, they were there for sure. But we did it and through it, he truly did become a part of me. To have lost that now, physically, is extremely disorienting. I’m no longer part of a partnership, I’m a wife but without her husband, so what does that look like? I’m now a mom, a first time mom which is an identity adjustment within itself and then suddenly five months into motherhood I lose the person I chose to parent with. Who am I as a mom? And now, as a solo mom? Mom, wife, widow - where is the me?
I’ve learned that grief touches every facet of your life, it’s inevitable. And with that, your relationships become affected - as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, employee, etc. These relationships unequivocally weave the fabric of your identity, fill in the about me and fun fact parts of your bio. Although we don’t always realize it in the day to day, we use those relationships and how we view ourselves within them as a way to define who we are. When grief storms in demanding a seat at the table, the dynamics change and therefore, so does the way you identify yourself.
So, here I am sharing my morning coffee and my bedtime routine with grief. She came as a stranger and now, I seem to know her better than I know myself. Year two of losing my husband took away the me I’ve always known. Now what? Well, I’m not entirely sure. I suppose I’ll spend year three and the many after, letting grief walk beside me as we continue to search for the new me, in the little moments, in the mundane, in the moments that challenge me, in the milestone moments, all while collecting the parts of the old me that are still there along the way. We’ll start the search party. I just hope she brings snacks, and wine.