I am so grateful for this Widow’s Voice. And it’s not just about having the opportunity to share, but to know that each day I can check in and “hear” another widow’s voice; that I can follow and learn about the multitude of paths, thoughts and feelings that are experienced. Even if I ever stop writing here, I know I will read it every single day, as long as it is here. I will never stop being a widow, even as my life will, and indeed has, taken different turns since Mike’s death.
I think a lot about how different the grieving process is for each individual. How many factors there are that determine our reactions and decisions since our losses. How we view the world, and our lives, through such a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colors and patterns.
How death - the finality and reality of death - will now always be intimate. This is something I’ve been thinking and writing about the past few weeks. But on the heels of that horror I’ve also been made aware of how the development of my own self has taken an unalterable fork in the road. We will never be the same again - but I am beginning to give myself permission to realize the positive side of that fact.
I have talked at length with several of my other widowed friends about how in many ways we would not be the people we are today had our husbands not died. That we find ourselves again alone in the world, again seeking and searching, and this can lead us to our own brand of greatness and fulfillment that we may not have had opportunity to find otherwise. That the person I am becoming now can still shine brightly, even despite the grief of missing him.
Sometimes these thoughts are as big and scary as the grim reaper ones. I no longer have the life partner I thought I would have in this phase of my life; I no longer have that special person to rely or lean on, or seek advice or comfort from. I must take this detour on my own.
Mike and I were really joined at the hip. Our relationship was all-encompassing and I know I did lose myself in it. And I happily allowed that to happen. He taught me more than anyone on this planet aside from my own parents. But maybe I was ready to fly out on my own; at the time of his death I could not imagine this was true or even possible. I can’t help but see what a different person is walking around out there now - one with lots of different parts: the person she was before she met Mike, the one who spent nearly 14 years by his side, the one who walked through death’s cold shadow, and the one who now finds herself the sum of it all, plus the new extra bits that are gathered in these after days. After Mike; after my marriage; just…after. My after me.
My new relationship is not a replacement for my marriage to Mike. There is no replacinganyone. But I am so grateful for it in so many ways, some of which I am only just now coming to understand. My new guy is teaching me things too. He is a very different sort of man, perhaps just the kind of man I needed right now. His fierce independence and practicality has solidified the idea that I must be my own woman now. His own brand of support and encouragement has, in a way, forced me to view my own potential from a very different perspective. The fragile fledgling I was when Mike died has been developing her wings and is now taking test flights out from the nest.
I still wobble from time to time; I still find I must occasionally come to rest on a branch and gather my bearings for the next swoop around. But I am finding I can find joy in this life still. I will miss Mike every day for the rest of my life - but I must also admit that some days, the feeling of independent flight can be awfully exhilarating. And instead of feeling guilty about that, I now focus on how deeply proud Mike would be that I’m striving to use what I’ve learned and shine it back out into the world.