Before I was widowed I knew who I was and I held pretty firm beliefs about life in general. Prior to marrying Phil I lived through a divorce and the ensuing identity crisis, and I came out on the other side more aware of my personal strengths and weaknesses. My divorce also taught me that I was capable of recreating my life. I knew that I didn't need a man to feel that my life was complete, and even after Phil and I married I held on tightly to my independence.
Having made such an effort to be my own person in my marriage, I was confused when I discovered that I was struggling for ways to define myself after Phil's death. I couldn't understand why I felt like my skin no longer fit. Had I somehow lost myself in Phil accidentally? Where had my hard won sense of self gone? How could I find the me I used to be? Where was my memory, my organized brain, my outgoing personality, my ability to get the job done? Who am I and where can I find the girl I was before?
Fast forward five years to me driving in the car alone a couple of weeks ago and listening to a new song on the radio. This song struck a cord in my heart and I felt the vibrations all day long. I bought the CD, and listened again and again trying to figure out why a song about going home was haunting me. Something in my subconscious was tugged by the longing in the lyrics. As the word longing rang in my brain I made the connection between this song and the sadness I felt as I listened. The memory of wanting my old self back returned so clearly. The torturous feeling of facing uncertainty on every front filled my body. The unrelenting need for the familiar came over me and I cried remembering the pain of feeling terribly lost.
As I thought back to my own search for my lost self...I could envision doing the kind of backtracking that is depicted in this video; I returned to the places where I had been the me I was seeking, I lovingly touched objects that used to draw out a certain emotion, smell or sound for me, and I looked at photos of what my smile was like before my world collapsed. Looking back I think that I was actually trying to find my lost innocence. I wanted to be the me I was before grief and loss changed me, the carefree girl who believed death was rarely worth thinking about. The comfort of the known used to call to me day and night, pulling me relentlessly back in time.
Over the past five years I have learned to accept that I am no longer naive to the devastating effects of loss and grief. I have once again recreated my life and returned to the confident positive woman I used to be. I love my life now and the pull of the past no longer threatens to drown me. But hearing this song made it clear that I will never forget the pain of longing to recognize myself. What I do know now that I did not know then is that ultimately the me I sought was there all along.