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Secondary Losses

Jeanie Stirling  is our blog contributor for this month.  Those of you who have followed this column have been introduced to her as a friend, editor and regular contributor.  One piece of information you might not know about her is, tour guide for small groups of women wanting hiking adventures overseas. She has lived overseas and has served as a missionary for Ministry Essentials for many years, and still currently serves with her husband Al. Her past columns have given us things to think about. Secondary Losses is another thoughtful column.  Welcome Jeanie!

Becoming me without Larry,

Rachael Crabb

A Becoming Me Without You Blog
By Jeanie Stirling

When your partner dies you lose so much more than a person. For awhile you even lose yourself. When the initial grief fog lifts and you don’t recognize that person in the mirror, you wonder who you are now that you’re no longer a couple. Am I a Mrs. or just a Ms. now? Your life and future isn’t what you had imagined. There is a definite before and after. The path you’re on now is one you couldn’t have imagined before.

The first year of widowhood is survival. The second and probably the third year is realizing that everything really has changed forever. There are no future plans with your spouse, no more dinners out, no trips, no sharing the joy of your children or grandchildren, no morning or goodnight kiss, no sharing about your day or an event you attended, an article you read, no one to remember that joke with you, the significance of a song or movie, or all the other lifetime of memories, no one at home when you pull the car into the garage . . . But even with all of that, it’s not really about being alone so much of the time, as it is a realization that no one has you. You don’t belong to anyone in the same way you belonged to him. The day on the calendar that represents your anniversary has no meaning to anyone else, you’re no one’s emergency contact, last phone call of the day when away . . . and that creates a level of loneliness that’s difficult to describe. Widows speak of isolation and loneliness and perhaps it’s this realization of no longer belonging in that special way to someone that’s a huge part of that.

What I know is that I need to allow myself to grieve the things that will never be. I’m allowed to be happy and also mourn those losses. Both are okay. All the non-death losses aren’t obstacles to overcome but rather things that need to be acknowledged and grieved as I move forward. And in the process, I’m becoming someone it never would have been possible for me to be without this loss. I can walk in faith toward the future while also missing what was and what could have been. There is a bitter sweetness to almost every aspect of life now. There are celebrations and joy, new adventures and milestones, fun and laughter, but also the recognition that the person I shared all these things with in the past is now missing. At the end of the day, I can’t tell him about any of it. There is a hole around which I create a new life. It’s like a two sided coin – missing what was and grateful for this new life and new me.

One of the last stanzas of Maya Angelou’s poem “When Great Trees Fall” says,
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored,
never to be the same,
whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be better.
For they existed.

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