Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Self-Image

I started referring and identifying myself as Middle in the Widow shortly after my husband died. I was picking produce from an apple bin when my hand brushed past that of an elderly woman shopping in the store with a group of residents from a nearby retirement facility. It struck me then as I observed the prominent veins in her hand that she was most likely a widow. And so was I. But so much younger. Still, I was not like a very young widow with babies to raise on my own. I was right smack dab in the middle of widowhood. A middle-aged widow, a widow in the middle. This title seemed an apt and appropriate way for me to describe and identify myself.

Since that time, six years ago, I've added to my identity by remarrying and then going through the excruciating experience of divorce. Even when I was married, a large part of me continued to identify with my widowhood. I looked upon myself as a remarried widow. There wasn't much opportunity for me to live a new life as a remarried, formerly widowed, middle-aged soccer mom. Because of my parent's illnesses I never moved to live with my new husband and he and I had a long-distance marriage - he stayed with us on the weekends and the boys and I spent holidays and school vacations with him.

When I started this blog I identified with myself as more strongly a widow. But things have become more complicated for me as I have worked to also heal from the divorce. There are these differing grief forces working beside themselves. One involves the death of my husband, another involves the divorce and the feelings of abandonment that resulted. Sometimes I need to focus and write about one or the other. Sometimes both sets of grief are combined. It has been a unique experience to say the least, posting about both events in my life and trying to go forward and make some sort of sense or reach some kind of closure/understanding to all that has happened. Then the old family stuff comes up too rearing its ugly head in between all of the newer stuff to process and deal with.

It is also weird to sometimes feel as though I am an old pro at widowhood since it has been six years, but then to feel all the emotions of being a new widow, especially if I am all caught up in the more recent divorce. I have also come to realize that some of the healing I needed to attend to regarding my husband's death got pushed to the back burner because the unresolved abuse and neglect from my childhood that took center stage shortly after he died.

When my parents were ill and we were handling their affairs, all kinds of long buried ghosts came to the surface. I personally had a very difficult time with all of this new turbulence, probably because I was still raw from my husband's death. I did not have the insight or strength to say no to helping my parents in the ways I did. I did what I thought I should do, the ever dutiful daughter to my mom. But at a great price to pay. I did not take care of myself or my children adequately or fairly. And my new husband was less than understanding or patient. I was having trouble managing and handling my own life and at times it was insane caring for my mother. There was a great deal of sacrifice and heartache surrounding this time.

All of these events have swirled around and around separately and then mixed together until they've represented a yucky looking, unappetizing stew thrown together of left-overs. What a mess! If I could compose a photo of how all this grief and loss actually looks like to me this is what it would be.

Today my identity has shifted. It is a broader view than that original description of widowhood. Today I view myself as a survivor of childhood abuse, middle-aged widowhood and divorce. A survivor of many different kinds of grief, loss and challenges. I don't want this to sound like I am bragging or deserve some kind of extra sympathy. There are others out there who have faced greater losses and challenges than I could ever imagine. This place where I have now come to doesn't feel as gaping and insurmountable. It seems survivable. That constant bleeding wound finally is slowing down a bit from the bandages I have applied.


  1. You are healing--slow BUT SURE and...that is a good thing. I don't suppose we ever lose the memories that come to the surface...memories of an abusive chilhood, marriage or whatever abuse was dealt to us, but after awhile, it goes back further in our isn't in the forefront on an everyday basis. That is a good thing too. Keep going forward, you are doing good.

  2. Jude - Thank you for your words of wisdom I cherish them because I know they are from the heart and from one who has also been there. I am sending you a cyber hug.