Judith Viorst in her book "Necessary Losses," raises a distinction in regard to the death of a spouse as differing from that of another loved one. She explains that when a spouse dies, an entire way of life is also taken from the survivor and that in itself becomes another death to surmount.
I really identified with this description, it just rings so true with me and my experience. Right now I see my life as one of having to be totally reinvented by myself from the ground up. It is as though I am emerging from the womb naked and at this point everything necessary for my survival has to be provided by me. In a way, I am now serving as a parent to myself.
I lost every aspect of my previous life with the exception of my education which I've always believed can never be taken from you. My financial cushion is shattered, the home to provide some of that financial security is gone, I've lost my social network, I don't have a career or job in keeping with my interests, skills or educational level, the absence of emotional love, support and connection that was the heart and soul of my marriage has left me bitter, hopeless and drained.
Here I am at 51 needing to undertake a total rebuilding of my life for all levels and aspects and I don't seemingly have the strength, energy or even desire to do so right now. I'm exhausted from the years of sorrow and the constant getting up and facing the day on my own. At 51 I'm not sure anymore how much my depression, anxiety and exhaustion stem from my age and the beginnings of menopause or actual grief. Why does it have to be one or the other? Maybe I am suffering from both!
I thought the other day that I probably have a good 20 years left in the work place where I can be productive to others and derive some meaning and satisfaction for myself. I need to make a concerted effort to seek employment in my field and to regain my qualifications which are outdated.
But I admit I am utterly overwhelmed by the prospect of having to reinvent myself at so many levels, from the ground up while being naked! I don't know where to start and my fear combines with me just not doing anything. I lack a plan - I don't even know how to make a plan on a course of action. There seems to be too much to do and everything to do all at the same time. Do I focus more on one specific aspect or goal or try to work on them evenly at the same time? Having a better job would improve the financial end of life but having a better social support system would make it easier for me to focus on my work life.
I feel in similar ways to that of myself as a college student. I had a tough time figuring out what to concentrate on and ended up getting my BA with the 5-year plan because I'd changed my major so often. But at least back then I felt the support of family and friends behind me. I knew if I made a mistake and failed there would be a place for me to go and guidance in helping me figure out the next step. Now I am in the position of trying to guide my sons to the best of my ability and figure out this new personal path and I am feeling crushed under the pressure and responsibility.
I know that the optimistic thinkers and doers out there can to point to this as an opportunity for great growth and potential. Like those speeches you'd hear about being able to accomplish your dreams and aspirations. But I tell you, I didn't have any clue ahead of time that this would become the new state and reality of my life. Around me others are thinking about retirement and relaxation. It is a rude awakening to be plunged into a world where what you knew and are familiar with has been stripped away. I need to work at a better job simply to survive and assist my boys with their college educations. I don't have a choice. And rather than inspire me to more greatness, that in and of itself isn't a motivator. I'm being forced to survive whereas before in my old life, decisions I made were based on what I wanted to do on my terms. Kind of like now being forced at gun point to keep trudging forward, rather than do so willingly. It does make a difference.
Sitting here and brooding about all of this gets me nowhere. I suppose in the end, whatever step I end up taking, in whatever direction it is going, is one small step toward the future and going forward and an improvement from stagnating in my current fear and indecision. "Take a step. Any step. Take a chance, any chance and see where it leads and what comes of it."