Who Am I Now?

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Personal identity is a big part of our grief work. When my first wife died, I really struggled with being single again: who was I now without her? I had to redefine and struggle with this new me. For 25 years, I was a husband. In conversations with strangers, the question would often come up, “So are you married?” I would have to tell the story. I was single and I was trying to understand what that meant. I didn’t like my new identity as a single person. I was missing my wife.

When I counsel seniors whose spouse has died after 40, 50 and sometimes 60 years of marriage, this new identity is even more difficult to sort out.

If you are one of them, know that you are special. By virtue of your long marriage you have been grafted together with your spouse in a wonderful and beautiful way that has made you who you are right now.

You life shared is still part of you. It always will be. Don’t forget that as you show the world who you are today.

 

Finding Community

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I played a lot of sports growing up and I coached a lot of athletic teams. Team sports were often about establishing a solid community.

Good coaching always involves the participation of all the team members. The best coaches know how to bring a team together when things are not going as well as planned. Sometimes, a game is lost because of a missed breakaway the last minute of a hockey game or an intercepted pass that results in a last second successful lay up in a basketball game. A team sport means that every member is important. Nevertheless, sometimes one member of the team has trouble playing a new position and they need extra support and coaching.

Research consistently indicates that belonging to a supportive and healthy community helps people to adapt following loss.

It has often been said that our heads and emotions are like a bad neighborhood:  we shouldn’t go there alone.

We all need people in our lives and this is never truer than when we are transitioning through our loss. Whether it is a small group of friends with whom we get together or a large community that we are involved with, it is crucial to healthy grieving.

What community do you belong to? If you don’t have a community, why not seek one out today?

 

Who Will Sharpen My Knives?

knifesHer husband died. She was devastated. They had been married for over 50 years. They were a sweet and precious couple who loved each other so very much. And then cancer came and interrupted their life and he died.

I went to see her one morning, two weeks after the funeral. We shared some beautiful stories about her husband. Tears were shed. Yet even through the tears there were brief bursts of laughter as we remembered him in our conversation.

“I know you must miss so many things about your husband. Can you tell me one thing that you’ll especially miss that is on your mind right now?” I asked.

“I know this sounds selfish,” she began, “but I wonder whose going to change my summer tires to winter tires and who is going to sharpen my knifes now? Lawrence had always done that,” she continued. And then she started to cry.

I knew that her tears were deeper than knives or tires, but these were symbols of adjustments to a new life that she would have to make without him. She was a senior and together they had worked out how they would live together and what roles each one played in their relationship. And now, things were different. She felt that everything was on her shoulders now.

“How about we find someone to do those things for you?” I said to her. “We can help you find the people and then, next year, you will be able to tackle those kinds of decisions on your own.” “That would be great!” she said. “It would really take some big things off my mind,” a hint of a smile on her lips.

You can help a grieving person adjust just by being sensitive to the little things that loss has brought into their “new” life.