“Discovering the Real Me!” by Sheryl Gehrls
|Principle #4: In becoming a widow, I experienced a profound loss of identity. I am no longer a “We” but am learning to live as an “I”. To facilitate that journey of self-discovery, I choose to explore my own preferences and interests, and find what my new roles will be. I choose to not be defined by my loss, but rather to build confidence in who “I” am.
“I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well.” – Psalms 139:14
Who am I? Isn’t that a question I should be asking when I’m 16 rather than at this age or season of life? But suddenly here I am on the threshold of a life that’s completely different than anything I’ve ever known! Refocusing Principle #4 of Refocusing Widows takes a look at a dilemma facing every widow at some point.
Most widows spend many years adapting and molding to the preferences of a husband. Many times, widows over 60 have never lived on their own. They came into marriage with the expectation of making the two into one! Let’s talk about that for a moment. Is your home decorated the way you want it? What is your personal style? Guess what! You can have a pink bedroom full of ruffles and feminine things if you want! Do you buy the groceries that you like, or are you still buying and cooking things that your husband preferred? One widow bought a cart full of groceries, and when she reached the checkout, she realized she was only purchasing what her husband always liked! You can buy any furniture you like, and you can cook any food that you want to! Have you always wanted a red convertible? You can get one….if you have the money, of course!!
This is not to imply that the relationship was burdensome. It only means that marriage is truly about compromise, in a good way! For many years, I thought and acted and lived as half of a “We”. Now I find myself in the strange position of having to learn all over how to live as an “I”. There’s something about that new freedom that causes a twinge of guilt that I’m paying attention to me and what I like! Does it feel a bit like betrayal to redecorate the house? Or maybe you even sell it and buy a different one! Do you feel disloyal to his memory if you change things, or buy things he wouldn’t have, or take a trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?
My point in all this is to say that sometimes we can completely change our perspective on something by just framing it a different way. The pain of having our spouse gone will never quite go away, but we don’t have to dwell there. Instead of pondering on everything we’ve lost, we can reframe it into thinking about everything that’s possible now that wasn’t previously an option! Through a time of painful loss, we’ve actually gained opportunities to grow and reshape our lives into something completely new and different.
Beginning a journey of self-discovery and personal growth can be one of the most challenging and exhilarating things that you’ll ever do. You have before you the opportunity to reinvent yourself and to decide what this next season of life will look like. Start this process by simply being aware of what brings you joy. What makes you smile? What makes you feel life again? What would you like to change if you could? Maybe make some small (or big) changes to your home. Or get a new haircut (or color). Or go shopping for some new additions to your wardrobe. Or maybe plan five days of meals that are your own personal favorites.
As you begin to explore what this new season looks like, God will give you inspiring ideas. He will bring people and situations into your life that will spark new bits of joy and life into your heart again. One of the best pieces of advice I received when Dave died was from a friend who said, “Pay attention to the people God brings into your life during this season.” They bring new ideas and opportunities and things I’ve never considered doing – or even thinking!
Our Heavenly Father has a path laid out ahead of us that is once again full of joy and peace. He knew us even before we were and created each of us as a unique, wonderful individual. As you become aware of what you enjoy and what speaks life to you again, you will find your heart aligning with His and once again living a joy-filled, thriving life.
Your thoughts and experiences with this area of being a widow are always welcome! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to subscribe to this blog.