I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN GET UP!

When I was a teenager I would look forward to the coming school year with new books, pencils, erasers, and the whole schmear. I would go to class, write in my new books, but when I had one mistake, it was over. I was the best little girl in the world and had to be perfect. I couldn't just toss it off. I had to start again.

I feel that way about grief. I walk along on my journey of grief but the stumbling blocks along the way hit me like a ton of bricks. It can be watching a movie; it can be seeing lovers kissing on the street; it can even be just hearing a piece of music we both loved. These blocks in the road make me stumble and fall into a pool of tears.

I have recently noticed that my imagery is changing. Perfectionism is falling by the wayside. I am learning from the skaters who fall in competition that I can move on and ignore my foibles. I can find a way through my heartache and pull myself up to move on. I don't have to be perfect. I can stumble a bit but still get up and move on.

But, my defenses are down and my protector is gone. I was married at 23 so basically I was never alone. I moved from my parents to Peter who was the best protector and unconditional lover ever. I never got to understand my own worth and value which is not a bad thing. Peter loved me for who I was. I was cherished for being me. But now that he is gone, I have to learn to love and cherish myself. This discovery is a journey in itself.

Finding one's self-identity after a loss of this magnitude is a voyage of exploration. There is no longer reflection in one's lover's eyes for confirmation. There is no longer anyone to laugh at your jokes. Gone are the days of snuggling in bed and laughing at sitcoms or crying at dramas. There is an identity vacuum that follows loss. Those caught in the wake of grief are often vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy and decomposing self-esteem. You have to value what is good in yourself and forgive all your wrongdoings. You have to be the skater in the Olympic finals who has fallen but wants to finish with dignity. Reformulating your self-identity takes bravery, exploration, and of course time.

Slowly, and very carefully, I am taking baby steps on my journey of self-discovery. My concentration for reading is shot, but I can listen to audio books, which makes my car trips and walks more comforting. I can Uber to a party, knowing I can have more than one glass of Sauvignon Blanc safely. I still can't go to a movie on my own, but I can watch Downton Abbey with pleasure at home. I can watch awards show on the phone with friends, dishing on the schmatas with relish. But, Peter is no longer there to kvell over how I look before I leave the house so my journey is now about "self-kvelling" or at lease observing myself in the mirror and saying "not bad for an old broad?"

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