The widowed community generally spends a lot of time talking about how much late spouses are missed. Not only is this completely and totally normal, it is also a welcome catharsis and a necessary factor in moving through the grieving process.
But in the midst of missing your spouse...do you ever miss you?
I know I miss me.
Or rather...Pre-Widow Carole.
Sometimes I really miss her.
I miss the person I was before an evil illness invaded our home, settled in and commandeered our lives; the most unwelcome of houseguests imaginable.
I miss the person I was before that evil stole a husband and father away from his family.
The person I was before darkness cloaked and enveloped us.
Pre-Widow Carole was a lot of fun...even occasionally frivolous.
She was fun and flirty and laughed easily and loudly.
She ate pizza for breakfast, made people laugh and wondered what she was going to wear to go out on Friday night.
She was the "fun mom".
She trusted people readily and implicitly, for no one had ever before given her any real reason not to.
(...except for certain idiot ex-boyfriends -- but that's another story.)
Pre-Widow Carole had a lot more patience; with everything and everyone, with tiny little annoyances and great big crises.
She was not afraid of life or love or much of anything.
Pre-Widow Carole was indeed...pretty cool.
Then Post-Widow Carole showed up.
And at first, I didn't like her very much.
She was not a lot of fun to be around.
Not. At. All.
The frivolity and the lightness had completely disappeared.
Laughter was rare.
It seemed like Post-Widow Carole complained a lot -- about pretty much everything.
She was an embittered woman; stung by the abandonment and betrayal of many of those previously mentioned people she once trusted so implicitly.
Post-Widow Carole did not seem to have much patience anymore -- for anything. A lengthy red signal light, a long line at the grocery checkout...it didn't take much to set her off on a profanity-filled rant.
And Post-Widow Carole is always afraid.
Never one to worry needlessly and making fun of those who did, Post-Widow Carole seems to now worry constantly. About all things large and small.
Letting her (adult) daughters out of her sight.
One of the cats sleeping too much.
What people say.
What people think.
Who might die next.
All in all, Post-Widow Carole seemed like one great big drag on everything and everyone around her.
And then I took another good look at Post-Widow Carole.
I looked past all the not-so-great stuff (which was and is all true) and examined a few other things about Post-Widow Carole that differ from Pre-Widow Carole.
Post-Widow Carole had cared for and buried a husband...and somehow managed to survive and rebuild from the emotional and financial devastation of it all.
This Carole helped her daughter find her way through her own darkness and back into the light of a childhood that had been postponed for years.
Post-Widow Carole is stronger than Pre-Widow Carole ever thought she could be. She offers a steely resolve that lets the world around her know that it might knock her down...but she will never stay down.
This Carole will never cut-and-run when the going gets tough and the people closest to her can rely on that certainty without any doubts.
Post-Widow Carole does not trust quite as readily or implicitly as Pre-Widow Carole once did, because abandonment and betrayal are difficult and unwelcome experiences. However, difficult and unwelcome experiences are generally disguises for life lessons from which we can all learn and benefit. More importantly, Post-Widow Carole still believes in the inherent good in people and as a result, now counts many new, loving and wonderful friendships that will last a lifetime.
She learned to leave bitterness behind, because bitterness gnaws away at the soul and drains energy that is better spent elsewhere in positive and productive ways.
She embraced the fact that the reason she is so anxious and afraid of losing loved ones is because anxiety and fear is the cost of loving passionately and deeply. And she realized how lucky she is to have that kind of love in her life - with her family, with her children...
With a wonderful man who turned out to be a shining beacon in the darkness.
Post-Widow Carole learned what is worth fighting about and over - and when to simply walk away.
And life got a lot easier.
I realize that because I am now a completely different person than I was pre-widowhood, some of that post-widow stuff is not going to change.
My patience level is still pretty low.
I am still almost irrationally afraid of losing someone that I desperately love.
And a "negative" will always affect me more than it should - regardless of how, from whom or from where that negative originates.
I suppose that in some ways, I will always miss Pre-Widow Carole; for I will never again be that person.
But all in all...Post-Widow Carole isn't so bad.
In fact, she's kind of cool too.
So what about you?
What do you miss about Pre-Widowed You?
And what do you love about Post-Widowed You?
It is OK to miss Pre-Widowed You and the life that you had before you lost your beloved. Why wouldn't you?
But you must also realize that you cannot go through the widowhood experience and not be changed forever.
You are not the same person anymore. You can't be. It is impossible.
Look in the mirror and take a look at who is staring back at you.
I mean REALLY look.
I know that you either are experiencing or have experienced some of the worst pain that you will ever realize. I know that pain. I did that pain.
But I also strongly encourage you to truly embrace Post-Widowed You.
Strength that you did not realize you had.
New relationships that you have welcomed.
The life into which you are learning to move forward.
Embrace Post-Widowed You.
Because I know that Post-Widowed You is someone whom I would like to embrace - if for no other reason than to let you know that while Pre-Widowed You may be gone forever...
Post-Widowed You is pretty cool too.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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