Episode 26: Who am I, now?
You are listening to the Life Reconstructed podcast with me, Teresa Amaral Beshwate, grief expert, best-selling author and widow. I’m so glad you’re here because in this and every episode, I shine a light on the widowed way forward.
Hello and welcome to episode 26. In this episode, I take a close look at identity, why we so naturally question it, and I offer solutions to help.
Just a few weeks after the sudden loss of my husband, it occurred to me that my new best friends would be silence and solitude. I realized that I would need lots of both in order to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other.
It was only hours later that my brother called. He was planning a trip to Disneyland with his wife and seven- and nine-year-old daughters and wanted me to go. Needless to say, Disneyland is the opposite of silence and solitude. But he was persistent, and against my better judgment, I went.
Somewhere between Main Street USA and Mickey’s Toontown it hit me—I was completely lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Many widowed people struggle with identity. If I’m not one half of a couple, then who am I? For some, the loss of a spouse is just one of many identity-shifting events. A newly emptied nest, a retirement or career transition, or the loss of other significant family members are all seismic shifts in our identity. For some, it all happens at once.
In the middle of a book, we turn a page and start the next chapter. Turning the page doesn’t erase the story on previous pages; it simply allows the story to continue to shift and grow, building on the foundation of the previous pages.
Most widowed people would, in a heartbeat, go back to the previous chapter. Short of that, we refuse to turn the page. We argue with reality, wrestle with what is, rail against our circumstances, and end up exhausted.
We also have the choice, when we feel ready, to redirect that energy into turning the page, acknowledging a horrific life-altering plot twist, and then beginning to write. Because you have a pulse, you have a present and a future, and although it isn’t at all what you planned or hoped for, you can still decide to make the future incredibly good. You can decide that after enduring life’s absolute worst, you deserve the very best.
My experience says that the more we move forward in honor of our spouse, the clearer we become about our identity in this life after loss. We find our identity in part because of our loss. We figure it out with millions of small daily decisions, through the familiar one-step-forward-two-steps-back shuffle of grief. We choose to believe that we are a person who is figuring it out.
In that moment at the “happiest place on earth,” when I was profoundly sad, I simply decided that I was still my husband’s wife and always would be, and that I would figure out the rest in time. I’ve done that, but I’m not finished because I still have a pulse. I believe that having a pulse means having a purpose. I know that I can achieve anything I want for myself, largely because I’ve already been through the unthinkable.
I’m writing my next chapter, and I hope you are too. I hope you think of yourself as a person who is figuring it out, step by step, day by day.
And if you need help, I’m here for you. In fact, if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s released, 9/27/23, the doors close on Friday for the October session of Life Reconstructed. It’s your last chance this year to join. And if you do, you’ll face the holiday season equipped with the best tools, the expertise of a coach, and a community of people who get it. The link is in the show notes. I hope you’ll join us.
And remember that I believe in you, and I’m here for you. Take care.
If you’ve found this podcast helpful, I invite you to join Life Reconstructed, my coaching program exclusively for widowed people. It will help you step forward toward a life you will love again. Simply go to thesuddenwidowcoach.com and click work with me.