Letting Go of the Old Me

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On a widow’s social media group, this question was posed – do you miss the person you were when your spouse was alive? Heavy question and one I contemplated all day yesterday.

The easy and quick answer seems to be hell, yeah, I miss her. Obviously, if I was still that person, it would mean Peter was still alive and I want him alive again, more than anything. Beyond the obvious, I also knew who I was with Peter. After 32 years together, I knew our rhythm, my rhythm with him. I knew how to counter his every move and dance through life on both the smooth and rough patches. I knew the joy of making him laugh, or even smile his crooked smile. I knew the uplifting tummy bubbles I felt when I was around him, still after all our years together. I knew how much one person does not necessarily complete you, but adds to your being. I knew the security of him, of a couple. And so I knew and loved who I was with him. So yeah, I miss that person.

I miss the person who felt secure in herself. I miss the person who didn’t have reliance on others. I miss the laughter that came so easily to her because her pain came and went, never stayed. I miss the person who had the simple joy of being in the presence of a best friend. I miss the person who relished in intimacy and the touch once so prevalent in her life. I miss the confidence this person felt and maybe even exuded while knowing the future would be less scary with him in it. I miss the person who felt loved without condition, respected without thought, and understood without explanation. I miss the person who relied on the comfort and assurance of her husband, especially during these dark times where both are so needed. I miss the person who had companionship and a constant. And mostly, I miss the person who was married and all that meant including the growing old together. My quick answer is yes, I miss the person who no longer has any of these things that made her who she was, how she loved, what she accomplished.

Yet, I also have begun to learn about the woman emerging within me, out of me. Sometimes, I think I am a fraud, choosing something contrary to who I once was and it doesn’t feel comfortable or authentic. I am still in the process of trying on the different skins Life has offered to me since Peter died, and some are more pleasant than other. The uncomfortable ones are steps outside the box I lived in for so long and are uneasy by the mere newness of them. More and more though, I am surprising myself, pleasantly, on how painless decisions, actions, my slow emergence can be and those are the times I try to remember the most. Those are the times that allow me to shake off the insecurities and the agony of doing this all on my own.

The reality is my spouse is dead. Because of his death, I had to develop and allow the surfacing of a person coping without him. In the process, I have grown other parts of this emerging person I would miss. I would miss the self-reliant person, the person who has learned to make decisions without feedback or compromise. I would miss the new, unique confidence this person has developed, separate from opinions and boosts from other. I would miss the person who has become proficient in rising after each fall, and has become competent in catching herself with each stumble. I would miss the talks of ‘you got this’ with herself, and the strains on the shoulders with each needed pat on the back she gave herself. I would miss the way her mind works as she navigates, alone, through murky and dark roads. I would miss a growth different from what she ever experienced, ever knew possible. And I would miss the opportunities, the examples of strength and perseverance she hopes she is giving her children. I would miss this person emerging in the absence of her husband.

Peter was a great guy. I don’t really no anybody who had a beef with him, disliked him, or spoke ill of him. He was a great husband, friend, lover and father. There is so much to miss about him and who I was with him. Yet I know he would be proud of the person I am becoming, the person he may have known I always had in me. Or perhaps the person he never saw coming, yet would enjoy.

Here’s the thing. With or without Peter, the core of me has not changed. I am still Betsy, the gal with a million opinions, a wacky sense of humor, a very active brain, and a forever love for Peter. With or with out him, that core of me will remain. Aspects of me are not the same as the old me and that’s okay. I can miss the old me, and I do. But I won’t, I can’t, let my longing for her impede the progress of the person I have become as I emerge without him. I have to let go of who I was with him, in order to grow who I am to become without him because for the rest of my life, I will be without him.

And so, I guess my final response to the question do I miss the person I was when Peter was alive is not a simple one, or a quick one, but an honest one. Sometimes, yes, but most times, I am too busy figuring out what and who I will become.