Everything is familiar. But everything is strange.
I live in the same house. But it doesn’t feel like home. I have watched this show. But it now seems different. I’ve sat at my table a hundred times. But I now feel like a visitor. My bed is my own – with indentations fashioned from my own body. But it’s now cold and impersonal. I’ve sat in the quiet of my living room. But it’s never been so loud. I go run familiar errands, but someone else controls my body.
The plans for the future had been made. But now they’re shredded and blown away with the wind. I converse with the same people I’ve always known, but I don’t feel like the same person. I may do the same hobbies, but I can’t quite shake the unnerving feeling I am crossing over into what is no longer mine and it casts a pall over my enjoyment.
It’s all familiar. But nothing is the same.
The most puzzling emotion in widowhood is feeling like a stranger in your own life. The feeling of “home” is now a foreign concept. You can almost watch yourself going through the motions, but feel utterly detached from it all.
Even the most routine things now bear an unrecognizable scent. Many things are the same. And yet, nothing is. I’m like a transplant, thrust into an alternate reality.
It takes years to filter through all the residual change. It’s not just life that has changed. I, also, have changed.
There are facets of my life that remain the same, but no longer fit with the new me. There are facets of my life that remain and can blend with the “me” that I’m becoming.
There are parts of who I am that fit with my old life, but no longer fit with my new. There are parts of me that still fit and are morphing to adjust to my new life.
There are so many nooks, so many crannies, so many details, so many pieces of who I am and what my life was that I must sort through, give up, redefine and reforge. It’s a lot of work.
During this long, arduous adjustment, I am left feeling like an actress cast into the wrong show, arriving at the wrong set, confused with where I fit.
It’s not just a simple act of moving forward. Moving forward insinuates continuing. If only it were so simple as to just take another step on the path I was on. But that is impossible. Grief isn’t so simple. Widowhood isn’t moving forward. It’s actually starting over.
My life is no longer my life. I am no longer me. I cannot move forward because the future I had is no longer there. I must shift, dunk, crouch, retreat, crawl, go around, sidestep, jump over, and many other verbs to find my new path before I can function in the simplistic “move forward” motion.
As an amputee must relearn some of life’s most simple acts, like tying a shoe or walking, so must a widow/er. Simple things like balancing the bank account, shopping at the grocery store, cooking, daily conversation, and other such things, all tilt on their axis. Social activities become a huge undertaking that take years to relearn because everything about us has changed or is changing. Our purpose in life must be redefined. Goals are forced to change. House maintenance must become second nature where it wasn’t before. Hobbies are often cursed with too many heartstrings and we are left to forge new ones. Our self-identity was stolen, and we must take the leftover pieces and try to form a new picture.
Yet, one of the single most important aspects of healing I’ve seen for myself is the willingness to create that new life. To Redefine. To Remold. To Relearn. As painful as it is to let go of the things that summarized “us,” it is necessary to begin letting go so the “me” can emerge. It is part of healing. It is part of forming a new existence.
There is nothing more confusing than feeling like a stranger in my own life. And so, healing necessitates the formation of “new.” A new that I can sink my roots into again. A new I can accept with its new definitions, new goals, new capabilities. A new me.
So I can feel at home in my life once again.