Life after loss is weird.
Nothing is the way it was supposed to be. For a long time – years, in fact – nothing felt familiar or comfortable or right about my life after the deaths of my fiancé and my daughter.
To be perfectly honest and blunt, in those early years, everything simply felt fucked up.
Nothing had gone as planned.
Nothing was as I expected it to be.
I wasn’t the wife and mother I wanted to be.
I was nothing. Who I was and the life I was supposed to be living was lost in a sea of grief and confusion and not-right-ness.
At least, that’s how it felt.
Everything was moving along as expected. Then suddenly in an instant, everything normal and familiar and right was gone.
Life was irrevocably changed. I was undeniably and unequivocally altered.
I spent a lot of years stumbling around wondering,
“Who the hell is this person I’ve become?”
And other questions like:
What is this life I’m living?
Will I ever feel normal again?
Will I ever feel like me again?
Who am I supposed to be now?
I hadn’t just lost my beloved partner and our daughter, their deaths had killed who I was as well. The woman, the partner, the mother I had been – and would have become – was no longer. She died along with them.
People talk about “getting back to normal” after loss and death. Like somehow, once the funerals or memorials are finished and everyone around us goes back to their day-to-day life, somehow we’ll suddenly revert to our old selves as if nothing happened.
That’s fantasyland, folks. It isn’t going to happen.
After years of trying to be the pre-loss me that people wanted to me to “get back to,” I finally realized she didn’t exist anymore. She was a memory and she lived only in the memories of my fiancé and daughter.
I couldn’t get back to her again. I had to find a way to be familiar and comfortable and at ease with post-loss me, the me I was now.
I didn’t want to be her, post-loss me. I didn’t want make peace with my post-loss life. I didn’t want anything to do with the unexpected, unplanned ruins of a woman that had been forced upon me by death and grief.
But she was all I had.
And, try as I might, I couldn’t get away from her. She was me now. I was her.
I had to learn to love her as much as I loved the me I was supposed to be with my fiancé and our daughter.
There are things I love about post-loss me. The me I am post-loss is strong and fierce, compassionate and loving, determined and driven, motivated and generous. She lives more fully and more intentionally than the me I used to be. She doesn’t take love or life or ordinary moments for granted. Post-loss me is more grateful than pre-loss me.
There are also things I’m not such a fan of in post-loss me. I’m more anxious and insecure, more stubborn and impulsive. Post-loss me has a harder time trusting life to be safe or supportive. Post-loss me is not a fan of surprises or unexpected changes.
Some days I miss the innocence and simplicity of my pre-loss self so much it aches. Other days she feels so far away I can barely remember who she was, let alone what it was to be her.
I think it surprises people when I say that one of the hardest parts of having my family die isn’t just mourning the loss of them – it’s also mourning of loss of myself. No one tells us about the aspect of grief that includes the confusion and chaos of trying to find a sense of yourself in the midst of grief and longing and utter devastation.
I can’t say, even after all these years, that I am completely enamored with my post-loss self. At times, I still experience some bitter resentment that I don’t get to be the wife and mother I expected to be – that I don’t get to be the woman who hasn’t lost her innocence and carefree outlook to death and grief.
But, more and more I’m learning to embrace my post-loss self. I’m learning to love her – with all her imperfections, flaws, and neuroses. And for all her grit, her fierceness, and amazingness too.
The truth is that post-loss me is very different from pre-loss me. I’m finally learning to see that both me’s were worthy and beautiful and deserving of all the beauty life has to offer.
And post-loss me is finally feeling normal and familiar and comfortable. Seeing her in the mirror in the morning no longer surprises or momentarily confuses me.
She is who I am, and I get to be her because of the love, life, and losses that pre-loss me experienced. She carries pre-loss me inside of her – in the memories of love and joy and family that not even death can take away.