The new old me

Image of beach with the title of Good vibes only

The past week has been especially good in so many ways. Firstly, the north west of England has received some lovely and welcomed weather for me to enjoy with my family. You can’t beat a clear sky, warm sun and a breeze no stronger than a breath.

I have also started to feel different – I say different in the sense of self-change. A welcome change in ‘me’ that has happened spontaneously from out of nowhere. For the first time since Katherine passed, I’ve started to feel less dark and twisted. I have noticed the return of a few old characteristics and values in my personality.

In the last two years, I have always done my best to avoid certain ‘things’ that trigger me emotionally. Especially ‘things’ that can remind me of what I had in the past and how they make me feel now without them. The outcome of these effects can be varied in the sense of happy and sad emotions. To make this sound even stranger, these ‘trigger’ moments are a strong reminder of how my outlook was before widowhood, compared to where it is now.

My sense of humour was one of the main victims when I lost Katherine. A big part of it died when she did. I started to became quite a serious person to a certain degree. Previously, my levels of humour happened to be quite mischievous. When it came to my comedy values I never acted my age – more my shoe size. I would find some of the wackiest and childish things hilarious. Katherine being the sharp comedial type too, she used to always say to me, “it’s one of the reasons why I love you. If you didn’t make me laugh, guess what, we wouldn’t be having this conversation”.

Another adjustment was my view on people. The old me never passed judgement on others unless those affected me directly. Now, it is all about my status as a young widower amongst every other young adult in my life. Being left out of the ‘couples club’ by friends I became some sort of social misfit, I started to compare my status of separation to everyone else. I even tormented myself with people who had got divorced.

When a friend finsilised his divorce, I thought to myself, their family was no longer a tight unit and yet they could all move on. I knew he would still see his ex-partner, the other parent of their kids, the person he once loved; but when you’re widowed, that partner is just gone. When you’re divorced, you can be angry, call the other person names and maybe throw things around. But when your loved one is dead, who can you be angry at? Being a young widower was the most singular kind of displacement I have ever experienced in society. No one could understand this analytic outlook unless I talked to another widow or widower.

I also developed a judgmental view of unseparated people too. In my mind, I was very bitter towards a lot of innocent strangers. Occasionally when I was in public I would ‘people watch’ (we all do it). I would scan and spot an old couple holding hands, just walking by innocently. Judging by their age and body language, it would be obvious to me that they have been together for a long time. I would cripple myself mentally as I would visualise their history in my head. I would think of how they’ve experienced all the happy and sad moments together over a long period of time. Compared to the two years of marriage I got with Katherine.

A flood of envy would fill my mind as I’d consider the endless years of wedding anniversaries they’ve been lucky enough to celebrate as a couple. All the children they could have possibly raised together and the potential grandchildren they could immerse themselves in. Internally, this envy would slowly turn into a fit of deep dark anger and rage. I never shared these feelings and thoughts back then, why would I? Who would understand it? I felt like an outcast once grief had changed me and my outlook.

When I look at the situation that my mental outlook was in. I think it’s important for me to remember that the experience of sudden bereavement had shaped who I am, it’s inevitable due to the magnitude of shock. I honestly thought that all of these new dark traits would be here to stay, it disturbed me as this isn’t who I am. I thought my original values had been lost completely. I hadn’t been prepared to deal with what I’d lost as a person, the surreal comparison of ‘before and after’ really stunned me. I can’t quite comprehend what this stage of grief was about. I often wonder if it even is a stage of grief at all?

The entire point of what I’m sharing here is about my experience of change this past week. As well as experiencing days of sunshine with my family, I’ve also had a milestone return in the ‘old’ me. For the first time, I have started to notice parts of the ‘old’ me coming back. I have observed elements of my old sense of humour return too, just through conversation and triggers that have made me laugh and smile. My entire outlook on people, in general, doesn’t trigger any feelings of irritation, self-worry or stress anymore. They have simply disappeared.

I have thought about why this change has happened. As a person I have managed to focus on what I have achieved over the last two years. I do feel stronger than I was, even today. Maybe a part of this change is how I have observed my grief. Even though I lost a massive part of who I used to be and my self-belief. I’m going to take this as a mini victory in my grief. I have even managed to open up more and share it with my nearest and dearest.

I have decided to use this opportunity as a positive starting point to build myself back up, bit by bit. I understand it is never quite the same whatever it is we’re dealing with, when we rebuild something, but it is always stronger than before! If I can gain some strength from this point, I can stand tall for my daughter and breath deep for the life I have in front of me.

I’ve learnt that the difference in me is the difference that has allowed me to find happiness despite missing Katherine. I have a greater willingness than my ‘old’ self to embrace life, no matter what it brings. I now accept myself without criticism.

Old married couples are a sight of beauty too!

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