Just after the loss of a spouse, we are often absolutely certain that we will never be happy again. Even if it felt remotely possible, being happy again would feel like an insult to our beloved. Fully immersed in the darkness of grief, it is hard to think about the future or what it might bring.
For a younger widow, comments like, “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,” are paralyzing and frightening. The possibility of happiness is nowhere on the radar. But even if you’re in your 60s, 70s, or beyond, the loss of a spouse can put a stop to daily activities and bring depression.
Will you be happy again? Yes, but it will be a different version of you who will be differently happy. The you that was happily part of a couple, the you who knew happiness as a spouse, does not exist now.
That former version of happy you once enjoyed has unfortunately reached its expiration date. Which, in a way, honors your spouse, the time you spent together, and who you were as a couple.
The two of you – unique individuals who came together to form a unique couple – can never be reproduced. You can choose to see this as a good thing, as it sets that relationship in a place of honor – precious and irreplaceable.
That version of you is a thing of the past for another reason. That version of you didn’t yet know the death of your spouse.
That version had never been plunged into complete darkness, never experienced soul-shattering sadness, never felt the incredible weight of grief perched on the chest, making it impossible to draw a deep breath.
That version of you perhaps didn’t know the value of every precious moment, and how quickly everything can change. That version of you may have been so busy pleasing others that she didn’t make time for what mattered most.
Perhaps she let life’s little annoyances get in the way. Maybe work took precedence over relationships. Perhaps she wasn’t fully present in her own life.
Maybe now you wouldn’t even recognize that former version of you. And for good reason, because she is no more. She stopped existing the day her world stopped turning. And in the very next moment, a new version began forming.
The formation of the new you is a messy, unpredictable, and painful process. The age-old advice, “don’t make any major decisions while grieving,” comes at a time when you are required to make constant decisions.
You struggle with identity, guilt, self-doubt, self-judgement, and insecurity while the people around you offer well-intended yet unhelpful things.
You can’t read even a short paragraph and understand it, yet you must get back to work. In your free time, you must figure out how to survive on one income and identify what foods you can actually digest, all while willing your heart to beat.
The microscopic bit of energy you might feel in the morning is long gone by noon, and the grief train seems to come out of nowhere and mow you down at unpredictable and inconvenient times.
You navigate your year of firsts with equal amounts of dread and sadness, and you realize that every single holiday comes with an extra dose of sorrow because of your associated memories and traditions.
All the while, the only certainty (aside from knowing you’ll never feel happiness again) is that you’re screwing everything up, including – and especially – your kids.
Then one day you realize that the current version of you is who she is because of that messy, painful, uncertain time. In sheer darkness, she was shaped into a new being. Not in spite of grief, but because of it.
Did you know that dragonflies spend the early part of their lives crawling around in the darkness of ponds? Only once they’ve grown enough do they transform, spread their wings, and fly.
The dragonfly version of you is also transformed in darkness. This version knows the power of being present in each moment. She is a careful editor of what she allows in her life, of what consumes her energy.
She prioritizes herself and her family, because she left the people-pleasing habit behind in her old life. She doesn’t allow herself to be affected by life’s little annoyances, because by comparison to the day her world stopped turning, there aren’t many bad days.
When sadness comes, she’s brave enough to feel that feeling rather than run from it. She knows that she can do anything because she’s been through the unimaginable. She survived, and now she is ready to thrive.
Which event in your life marked the end of the old you? Do you agree that loss creates a divide between your former self and current self? What does your dragonfly transformation look like? Is happiness possible again after the loss of a spouse? Please share with our community!