Finding a new identity

By Robin Thomson . Published 2020-09-28
BOLD-Living
Robin talks of letting go

“I was married to Shoko… but I am not any longer... what I have had will not be taken away… but I have to let go.”

That was my lesson at the time of our wedding anniversary (it would have been our 50th). But what did ‘letting go’ mean. Forgetting or denying the past?

I was invited, a few weeks later, to a seminar on bereavement. One of the speakers showed us that ‘letting go’ of the person (or career, or place, or pet…) that we have lost involves questions like Can I carry on living without….? Can I bear the intense emotions? Can I deal with nostalgia and memories? Can I become the person who lives successfully without…?

I found myself asking ‘Do I want to become that person? I would rather live with the one who has gone…’

As if in answer to my question, the speaker explained there has to be a significant re-ordering of one’s internal world. We need to live in the present and future, while still honouring the past. All three are important. We relate to our sadness and acknowledge it, but invest our energy in this new world that we find ourselves in, even though we didn’t ask for it.

Who could understand the sadness, and the hope, better than friends who were similarly bereaved?
“My experience, like yours, is that the second year is harder than the first. We realise the scale of our loss,” wrote a friend as we both marked two years of bereavement. But she didn’t want to dwell on the sadness: “I am happiest when doing things [he] would have liked… God has been very merciful to us in giving us a good marriage and a comforting family.”

“Looking through letters and other things that remind of happy times can often accentuate the loss we now feel, at least, that’s my experience,” wrote another. “It’s good to remember that we have experienced that special married love… but it does not take away from something that is missing now.”

It’s still early days for us. Another friend lost her husband (our close family friend) nine years ago: “I am not sure whether the loss gets easier over the years. It is different, less acute and one learns to live with the unexpected memory jolts. I do find it easier now to see behind the last difficult patch and remember the many, many good bits.”

Acknowledging the sadness, as well as the joy: a good way of honouring the past. Their letters are an encouragement to me. What about the present and future? I am privileged to have children and grandchildren, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces, and their children. They are definitely my present and future (as well as much of my past). So I want to invest in those relationships.

My engagement with friends, both old and new, and with projects (like writing for The Bold Age) are ways of continuing to invest.

I miss the one who has gone, intensely. But perhaps I am finding my way to my new identity – some of the time.

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