Have you ever stood in front of a mirror and wondered who the heck was staring back at you? You had become a stranger to yourself…no longer recognizing the person you’d become. This was exactly what had happened to me about a year after my husband, Andy, died. That first year after his death, I had been switched to auto pilot and set on survival mode. Allowing only my friends and family to hold me together enough to get through each day, each hour, each minute without completely falling apart and somehow I thought that meant I was moving forward. In reality I felt emotionally stuck in pool of quick sand unable to pull myself out, which gives a whole new meaning to burying your head in the sand. I’m guessing, in the event your entire body is submerged in the sand, that it may bring you to a state of denial, avoidance, anger, shame, or maybe regret and that is a very toxic place to be. So yes I was in fact stuck and the only person to get me out was ME.
From the outside looking in, I believe many had misinterpreted my ability to accomplish every day tasks as strength and the ability to move forward. Don’t get me wrong…I accomplished a lot in year one and I most certainly had a lot to be thankful for. I paid off all our debt, purchased a home, sent my son off to kindergarten, played general contractor during our home remodel, a family member moved in and out of our home, took a couple of trips, survived the traditional holidays, watched my oldest daughter recover from a major surgery, and at the end of the day I was left standing there with people judging me. I don’t mean that in a bad way, because many people assumed that in order to get through everything I had since Andy’s death that I must’ve been a strong person, so I was left to feeling as though I was on an island while people went back to their normal lives (as they rightfully should have). Others may have thought that I should’ve been there for others grieving when in reality I couldn’t even be there for myself. What they didn’t realize is that I was fragile and broken without the ability to ease the pain of anyone other than myself. In their eyes this somehow made me a terrible mother (I guess because I was in survival mode NOT rescue mode) and unworthy of their presence in my family’s life (my therapist really loves me lol).
I convinced myself that we had been abandoned and that I needed people to have peace and joy in my life. I’m not at all saying that the love and support we received wasn’t needed because it most certainly was. But what I am trying to say is that at the end of the day when I felt all alone the walls around me began crumbling. It was there, lying in that pile of rubble with tears streaming down my face, where I cried out and God lovingly gave me a swift kick in the pants to remind me that he was there by my side all along. All that I needed to do was trust in him. He reached out his hand and pulled me up and as I turned around I was facing the bathroom mirror and saw a total stranger staring back at me. ‘Who ARE you and what happened to Erin?!’, I was thinking in my scrambled widow brain. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore and amidst this identity crisis I knew it was time to figure out who I was, what I wanted, and how I was going to get there and with that an opportunity for a clean slate. There was an infinite whiteboard that now spanned the universe in front of me and all I needed to do was take a step forward, pick up the marker and write.
“You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” ~Philippians 4:13
3 thoughts on “Identity Crisis”
Erin…first and foremost I am so sadden by the shocking news I just read, I had no idea that you went through something so traumatic, I truly am so sorry for your loss. Andy was a wonderful man! Secondly THANK YOU, your article somehow brought peace to me at a moment that I needed it most. I really do not like to share my feelings about the losses I have suffered, but somehow I can feel your pain releasing as you were writing. So many feelings so many regrets and hopes for the future that you will now need to re-direct or have already. Even though we have people (kiddos) that depend on us for not only financial support they also depend on us for emotional support, and that support is the hardest to give when you feel like an empty shell just floating along the sea of life. Going with the flow not really feeling anything, sadness, anger, Love…even for the ones that need us the most. The sleepless nights, the days that you don’t even remember driving to work or driving home after a day that was filled completely with shadows of people around you. To come home and tomorrow do it all again. Looking in the mirror, as you said, is not something I have done yet, I don’t know the person looking back at me and every day that passes I forget the happy carefree person that this being has consumed in what seems to be an eternal spiral of casacading dry tears, I have even lost the ability to cry when crying is appropriate. It is only when I hear or see something that strikes that cord deep in my heart that the musical waterfall begins…the two times in the past 7 years that has happened I have snapped at myself and said we don’t have time for that, life is waiting and needs to be attended to. When Erin, in fact we do need those days, to release the anger, the pain, the regret of not saying the things that we truly felt…I do not have a “higher power” that I believe in anymore. Maybe that is my problem, who knows, but I do know that you have prompted more feelings in the past 10 min than I have felt in the past decade! And for that, I thank you!
Thank YOU for sharing that! You are amazing and you will find what you are looking for soon enough. I know it’s painful, but I’m so glad you got to feel again. That is just the start.
Reading your blog brings me to a place I rarely let myself go. Thank you for being so brave to write such beautiful, raw and truthful parts to your story. ❤️