When you have been in a relationship for a long time, a huge part of you is invested in that relationship. Somehow you know yourself through the way your partner sees you. They reflect back to you how you show up in the world.
I always thought of myself as very independent whilst also part of a strong and committed relationship in my marriage to Paul. I ran my own business, travelled away from home for work, had my own interests and circle of friends. Paul and I also enjoyed each other’s company, he also worked long hours and travelled for business, so we always looked forward to getting back together, hearing each others news and were genuinely interested in each other.
What I was not prepared for after his death was the complete loss of Identity.
I would look in the mirror and wonder who this woman was. She seemed completely unknown to me. Part of this was the long period of caring for him through his brain cancer treatment, when I gave up a lot of what I did, work, friends, hobbies, and focused entirely on him, his health and making his last days the best, for 18 months.
After he died, I briefly thought I might resurrect some of my old life, but it soon became apparent to me that I was no longer the same person. After all I had been through, the trauma of watching him slowly disappear to the brain cancer, then watching him slowly die, I was changed from those experiences. Priorities changed, but the difficulty was I had no priorities, I had nothing, I had no idea who I was anymore. The main priority I suppose, was survival. For many months I had no appetite for life or living, I couldn’t see the point. What was there to live for, and I so longed to be with Paul. He occupied my thoughts all day. There didn’t seem to be any future, all my dreams of our lives together and our shared hopes and plans had gone.
Some days I managed to take care of myself, other days I couldn’t be bothered. Dinner most days was a few glasses of wine and packet of crisps.