Ever since Terry died I haven’t felt like myself, I’ve just felt like what’s left of me. Upon further reflection, I feel like Terry was my core, our relationship holding everything together and when he died things quite literally fell apart. I now see myself as a collection of parts, rather than a whole: my American part (which is further fragmented into my Harding self, my high school self, my Nashville self), my UK part (again fragmented into my Starbucks self, my Oxford self, my school self) and there’s a new fragmented piece of my identity as a young widow, mostly developed through the invaluable support I have received from Widowed and Young. Depending on the day I pick different parts of my identity up and think about them, acting as that part of me for the day, but in order to survive as one identity, I must first set down the previous one. I apologize if that’s confusing to you, but I assure you it is even more confusing for me!
On Saturday I met up with a fellow widower for a cup of coffee, having met through the local Widowed and Young support group. He was widowed only weeks before I was and has just joined the group. He is eager to meet others who understand what it’s like, just as I was in those early days. My work came up and he mentioned that his daughter attended my school and i made a quick connection: on the French trip last year, we were told that one of the students’ mothers had become gravely ill the week before and it was likely that she would pass away any day. Her daughter had decided to join her friends on the trip. She had a really good time, but we spent the entire trip waiting for a dreaded phone call that never came. I then returned to England and on with my happy little life and never thought of it again. The mother had survived that health scare but died during an operation in September on the very first day of the school year. We spent a few hours chatting over coffee and cake – I cried a lot as I told him about Terry and my new life here in the UK without him. Although twenty years older than I am he, too, lost the love of his life too soon and that shared pain is capable of forging incredibly strong bonds.
When I left, I felt a bit lighter, but I felt a bit strange as my widowed identity had just merged with my professional identity. Until that moment they had existed completely separately of one another but now they are forever, inextricably linked. At first I felt a bit confused that this had happened, I wanted to keep my identities separate, but the more I think of it the more I see it as a good thing. Having joined these two parts of myself up, I feel a little bit more whole. Not like my old self, that Mandi is gone and I’m afraid can never be again and I’m learning to accept that. It’s a bit like working on an old puzzle you picked up in a ziploc bag with no real idea of what it’s supposed to look like: I’m pleased that I’ve found two pieces that go together, but I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to look like and if I’ll like what I see when it’s done.