Friday, February 18, 2011

Identity Crisis

One of my widow friends on Facebook posted something really interesting the other day. Her post said,

And my #1 tip for surviving winter.... STOP READING THIS. Read something that ISN'T about death, not by a widow, and NOT WRITTEN THIS TIME OF YEAR by someone who feels like you. Nothing current! Try fiction, or Scientific American, or something you can buy in the checkout line at the Supermarket! I'm doing this RIGHT after I log off for a bit, just like I do every year, because it's NECESSARY. What will you do?—Posted by SupaFreshWidow on Widowed Village (Widville) Facebook Page

I thought a lot about what she wrote, and at first I was surprised. She also has a blog that talked about her life as a widow, so why should she want to discourage people from reading it? Then I “got it.” It reminded me of an experience that a good friend of mine told me about that stayed with me since she said it, when I was about six months in...

My friend has an son who is autistic. He was born around the same time I had my son, and both boys are now 15 years old. I remember after she got the diagnosis of her son being autistic, that she went online and found tons of information about autism. For several years, she read blogs and message boards about autism, later contributing some of her own experiences to these. Being a writer, she even wrote some articles on living and thriving with an autistic child that were published in local newspapers and other periodicals. She also made local connections, and one of those connections turned into a lifelong friendship. She was the mom of an autistic son, and this was her life.

She then told me later on, that one day she had, like they say on Oprah, an “A-ha” moment. She stopped reading about autism. She stopped writing about it. She stopped going online and making the connections. She said that she realized that since she had totally immersed herself for several years into being the mom of an autistic son, that she stopped being who she was before. She had lost her hobbies, some friends, and did not do very much any longer with her husband or her other children.

Does she still take care of her autistic son? Of course! She makes sure that he has the best education for autistic children, and he has all the support at home that he needs to thrive to the best of his abilities. But she has shed the label “mom of an autistic child” and is just herself.

She told me this story because she thought I was immersing myself way too much into the world of widowhood. I thought about what she said, and told her that it was way too early for me to make such a decision. She understood. But later on that day, when I was alone, I started to question myself...was I labeling myself? Was I pigeon-holing myself, and concentrating too much on being “a widow” rather than just being “me”? I did not have an answer. And I’ve been struggling with this for a few months now.

But when I read the Facebook post, it made me realize that other widows might be struggling with the same issues. We can’t label ourselves, and we cannot immerse ourselves in “widow-stuff” 24/7! But we still need each other. And I realized that I am still me, even if I do frequent the widow pages on the internet and interact with other widows (and the occasional widower). It’s the same as working moms...they can be good employees AND good mothers. So I can still be a widow, while still being myself and doing other things, as well.

And now it is time for me to shut down my computer and watch a rented movie with my two sons.

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