Someone has stolen my identity. I’m not me anymore, at least not the me I was for many year and felt comfortable with. I don’t even look the same. This seems to have happened rather suddenly after K. died. I don’t know how many other people experience this after a loss and whether or not it is a good thing, but it has happened to me.
Maybe I’d better backtrack to who I was first. A wife, lover, friend for 22 years. I became a caregiver off and on for the last 10 years and was nearly constantly attending to K’s needs for the last 2. I was the maintainer of all things household: groceries and meals, budget and bills, most of the cleaning and minor repairs. I have a job as a nurse. I was on top of it all. I was organized. I am an inveterate list maker. I have labeled files folders for every kind of paperwork you can imagine: warranties with their receipts attached, medical (subdivided into medications, PCP visits, specialists…), college, etc. In the three ring circus of our lives, I was the ringmaster.
And then March 9, 2019. No more wife, lover, friend. Okay, I am still a mother, a colleague, a friend, albeit a sadder, less put together, heavier version. No more a caregiver which, for a nurse, or someone who has cared for their loved one is a really weird place to be in. Lots of free time on my hands. Widow. I haven’t reconciled myself to that label yet. It feels a little too black dress, old lady, creepy. I’d prefer a different term. Something like unspoused, duosingled or hypocoupled.
So what happened next? I completely changed my style. Days after my husband died I went out and got my hair cut short, and colored. I got rid of all the clothes I don’t wear or no longer fit. Then I went shopping. I wasn’t planning on a new wardrobe, I just went into Maurice’s for a pair of shorts. The sales associates not only found a couple pair of shorts for me to try, but paired them with tops, a cardigan, a necklace and put them in the dressing room for me. I got the shorts and a couple tops. Another day I went back to buy a dress and got two. Several weeks later I got some sandals. You get the picture.
Along with this new style, I also fell apart. After the first couple weeks of very little appetite I went on the “I’m grieving diet” and gained 20 pounds in a few months. In case you are not familiar, this consisted of many frozen lemonades from Wawa (with shipped cream), dinners from Olive Garden (one of the few places that my son will eat), and chocolate anything. Cooking and grocery stores were out. If it hadn’t been for my sister and brother-in-law and Blue Aprons it might have been 40 pounds.
Now I have a trouble remembering things, trouble focusing and paying attention. It took me several minutes of deep thought to remember the name of Olive Garden to put in the previous paragraph. Mind you, I was putting my full brainpower into trying to pull it out of my brain. Ironically, I am sitting in café a couple hundred yards from Olive Garden while typing this (it’s okay to laugh at me, it really is funny).
My emotions are all over the place (see post “The Alien Blob”). Some days I have difficulty facing things. For example, at work I had a document that I had to edit. I turns out that it had been due over a week ago during the time that I was away for my husband’s memorial service. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to complete the requested edits. I debated talking to my manager or director about it but couldn’t even do that without crying, so I didn’t. I sent out an email explaining why I had not sent in the second revision on time and asked for help. It’s been about 4 months now and I am still not capable of performing the work at the level used to. That feels a little scary and very unlike the me I used to be.
There is no map back from here, and so I’m afraid we are all going to have to say goodbye to the old Jill. There is no where to report this theft to even thought we know the perpetrator. So if you happen to see this new Jill on your travels, tell her that her hair looks nice, don’t offer her any cookies, fill in the blanks when she forgets what she was trying to say and offer her a hug when she cries. Tell her that it’s going to be okay. She’s been telling herself that but it will be nice to hear it from you too.