I’ve noticed when someone loses their significant other, you often see new layers to the person you had not noticed before. In the case of my mother, it changed how I understood her and our relationship together.
Sometimes the changes are easy to notice. A person that never wore tie dye starts including tie dye in their wardrobe. They may start eating at McDonalds frequently. Or they may never eat at McDonalds again. They stop going to church. Or they start going to church.
Now that I have gone through the process I understand how grief can affect the choices you make. I’ve seen people who perhaps felt they did not have “permission” to do certain things when their spouses were alive start to do those things after their spouse died.
I’m still thinking about this process for myself. Have my children noticed new layers that weren’t there before? Grieving has meant I have had to simplify some things in my life. There are meals that my husband loved that I no longer cook—things my kids and I just weren’t crazy about. There are foods my husband did not like at all that the kids and sometimes now cook.
I grew up in a family with much conflict. The conflict was behind the scenes. To outsiders we were supposed to be perfect–however my parents defined that. My parents were religious and very conservative which influenced how we were raised. I’d often thought my dad was the originator of much of the conflict in the house—and that my mom was just an enforcer of sorts.
My dad passed away a couple decades ago. Given the frequent conflict that existed between him and my mom, I thought his death would eventually give her some peace and a sense of freedom. But then I noticed that my mom seemed to seek out conflict after my dad had passed away. Often the conflict was with me. It often saddened me. Instead of my mom being engaged with her grandchildren her mind often seemed possessed with an assortment of conflicts. Perhaps I projected my own hopes on to my mother about what sort of grandmother she would be—and I set myself up for disappointment.
My mom also had other ways she was peeling back the layers. She wanted to be seen as more rebellious, and more artsy. I totally understood the desire to pursue new interests–but included with this was a need to be frequently affirmed for her latest clothing choice or book she was reading. In her mind she was this divine avant garde creature and she wanted you to her affirm her for this—she didn’t want to be lumped in with all of the other grandmothers. Nothing she really did was particularly out of the ordinary to me but she wanted to be acknowledged that she was special.
One of the challenges of widowhood is redefining your life after your partner dies. I am still peeling back the layers and finding out who I am without my husband in my life.