Monday, March 26, 2012

Follow up to last week's post

I want to start this post by thanking so many of you for your thoughtful comments and prayers after last week's post.  The amount of support that I have received over the past two years (or that we as a family have received over the past seven years) has been amazing.  I am so thankful for my family and friends around the world.

After further reflection, I do want to add a "post-script" of sorts to last week's post.  

I have learned that what I am going through at this time is very normal.  This is comforting for me to know that while I am homesick for me, as I wrote last week, this identity crisis is not unusual for those who have experience loss.  And it makes sense, if we think about it.  If God has ordained that in marriage, the two shall become one, then when one person dies, it is like an amputation.  When two have truly become one over the period of nineteen years, the lines between where one person starts and ends become blurred.  This is reinforced by Jerry Sittser, in his book A Grace Disguised, who talks about how catastrophic loss is like undergoing an amputation of our identity, leading to a confusion of identity.  He says, "The people who defined me, who played the role opposite me, are no longer there.  The self I once was, this familiar self, cries out for them, like nerves still telling me that I have a leg or an arm, though only a stump remains." 

Sittser goes on to say that, 
"Catastrophic loss cannot be mitigated by replacements.  One cannot escape it simply by finding a new spouse, a new job, a new life.  A convenient passage to a new identity is usually out of the question...This crisis of identity, however, can lead to the formation of a new identity that integrates the loss into it.  Loss creates a new set of circumstances in which we must live...Loss forces us to see the dominant role our environment plays in determining our happiness.  Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being.  It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs.  In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.  But in coming to the end of ourselves, we can also come to the beginning of a vital relationship with God."
There are so many things in that quote that jump out at me - no convenient passage, what determines our happiness, stripped of props, coming to the end of ourselves...I believe that I am in the midst of what this paragraph is referring to right now and while it is painful, it is also good - or can become good.

To be honest, I have struggled with this process and the accepting of it.  I believed that I was a strong, self-assured person, knowing who I am and what I am about, ready to continue to march on in the role to which God has called me, including being a widow.  I now think that was more about pride.  I think I have finally accepted that there is no convenient passage through this; it will take time and there is some level of contentedness even in the midst of this, if that makes any sense.

I will close with some words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Who am I?  This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once?  A hypocrite before others, 
and before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I?  They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!