I have found myself in somewhat of an identity crisis over the last several years of this life I didn’t create for myself. How do I walk forward and find my path and my purpose in this life? Is it truly okay to be myself? Would it be a betrayal to live a life in a purpose that doesn’t involve my late husband?
Hello, beautiful world.
At least…. I think I am.
Over the five and a half years of my widowed life, I have struggled with something that never before was a problem. Before my husband’s death, I knew all about Sherri and I knew exactly who she was and where she was going. I was confident, self-assured, needed no external source of validation, and I knew exactly what I wanted out of life. Each step was carefully crafted and planned to be executed just so.
When I lost control of planning that well-crafted life, I lost a part of myself that was my identity. Becoming widowed introduced feelings I never saw myself having to face. I suddenly found myself wondering, “Who am I now? What am I supposed to be doing?”
I found myself struggling with who I was as a person. I was Mrs. Sean Miller and knew very little outside of being his wife and the mother of his children. It was my purpose and my plan, and I was okay with that.
My situation was unique, and some others may have found themselves faced with something similar. After the death of my husband I essentially began walking in the path that he was set to walk. My husband was a high school band director and I decided that it was the best for his students, my children, and at the time – myself – if I took over his position at the school he loved so much.
At first, it was wonderful and I felt I was truly living my renewed purpose in the light of my husband’s death, and that I was keeping him alive as well by doing with his band program what he wanted. But over the years, I began to look in the mirror and say, “Yes, but… who are YOU? Is this truly who you are?”
This began to weigh on me and suddenly I found myself longing for my own path. The feelings of guilt of continuing a life without him were subsiding and I found myself okay with wanting my own things.
My late husband and I shared so many similarities. We met because of our common interests and because of our love of teaching music. Yet as I continued on that journey, I actually began to lose… well, me.
The aforementioned self-assured, confident girl became a confused, lost, and searching woman who had no idea if she was living a true purpose outside of keeping her husband’s memory alive.
In short, I made the decision to leave that school and his students who became my students. It was painful; truly, it was one of the hardest decisions I had to make as a widow. Four years into my journey, I decided that while my husband’s memory was important, I also had to realize that someone else was also important.
Less than a year later, I ended up where I know in my heart I belonged. I felt like I was really on my way to finding my path after all. I got a job in a mental health facility teaching children and adolescents and while the arts are still important to me, I found my calling in special education.
Maybe you’re in the stage of widowhood where you are beginning to wonder what you want out of life and what path you should take now that you have come to that fork in the road. The sad reality is that our lives are not what we had originally planned and although it is hard, it’s perfectly okay to say, “What do I want? Where do I go from here?” We oftentimes do find our identity in being our late spouse’s other half and then, when that is stripped away from us, we are left with ourselves and no one to turn to for the decision making.
Over the last few years I got caught up in wondering what my late husband would want us to do and how he would want me to handle situations. My inner being relied on those little “signs” that I was indeed doing the right thing. In the emotions of grief and raising our family alone, I wanted to make him proud.
And I still am.
Why? Because Sean married that confident, self-assured, validated woman and my husband would say, “Sherri… it’s okay. Live. And be you.”
So if you are struggling today with your new purpose, just know that it’s okay to search. It’s okay to step outside your comfort zone. It’s okay to find you again, and it’s okay to live.
If you’re in the early stages when you don’t feel like this is possible and it may even be a betrayal to your late spouse’s memory, that’s okay too. It’s okay to crawl, but as I have learned in some very tough lessons, just don’t stop moving forward.
In the process of moving forward to find my path, don’t forget to pick up the things that make you smile and find yourself in the happiness of the life you have before you.