Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The "After Me" vs. ....

.... the "Before Me".

We all know that we are changed after the death of our spouse.
We are changed because of the death of our spouse and everything that follows in its wake.
But how am I different now?
How is the "After Janine" different from the "Before Janine"?
Let me count the ways .....

1.  I am less naive. 
I know, really know, that happiness is not guaranteed, nor does it last forever.  I know that being a good person, citizen, friend, son, father, husband, Christian, community volunteer/leader, etc. will not keep you from dying ..... not even at a young age.  I know that being a good wife, mother, etc. will not keep your husband from dropping dead.
2.  I am less controlling.
I now know that I really can't have control and that I never did, even if I thought so.  I know that I cannot keep bad things from happening to my family.  I know that life is sweeter when you accept the fact that it's not yours to control, but to enjoy.
3.  I parent differently .... for good and/or bad.
See #2. 
I know more clearly now what really matters .... and what really does not.  I know that my children are already their own persons and that there are some things that I cannot force them to do .... or not do.  I know that the decisions they make are theirs and not a reflection on my parenting (mostly).  I know that Jim and I both raised our children to be independent so even though there's now only one of us here, I need to keep stepping back to allow them to experience independence.
I no longer keep the strict parenting rules that I did when Jim was here (and when there were six of them here).  I give in much easier in arguments.  I don't enjoy arguing a point with them the way I sometimes did (when I had support).  I say yes a lot more than I say no.
4.  I don't "sweat the small stuff".
This is directly linked to #2 and #3.  Life is too short.  I'm not going to waste any more time on worrying about things that will not matter in the end.  The often-used question, "Will this matter in 10 years?" really carries weight with me now, except that I sometimes shorten the time to one year, or even to .... tomorrow.
5.  I am stronger now.
I know that I can survive anything, now that I've survived the worst thing that could have happened to me.
I know that I can accomplish anything that I want to accomplish.  I know that I can fix a lot if things around the house if I just take time to read.  :)
6.  I am not afraid.
I no longer fear death .... or a loved one dying.  This is directly related to #5.  I've been through Hell .... what is there left out there for me to fear?  Nothing.
Don't get me wrong .... remember #1.  I know that there are plenty of bad things that can happen to me, or to my family, but I don't fear them.  If something happens .... I will move forward.  One step at a time, and sometimes many steps backwards.  But I will move.
7.  I am quieter.
I'm not really sure why this has changed, but it has.  I used to be fairly out-going, once I became comfortable around/in a group of people.  I'm still comfortable, but I speak less often.
I think that maybe, just maybe, it's because I now listen more.
I hope so, anyway.
8.  I'm more compassionate.
I think I've always had compassion for people, but not for all people.  This has changed quite a bit.  I now can see the other side of issues and understand why people suffer/act out/are depressed/say stupid things, etc.  I try not to make snap judgements about their character, but really look beyond what they are showing to the public to see what's going on.  And when I see suffering, my heart breaks.  A lot more than it used to.
9.  I'm more honest.
I've always had a knack for speaking into people's lives and saying things that are hard to hear (again, for good or bad), but now I'm a lot more honest about myself and what I'm feeling.  I don't hide my feelings as much as I used to, nor do I hide my true thoughts as often.  Not always a good trait.
10.  I say "I love you" a WHOLE lot more.
Jim and I said "I love you" every day.  Several times a day.  Every time we left each other, every time we hung up on the phone, every night before we went to sleep.  Mostly.  Of course there were those times when one of us felt snippy (mostly me) and didn't say it, but that was rare.  We also said it (and I still do) to our children every day, every night, every time we left them.
Now I say it to my friends.  Often.  I let people who matter to me know that they matter.  I want people to know that they are loved.  I don't want to let it go unsaid because ..... well, you know.  There will come a day when that person is not here to hear it.  And there will come a day when I am not here to say it.
I don't want anyone guessing. 
I express love more and I feel love more.  I love a lot easier than I used to.  And I think that's a good thing.

I could go on and on in the ways I've changed, both positively and negatively, because of Jim's death, but I thought I'd just give you a round number of 10.  Nine or eleven just seemed awkward.  :)
I could also write a list of the ways I'm the same, I guess.  But I think that list might be a bit shorter.
How can I be the same?
I can't.
And how can anyone understand that unless they've walked this path?
They can't.

So, while it sucks that so many of you understand .... I'm thankful that you do.
And I'm glad that I've changed.


  1. Janine, I have changed too and much of what you say is true of me. Yesterday, I was beating myself up over not being ont top of my daughter over her keeping up witj her college applications, unlike my coupled friends,but then I thought I should give myself a break and realize I have a lot more on my plate; it is good for her to have to be responsible for herself. Afterall isn't ultimately what my job is to mkae her into a resonsible adult? I use to always make sure she did all that she was suppose to do, but then did she learn the consequences of not doing those things?

  2. Janine,first let me say, I appreciate your posts so much. I relate the most to you because I was married 32 years and also lost my husband suddenly to a heart attack.(Nov 2009)
    The changes you describe are right on target and I could have written the list myself. I am stronger than I ever knew I was, just to make it this far. I'm not sure where my life is headed, but I have already survived the worst thing that could happen.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us!

  3. I am so sorry for your loss, especially if the picture is of you and your spouse. To lose such a young, vibrant partner--such a tragedy and I am so sorry for you loss. Maybe I'm feeling my own loss, but it just made me so sad to see the happy pix of you and your husband before his death. God bless.

  4. Thank you for your blog. I love reading it. I am newly widdowed (less than 4 months). I can relate to what you have on your list. I am struggling to get to know this 'new me'. I don't know who I am without him. Yes I am changed. I am sorry for your loss.

  5. Janie, thanks for our post. I too relate to your posts, only difference my husband was ill before his passing... I too am SO changed, I don't know much these days, I question everything, but I do know this is the worst thing that could have happened, we didn't have children and so we were everything to each other. SO his passing is the worst thing that I will ever go thru. You are so right, I can't be the same, how can they understand unless they walked in our shoes, and I am so thankful for you, this site and for all who share - we help each other and not feeling so alone helps, so thank you all.

  6. WOW!! So many of these I can relate to!!! That's amazing! I'm going to print this out and reread, just a confirmation that I'm normal? :) And this is why I love this site! When my best friends cannot understand these feelings, all of you can! Love it!

  7. Ah the changes...there are so many. I wonder sometimes if I even look the same because I'm not the same. I was looking in my closet the other day and realized that I have changed my whole wardrobe. Unconciously I think I just couldn't wear those clothes anymore because that person doesn't exist anymore. She is gone and in her place is a stronger, sadder person. Some day I hope to be just a stronger person, but we take what we're given.

    Thanks for the entry - it really did hit home.