Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Inner Voice

**Filling in for Amanda today...but she will be back next week!**
Decision making was never difficult for me. Options don't confuse me, and once I have made a choice I rarely question myself. I realize that many people engage in a mental wrestling match with every decision they make, and I have regularly been grateful that my mind and I generally agree pretty quickly. 
And then came widowhood.
One of the most disturbing aspects of widowhood for me was the about face I experienced in my decision making abilities. My previously certain mind betrayed me at every turn. When Phil died an avalanche of decisions that needed to be made immediately began, and then an on-going slide of questions to be answered by the last person standing continued. The first heart wrenching choices to be made included: whether or not to donate his organs (you have to make this one in less than 24 hours), burial vs. cremation, what type and how many memorial services to have, and will you be purchasing a monument Mrs. Hernandez? Once these choices were made I began to second guess each one asking myself repeatedly if I made the right choice.
The decision making process did not get any easier as the weeks and months passed. I discovered that I was entering the wrestling match of the uncertain on a daily basis without regard for the importance of the choice to be made. Was I doing this task correctly? Should I purchase the blue or the brown sheet set? Water the grass every other day or every third day? One minute option A seemed best, the next minute I was more inclined to go with option B. I found myself seeking advice on choices large or small; allowing myself to be swayed toward my adviser's way of thinking regardless of what my own instincts were telling me. Buy a new fence or fix the old? Sell Phil's truck or keep it? Get a gardener or teach the kids how to mow the lawn? Vacation or no vacation? The list went on and on....making a decision of any sort became a monumental effort. I lost confidence in myself, and began to believe that everyone else knew what I needed better than I did. Until one day when a well meaning friend stepped over the line regarding my privacy, and a little voice sounded inside my head..."He did not just do that!" Hearing the familiar sound of my own voice I realized in one mind blowing moment how much of my daily life I was allowing to be determined by what other people thought, felt, knew, said, or sometimes even ordered. The silence of my inner voice suddenly became deafening.
The truth is our inner voice still speaks while we are grieving, but sometimes we can't hear her/him over the din created by sorrow. The initial realization that we are no longer a part of a couple often begins an all-consuming tempest inside of us. But at the eye of the storm still rests the core of our being. That innermost self still knows what we need. When I first became aware that I was abdicating my right to run my own life, I asked myself the question...who are you? I didn't recognize the woman I saw in the mirror, because I allowed her voice to be silenced by grief.
When my inner voice finally spoke, the first thing she told me was that I would be okay. She spoke up when I tried to do too much, and pointed out when I needed a mental health day. When I wanted to quit, she reminded me that quitting wouldn't stop the pain. When I began to hear her again, she helped me choose between going out to dinner with friends and staying home to watch a movie. Myself helped me figure out how to manage the holiday season. She knew instinctively what I needed on the first anniversary of Phil's death, and all the ones that have come after. She consistently, and confidently, knows which choice is best for me. Sometimes I ignore her, and when I do I usually pay a price. But she loves me and she is proud of what I have done, and of who I am becoming. Only she knows the effort this has required. Finally I realized that her approval is what I need most. No one knows me better than I know myself. But I only discovered that fact when I was willing to trust my inner voice once again.


  1. This post is so true. I'm in my 4th year, but still have not been able to hear my inner self. My days are still filled with indecision on some major things. It's exhausting.

  2. Oh thank you for this post! A couple of weeks ago I thought I had actually lost my backbone. I have always been a very decisive person. In fact my husband said I was the Project manager on things both business and personal because I had great instincts and could make and stick with a decision.
    Fast forward two years from his death and I actually was on the internet searching for "how to make a good decision" entries. All of a sudden I was paralyzed by some of the decisions I have had to make. It confounded me and scared the crap out of me. I thought it is bad enough I lost the love of my life and now my mind and autonomy are going too.
    I realized (after a long and very painful week) that I was missing my "sounding board". It was not that I couldn't make a decision but that part of the process - talking it over with my husband was a key part in my decision making. Not hearing his voice, but hearing my own as I articulated what it was i was doing and why. It took some time to figure it out but now I get it.
    Yes, it is amazing when people help so much in the beginning and then suddenly a few begin to "use your voice" as their own and start trying to make your decisions. Someone who helps me with some stuff here started doing that, saying "we need to do this > > > >"
    I thought "wait a minute! If I need to do that I will figure that out".
    Thank goodness for the inner voice. It is there. I just needed some time and periods where I wasn't crying so I could hear her speak.
    Now I have committed to making a decision and trusting I will know the right thing to do. After all - I am a widow and I may have been bowed but I am not broken.

  3. Still waiting for my inner voice to speak. I stress so much over decisions that only I can now make, yes, it was so much easier when he was here and I didn't second guess every little thing. I am learning to trust myself more, but it certainly is a slow process. But it's a new me, and many days I don't even know who she is. I agree, it is exhausting, as well as confusing. Hope my inner voice speaks up soon.

  4. Thank you for this! JP used to get so annoyed by my inability to make decisions - I hated even picking out where to go for dinner. After he died there were a ton of huge decisions to make - selling the condo, furniture, what to do with the car, going through his stuff, whether to go to school, where to live...and I made those with some help from my family. But now I think about the future decisions I will need to make - how to raise our toddler, how to pick a school for him, etc., and I feel like I am going to become paralyzed just thinking about it. So I don't. I'm so busy and so tired that I deal with one item at a time, and figure I will make decisions when the time comes and there's no time for anything more than a cursory weighing of options. Not the best plan, but the only one I have right now. My inner voice is still trying to shout over all the chaos...

  5. Thank you Michelle. I am finding my voice too. I like her advice, wisdom and sound. When my husband first died I relied on the voices of others until I was strong enough to speak for myself. It really feels good to listen to me. That is a huge step forward in healing my heart and gaining my self confidence. Thanks for all you do in helping me to regain my voice. I am teaching my children to find and listen to their voices too.

    Maria O.