Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Finding My Inner Voice, Again

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
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Finding My Inner Voice, Again


That first year after Will passed away I was truly a force to be reckoned with. The anger and heartache inside of me was so intense that my politeness filter broke down completely and I just told people exactly what I thought. It was liberating and cathartic to not hold back. And sometimes I felt like I was literally channeling Will, who was never soft spoken and always encouraged me to push back and speak up for myself. And people appreciated it when I spoke up for myself or my friends and coworkers, or advocated fiercely for a student. And it was so nice to feel, finally, for the first time in my life, like a person who couldn’t be pushed around.

But after Will died I continued to have more challenging experiences, experiences that led me to slowly retreat back inside of myself. Financial struggles meant that I had to look to my family for support, and this unfortunately came with strings attached. I also had a bad dating experience that led me to question my ability to read people and make accurate judgements about who I could trust. During this series of unfortunate events I started to feel sad and lost. My confidence and sense of self were thoroughly shaken; these new set-backs did not have the same effect on me that losing Will had had. After Will’s death I was enveloped by supportive friends who were feeling some of the same pain and heartache that I was feeling. They formed a protective cocoon around me, and their dedicated support helped me to maintain my inner strength.

This new round of trials, however, was very different and it was hard to communicate the gravity of what I was feeling with my friends. I mean, they all had a general idea of what I was dealing with, but I never let myself share how much my heart was aching and how alone I was beginning to feel. People probably would have offered more support if I had asked, but I made the false assumption that everyone was burned out on supporting me at this point, after an endless barrage of set-backs. When Will died, it was a collective loss for all of us and I never felt like a bother reaching out. But this time around, I felt embarrassed and ashamed about the downward turn in my life, I didn’t feel like I deserved the same network of support I had once enjoyed. Instead of finding my voice, I felt like my voice had been locked away and I could no longer access it. I felt weak and like I was no longer in control of my life and future.

In addition, I began surrounding myself with negative people who had started to fill my head with the idea that unless I could find a guy to take over supporting me, I would forever be dependent on and beholden to my family. And for a while, I believed it. But this past summer, things finally changed. I recognized that so much of what I now believed about myself and my capabilities was false. This new image I had built of myself was based on lies being fed to me by people who wanted to be in codependent relationships with me, and that my own inner critic was helping to reinforce all these upsetting thoughts. I was constantly being pushed down and held back by myself and others.

In the end, I had to relearn how to comfort myself, and how to talk to myself kindly. And I did this by being honest with myself and with my friends about the emotional pain I was feeling, and by seeking professional support from a program that deals specifically with people struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, and/or trauma. And it felt like a huge relief to meet a group of people who were trying to free themselves of similar patterns of behavior and negative feelings. I finally started to feel like I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t a failure. And I realized that many of the people who shared emotional struggles similar to mine had also experienced several difficult life experiences, one after the other, that kept knocking them down before they could fully recover. I had to remind myself that I had experienced set-backs, big ones actually, but that these set-backs didn’t define me as a person and none of these set-backs were my fault or something I deserved. I also started to recognize that not all sources of support were created equally, and that I had to carefully pick and choose who I surrounded myself with and set clear boundaries with people who were hurting me.

And with time I found the support I needed to help me while I got my feet back under me, some of the people were the same people who stood by me after Will passed away, and some were new friends who I had met after losing Will. And it felt like the slowest process, like nothing was getting better or ever going to change, until one day I realized how assertive I had become. All of a sudden, I heard myself saying no when I was too busy, and ending relationships that were hurtful and toxic to me. I had started writing again regularly, and regularly checking in with myself. I am still fearful that I will be sidelined by future setbacks, but it’s good to know that I am resilient, and if I can find my way back from widow-hood, and then co-dependent relationships, and then again from bad dating experiences, then I should be able to make it in the long run. I think that losing Will was probably one of the hardest experiences I have ever had, but I have to remember that as life goes on, more problems will come my way. And these problems will probably knock me down and take me out for period of a time, but I will get back up again and if I need help to keep going, that’s ok.

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