It's a quiet contagion: women, after going through a trauma like divorce, empty nest, or the death of a loved one, inevitably struggle to find themselves.
We hear about men having midlife crises. Buying sports cars. Sleeping with much younger women. All this in an effort to hold onto a vestige of their former, younger selves. To find themselves midway through their lives.
And yet when women lose their footing, what do they do?
Often we go inward.
Close ourselves off from others.
It's not a comfortable place to be, I can say from personal experience. And yet, after experiencing a life trauma, it's an excellent opportunity to address that age-old question:
WHO AM I?
When Experiences Define Us
Anyone who started dating a partner in their 20s and stayed together for decades will have been changed by that relationship. As a couple, you grow together (and then sometimes apart) because you experience life together.
I started dating my ex at age 21. We experienced many formative experiences together that still influence me: travel, a child, business ownership.
And yet, when my marriage ended, it felt like a limb had been severed. There were inside jokes I had no one to laugh about with. Memories I couldn't reminisce about with a single person I actually liked. A lot of the way I thought and acted was because of the relationship I'd been in.
When my son left the nest, I had an easier time than most because he'd been going back and forth between my house and his dad's for years, so I knew what it was to be without him (for a few days at a time). And yet, many women feel a sense of loss of identity when they aren't needed as mothers in the same capacity as they were for 18 years.
We've been wives and mothers...now what?
You Decide Who You Want to Be
This can be a scary time without the veil of identity you're used to wearing, but let me provide a different perspective: you have the opportunity to decide who you want to be.
Or rather...who you want to rebecome.
Think about who you were before the marriage. Before the kids. What lit that girl up?
For me, it was art. I lived and breathed art. I had a funky sense of style, and I did not give a shit what people thought about me. Somewhere along the road, this girl got boxed up and put on the shelf.
But I've taken her out again. And she is living a fucking fantabulous life in Italy!
Maybe you loved to act. Or dance. Travel. Cook. And maybe you stopped doing those things so you could be a good partner and mother.
I invite you to unpack that box, dear Goddess. Examine those things, those personality traits you once wore with pride. See what still fits. Certainly, like that prom dress from way back when, some things won't fit anymore. But you might be surprised at how much you still are like that girl you were so long ago.
Carving a New Path
In addition to taking inspiration from the past, look to the future. What have you always wanted to do? Who have you always wanted to be? Even if you're afraid to try new things, make a list of everything you aspire to do and be.
Keep that list handy. And one by one, find a way to try new things.
Long to be a confident public speaker? Join Toastmasters or take a class to improve your skills. Want to reclaim that inner thespian you once were? Find a local troupe and get involved. Take an art class online. Go hiking with a friend. These might seem like insignificant steps, but when you keep taking one step at a time, you'll soon realize how far you've come in discovering who you are NOW.