Wishing for Old Clothes
This clever story by Deb Kosmer uses the comparison of new and old clothes to help you understand your grief. She helps you identify and understand your feelings as she encourages you to trust yourself as you travel your grief journey. You may feel like you are taking one step forward and two steps back but keep taking those steps. You will come out on the other side of grief—not better, not worse, but different.
by Deb Kosmer
Most of us have had the experience of buying new clothes that didn’t quite feel right. Perhaps they were a little too tight or too big or the brand new material was scratchy, not soft like our older things that have had several washings. We may decide not to wear them at all or we may decide to wear them awhile until we are comfortable in them. This can be a frustrating experience.
When we are, grieving most of us feel like we aren’t living in our body anymore. We may look in the mirror and see our old reflection staring back at us but we know there is a stranger inside. We may be shocked or surprised that on top of the grief we are feeling that this new person who has taken up residence where we used to live. This new person may be very angry or sad or both. He or she is probably confused, numb, anxious, and afraid. Their appetite and sleep habits may have changed. All the familiar things are gone along with all the safe places once known. In some ways, it is like waking up in a new set of clothes that we didn’t ask for, we didn’t choose, and that certainly don’t fit. Try as we might this is one set of clothes that at least for awhile we cannot take off.
We are in a place we have never been before. We are now living in a world where our loved one doesn’t. Their absence may scream at us or leave us too numb to hear or feel anything at all. Though the places may be familiar, we feel lost and alone. Unlike a new set of clothes that can be returned to the store for us there is no return. We are where we are and it takes time to get used to it. Part of the difficulty and frustration we feel is that no one can tell us exactly how much time we will have to wait in this limbo that used to be our life.
As hard as all of this is, it may also seem as though the people in our lives have changed. Some of those people who we thought we could depend on in times of trouble are strangely now absent from our lives. Others though present keep telling us to put on that old set of clothes. But for us that is impossible because they disappeared from our lives with the death of our loved one.
So now what? After awhile we realize that no matter how much we might like to we cannot go back and the only way left is forward. Though no one can make this journey for us we can allow the people we choose to walk along side of us. We will learn that it pays to be choosey and select family and friends that don’t expect us to be anyone but who we are. People who will listen quietly when we need to vent and who will respect our silence when we don’t wish to talk. People who will let us find our own way and time not push us to follow theirs. People who will be gentle with us as we learn to be gentle with ourselves.
One day we will wake up and when we look in the mirror, we will recognize ourselves in our new set of clothes. We will realize that we have survived and once again feel hope for the future. We will still miss our loved ones but the pain will no longer be more than we can bear. We will take some of our old life and our self from our past and mix them in with the person we have become. We will recognize that this is okay and not a betrayal of our loved one. Our world will have changed but will once again feel familiar. We will never forget our loved ones' death but we will learn how to find comfort in the fact that they lived and will always be a part of our lives.