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Who Am I – the Identity Crisis (not mid-life crisis….)

This is a question I have often asked myself even before Ed passed away. But now I do so with greater urgency. There are days I feel so lost in this that life just gets overwhelming. No longer am I defined by my career – something that defined me for so many years – too many in fact, nor am I defined by being a wife – the role I enjoyed most. So who am I and where do I go from here? Most days I feel as though I am living my old life just without him in it.

When I met Ed, I was very career focused. I wanted to be a VP of Marketing by age 30, and while I don’t think I was going to get there by then, I was well on my way. My meeting him changed that dramatically. I realized there was so much more to me and my life than my career. Love gave me so much more. He gave me his heart and cherished mine. He gave me two children is a non-conventional way. I realized that I was happy to earn a living not let a living earn me. Marrying him and my identity changing from single, career gal, rental apartment on Lake Shore Drive to wife, mother, and suburban home owner was an absolutely defining moment in my life.

Ed’s death forever changed my identity as well. I went from my favorite identity of being his wife and married to now being a widow and not married. Defining and equally life altering? Absolutely. Then why is this such a difficult thing to discuss with others? Let me explain…

I traveled for my job last week. One of the perks of this particular job of mine is the fact that our offices sit just outside of Chicago. A few times a year, I get to go “home” to work and the perk is I get to visit friends and family. It’s this perfect combination of work and vacation; I get the best of both. This particular trip had me meeting some new people that were new to the company due to a recent acquisition. I really enjoy connecting with new people, but the idea of “small talk” where the question I feel the need to avoid most is “are you married”? This used to be a question that I loved. I was so proud of my wonderful marriage, my amazing husband and what was an amazingly happy life. And frankly, I am proud of myself and how I have survived the past 2 ½ years. The things I have overcome, the things I have done to survive. I am proud of it. But that question, “Are you married”? In my new life, that is not something that is answered easily, and not because I have an issue with answering it (although saying the words “I am a widow” is not something I will ever be comfortable saying”, but the aftermath that follows. “No, I am no longer married” and then the explanation that follows, “My husband passed away a 2 ½ years ago”…the holy-shit-I-just-stepped-in-it look on their face and everything else that follows. Basically, I am consoling the person on the other end of the discussion when it’s all said and done; “It’s okay, I’m fine”. “It’s been over two years….I’m fine”. “He had a very rare form of cancer – I’m fine”. “Yes, he was young like me – just shy of his 49th birthday”. “I’m fine”.

Why is this? If I was divorced, this would be glazed over and not given a second thought. But to be a widow? At my age? It is unthinkable and untalkable. Why? The reality is, there are over one million widows out there. And a lot of them are young. Younger than me and older than me. But it doesn’t matter. When you have lost the love of your life, your partner, your better half, it does not matter how old you are, how many years you had together, nothing matters. Your life has been changed and your identity – in one last breath, is altered. And no one is comfortable talking about it because society defines being a widow or widower as something we just don’t talk about. Think about what comes to your mind visually just saying the word “widow”. What is it??? Give it a Google and see what comes up under images. Just for fun 🙂

My being bestowed the identity of a widow is the one I never asked for. I would trade it for anything else. It is the most horrific thing I have experienced to date. But we should make it more awful but not being able to just come out with it?

Because here’s the deal….as much as I don’t want being a widow to define me, it does. It defines me as much as becoming a wife and a parent did. It 100% changed my life, and I am working my hardest to define me for the better because I can assure you, my husband would not have it any other way. He gave me the most wonderful pieces of me in being a wife and a parent. And now his life is making me work to be the best version of myself I can be. I can only hope to be the person he saw me as because he always saw me better than I saw myself.

Here’s the deal. Life is hard. Death is a part of life. And it isn’t always fun to discuss but guess what? It is what it is. We need to change the dialogue on how we talk to widows and widowers. Period.

So back to my original question -Who am I? I’ve decided that I am not defined by one thing at any one time. I’m a lot of different things, and I can be anything I want to be – because I said so…So here’s who I am:

  • I’m a widow. There is no getting around this and there never will be, and when Ed was alive, this list would have started with “I am a wife”. I “own” both and talking about being a widow requires me to “own” it.
  • I’m a parent to two amazing adults who I could not be more privileged to have raised and proud to call my family
  • I’m a daughter and my mom and dad would say I’m the best J
  • I am a doggie mommy to two of the most spoiled pups EVER – and they deserve it
  • I’m a sister and sister-in-law – one brother and his wife and thanks to my husband being the youngest of eight, I have two sisters, five brothers each with their own partners; all of whom I love and appreciate dearly
  • I am an auntie and yes the kind you can come to when your parents are really pissed off, and I’ll tell you it’s okay – they did worse growing up 😉
  • I am a friend who will go to the wall for you, laugh, cry and always be there
  • I am a writer – yep, I said it, and I put it out there – “owning” it. I don’t need to be published to be a writer. I just need to write. Maybe someday all of this gibberish will turn into a book. Maybe I’ll write and post frequently enough that I will be a “real blogger”. Maybe I’ll figure out what my platform and message is, and I’ll be passionate about something. Something that helps someone else.
  • I am a Chicago sports fan – god help me…
  • And finally, I am a career marketer. A storyteller and communicator at heart who has told the stories of software and technology for a very long time, and connected those stories with people who were in need of that particular product or service. And now I work to tell my story and connect it with those it might help in some way.

I kind of like who I am today – even the widow part of me. I’d trade it all in to have him back and not have that title in my list. But alas, it is here to stay and he is gone but is always the best part of me and with me in my heart. Forge ahead I must and improve on all of these parts of who I am, while discovering more and expanding this list even more.

Sending you all strength, courage, wisdom…faith, love and hope.


© 2015, traceyb1. All rights reserved.


  1. Great post Tracey. I had no idea your husband had passed. Thanks for sharing your story. I bet you are not alone in trying to figure out your place in the world as a widow. I hope you hear from others who feel the same way.

  2. You ARE a friend who will go to the wall for others! I’m so glad to call you my friend… lovely post about who you are to yourself and to the world!

    • Thank you so much Jennifer! You are a dear friend, indeed! Glad you liked my post 🙂

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