DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley smiles with her sister in front of pink background
Family & Friends

I Am Someone New, Too

My sister had a baby last month. I was abroad when it happened, and I spent hundreds of dollars that day on my phone bill. I could hear the thrill of new parenthood in her voice, even just a few hours after she became a mom.

I went to visit her a few weeks later. The second I saw her, I felt like I was going to start crying. There she was, holding her baby in a sling on her chest. The baby was sleeping. And my sister was beaming.

In that moment, I could see it. My sister was the person she’d always been: thoughtful, and with a great sense of self. But there was a change in her, one that was obvious.

She was a mom. Loving her perfect, tiny girl had already changed her.

I thought about this moment a lot over the past few weeks. Motherhood had already given my sister a new perspective. She was changed by something outside her own control.

I’m not talking about learning to burp a baby or properly change a diaper. The logistics of parenting changes everyone a bit. I’m talking about how simply loving someone so helpless makes you into someone who is irrevocably different.

Love changes you. That is not disputed by anyone.

The same can be said about grief. Missing someone deeply changes you. It makes you into someone different.

And yet it’s something that Americans don’t accept so easily. I’ve heard many widows and widowers tell me that their family and friends don’t like that they are “so different” than they used to be. It’s not merely that we widows (and widowers) don’t throw the same parties that we used to, it’s that we are fundamentally not the same people that we once were.

I mean, I guess there are a lot of pieces of me that remain the same. I still like to dance in the kitchen with my kids. I still think the best thing in the world is a backyard tomato in the height of summer. I still love to be around teenagers and I still think being a high school teacher is the best job in the world. Moreover, a lot of my personality is still the same. I’m still basically an optimist and an extrovert.

And yet. I am not the same. Even if I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is that makes me different, I know that I see the world with somewhat different eyes. Maybe that’s because my world – the one without Shawn – is a completely different place for me than it was two years ago. Because he’s gone and because the life we shared is gone, I’m different.

I know it would be a whole lot easier for many of the people in my life if I just went back to how I was before. I know this is true because, every once in a while, someone lets something slip like, “it seems like you are getting back to your normal self.”

But that self doesn’t exist anymore. That person – the one who sang with wild abandon with her husband at every karaoke bar we could find – that person is gone. A similar person remains, yes, but not the same person.

I have some friends who couldn’t quite accept this. They didn’t like that for the past year and a half, I’ve been much more protective of my family’s time and more selfish with what I can give to others. I get that. It’s not easy to be around me some of the time. Maybe that’s because I’m grieving. Or maybe that’s because I’ve become someone that isn’t quite as lovely to be around.

Maybe that will change. Maybe I’ll become more enlightened and maybe I’ll go back to asking for less from the people surrounding me. For now, I’m lucky that many of the close friends and family in my life have stuck around, even for this new version of Marjorie.

It’s funny, because I think as a society we accept that people become irrevocably changed when they have children. We get that passing through this life stage is one that affects you so deeply that even after a few weeks of parenthood, a person is going to be different forever.

But we don’t allow the same thing for many who grieve. Would we expect a parent to “go back” to being exactly the same person after bringing a child into this world? Absolutely not. And we shouldn’t expect those who experience great loss to be the same ever again.

My sister’s eyes looked different when I saw her. It wasn’t because she was sleep-deprived, even though she was. It was because she was someone new. She was a mom.

My eyes also look different now. They are still filled with love for my kids and they are still excited to experience all the possibility that life holds. But they are not ever going to be the same because I see the world differently now.

I am someone new, too.

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.


  • ABP

    Irrevocably so! If it is the transforming power of love for a newborn child that irrevocably changes a person, then it is the same force of love that fuels transforming grief for a loved one that passes from this mortality…the two sides of the coin of life.

  • Christine Paley

    Hi Marjorie:

    I am enjoying reading your blog as it’s very well written and you are giving voice to much of what I am also experiencing. I lost my husband, Richard, to glioblastoma (brain cancer) in April of this year. My kids are a bit older than yours – my son is 18 and my daughter is 14. So many of the thoughts and feeling you express mirror my own. It’s nice to not feel so alone since it seems that other members of my family and most of my friends, while very supportive and sympathetic, don’t seem to really understand what this is like. How could they though if they have never gone through It?

    Christine in Toronto

    • Marjorie

      Thanks so much for such a sweet comment. I’m so sorry about your husband. The early days were really hard for me, but I can say this – it does get a bit easier, even if the grief remains. It is so hard for others to understand, even when they are supportive. I get that. Sending hugs.

  • Carmelita

    This is so true and it frustrates me that I had to come to this blog to find other people who get what I have been going through.
    I have read that people lose friends who cannot understand or accept their grieving process.
    I believe we are digging through the cultures denial of death.
    Just felt Shawn’s “Right on!” with that.
    Thanks for your efforts Marjorie!

    • Marjorie

      Yes, I think the more we can all talk about loss, the better our larger society will be able to understand those of us who have to go through such tragedy.