I was reading a book recently and the main character had lost her mother to cancer. This sentence really stood out to me: “The truth is, when your world is falling apart, you stop having “a thing”. You get so focused on just making it each day that your “interests” or “ambitions” kind of go out the window. You definitely don’t have time for passions.” She goes on to discuss how she thinks about the “old” her and who she used to be or who she might have been had her world not fallen apart.

Recently I have found myself thinking a lot about that as well, which is why this struck me so hard. I have thought about how I haven’t felt like myself in the five plus years since Tom was diagnosed with cancer, and I realized that’s because that Tracy does not exist anymore. That Tracy had not watched someone she loved fight the hardest battle of their lives and eventually lose. That Tracy had not spent 3 years taking care of her person and eventually feeling much more like his caregiver than his wife. That Tracy had not faced knowing that her husband was going to die and she was going to be alone. She hadn’t had to talk about cremation, and urns, and plan funerals. She hadn’t had to fight with insurance companies and medical staff to get the care that her husband needed.

But I think this Tracy also became a more compassionate and kind person. This Tracy knows that life is short and there are no guarantees, so live each moment as if you don’t have the next one. Because you don’t. Yes, I would love to have my old life back. But this life is good too, it’s just not what I expected.

I’ve said before that life is divided into “befores” and “afters”. The things that come before and after those big events-those events that have the tendency to change the course of our lives. Getting married, having a baby, losing a loved one, facing a disaster, etc. We all have those moments in our lives. Some are larger with greater implications (like the OKC bombing, COVID, or 9/11), and some are just lived out in our own lives and affect only those closest to us. We all must learn to live in the after, because it’s all we have now.

What are your befores and afters? How are you learning to live with them? Share in the comment section or email me privately at tracy.hinton@gmail.com


Bonnie McReynolds · October 22, 2022 at 1:17 pm

So many before/afters. Some good, some different, some sad. Before and after becoming a parent, losing friends, changing careers, losing my mom, then losing my dad. It ALL changes you, and honestly most of these have made me less “me” than before. Like you said, some good changes, but I’ve definitely lost a lot of “Bonnie” along the way.

    tracy.hinton@gmail.com · October 22, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    It’s so hard. I haven’t lost a parent yet, so I can only imagine how it changes you. Accepting the new person we become after loss has been one of the hardest parts of this journey for me. I sometimes find myself wishing that I felt like “myself” again and struggling with accepting that there is a new self there now. Love you Bonnie! You and your family have been a huge blessing in my life.

Fern Tomlinson · October 22, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Krysten moving to Mass. with Autumn was a big before/after. It changed my direction on being a mother and a Nana. I always wanted to be a Grandparent to my grandkids like my Mom and Dad were to mine. God had other plans. That was a big adaption. But probably the biggest before/after was Mom dying. I have never felt the same sense then. Everything changes. The best outcome from it was a new and better relationship with my sister. Then Covid happened and that changed that relationship. Chris just told me a few weeks ago that I was not the same person that I was 2 months again. I looked at him and said “I would hope not.” I may not be the best me yet but I am working on it. Gary dying was another before/after.

    tracy.hinton@gmail.com · October 22, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    Grief changes us, that’s for sure. And grief is found in all kinds of loss-including a child moving away.

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