Written by Leanne Pettigrew: When did I stop saying "we" and started saying "I"?

I sometimes wonder if I have a neon arrow pointing to me saying “talk to me about your grief”, but in reality people talk to me about their grief because I talk openly about my grief journey.

On a recent holiday I met a lovely lady who had lost her dear husband just 11 months ago. They were married just two months shy of 50 years and she was on her first holiday as a solo traveller. I congratulated her for being so brave - it’s not easy to leave the safety of your home and support network to travel alone.

As she and I sat and chatted we talked about our men and, even though our stories were different on many levels, we were walking the same path albeit I was further down that path.

During our conversation she asked some beautiful questions one being “when did I stop saying ‘we’ and start saying ‘I’?”

Her question stopped me in my tracks. I tried to think back - I know I would often catch myself saying we when I should have been saying I, but I wasn’t ready to exclude him from my plans at this stage of my journey. In hindsight, this was a big deal, because to change from we to I meant that I had to acknowledge that I was no longer a “we” but I was now just “me”.

And there lies the crux of the matter….I wasn’t ready to let go of the we because I was unsure of who I was when I was just me.

Ian and I were a couple when I was just 19…married at 21. For all these years it’s been Ian and Leanne, or Mr and Mrs Pettigrew. Friends referred to us as they, and I referred to us as we. I have not been an “I” since I was a teenager and, maybe, there lies the real issue….I didn’t particularly like teenager me.

But I am no longer that girl. Life has chipped away the rough edges, living has moulded me, and experiences have shaped me into the woman I am….being loved by Ian was a bonus.

And the light bulb moment hits me…I’ve always been an I….a separate identity to Ian….therefore nothing about me changes now that Ian no longer walks besides me, (yep my eyes still welled up when I typed those words, but hey I’m only human), I am still me!

Does this mean I’m giving myself permission to let go of the need to say we? That saying I doesn’t mean that I have forgotten Ian, or that I have moved on, or that he is no longer important to me?

I have finally realised - or should I say - I have remembered, finally, that I exist without Ian. I always have, and, I always will.

Leanne Pettigrew