The Who Am I Now? Question
Significant loss changes you. Not just in the first days and weeks, not even after the first year, two or three, but from the eventful point onward. So when the vast emptiness of undefined longing and a broken heart become your proverbial crack into a personal “awakening” to explore “something more to life,” then wholeness and healing take on additional new meaning. Not only is the specific death questioned, but now perhaps your entire life is on the table for examination. This is the deeper, personal transformative work for conscious (thus so-called awakened) change in yourself. This is the shift from making meaning and purpose not come from the life of your loved one, but from discovering and creating the true authentic voice from within your own self. In a driving force of growth, “Who am I, now?” is juxtaposed in comparison and contrast to “who have I thought I am?” Indeed, this change now becomes an expansion through loss rather than a decrease left in the space by the one whom you loved and connected.
The When of Re-identification
Being with Loss is one of the zones identified by Navigating Grief in consideration of How Long Does Grief Take? This is the period when you recognize that the grief is less painful, life is more manageable –mostly–and there are few Grief 101 questions left. You have been Coping with Loss as you gather the skills, do the tasks, care better for yourself, develop compassion, and create best practices in your changed environment. You probably bounce between the good days and bad days of “coping” and “being” with your loss, even while enveloped in all the emotions handed to anyone in grief. This is nearing that possible final step off the Navigating Grief bridge to your Other Side of grief that is the renewal for life without your loved one. Being with Loss associates with words that provide a sense of completion. Bereavement professionals offer all sorts of terms: assimilated, acceptance, reconciled, closure, finding meaning… You don’t have to agree, they are the just some of the language mileposts. The Navigating Grief milepost is the one that says find the word of “your other side” and you have arrived at Being with Loss.
The real qualifier in the question is “now.” Who am I, Now? ties in with grief Influencer of Relationship/Role:
“Relationship has two references: The type of relationship bond and the quality of the bond between you and deceased. The type of bond is the parent/child, spouse/partner, friend, sibling, pet, etc. The quality of bond centers around questions and answer of love, dependency, mutuality, health or toxicity of the person-to-person relationship and history. Your Role in this relationship is a personal identification confusion as you question the loss as a caregiver, spouse, parent, orphan, etc.“
Are you no longer a wife, a parent, someone’s child? Does it negate all before the loss? We present our self to the world in relationship and now the relationship is broken. Yet inside we may still feel to be that spouse or parent or child. The deep cathartic work to move through and with grief is the re- identification from “us” to “me” summed up in Who am I Now? Being with Loss releases the pain of grief, keeps the relationship as it was, and honors both loved one and self in present reality.
When, where and if you start a transformation on who you are is based on your priority need. The re-identification need is to align how you view yourself and that others reflect that accurate view. Are you walking your own talk? Using a model of building on recognized successes, a great place to start is to prioritize based on what is easy and calling for most attention. Self-care and health are often loss and grief starting points because this is regularly the most neglected, most useful and most easily measured when change occurs. Success can be answered in “Yes, I feel better!” To set priority ask yourself what is calling for attention: Is it your mind (negative thoughts, degrading) your body (health, care, environment) or your beliefs (values, philosophies, connections with others) in need?
Like transition, transformation is a process. The journey for transformation is much more intentional than the must-respond-to transition that is coping with your loss. On the longer life journey, transforming into “the healthy self” means to develop your own unique and separate Mind-Body-Beliefs whole being (link Mind-body- belief) based on your needs and wants today. One size does not fit all. Your balance must be sought from the inside out; however, you will also be challenged by all that is around you from the outside in!
This topic is explored in more depth through Navigating Grief programs and coaching. See Help is Here for current offerings.