With grief comes change. Change is one of the elements of grief that makes it so uncomfortable. The change of no longer having a wife or husband, or the change of no longer having your mother or father. It can be also be a change that does not involve death. The change can involve no longer dating someone, or switching jobs. With all change comes adaptation, challenge, emotional re-balancing, and time. Grief is the result of change and attachment to what was changed. Hence, change is a constant.
Ancient philosophers also had a difficult time understanding change. They pondered if everything is in a state of change and flux, is there any permanence in anything. Is someone the same or constantly someone new. Obviously, change does not alter the substance or permanence of an individual. Accidental qualities change within a person or a thing, but the person remains the same person, but it is obvious change alters. It is the person’s ability to cope with change and understand the nature of change in life to better equip a healthy attitude conducive to success in an ever changing reality.
One thing that is greatly effected by change is identity. Identity is who a person is and how one perceives oneself. When role is altered due to loss, identity can sometimes become confused and muffled in the chaos. Individuals may start to lose themselves in the chaos of loss if they are not able to better anchor themselves. It is critical during loss and hence change for one to be able to retain identity but this is harder than it may seem and many struggle during loss to retain their sense of self.
Loss of identity can be common for many individuals who define themselves with their vocation, career, or relations with others. Mothers who lose a child, may no longer feel they are a mother. The cruel loss of losing a child can make a woman feel like she is no longer a mother. This strip of identity of motherhood can be a horrifying loss for the person. Many women who lose a child, may make statements such as “I am not longer a mother” or “I used to be a mother, but no longer am”. It is important to help these women understand that their identity as a mother is permanent regardless of loss. They will forever be mothers and nothing can ever alter that. Unfortunately the loss can be so devastating as to attempt to even strip these grieving individuals even of such titles. One can apply this standard of title to anything. It can be applied to a grieving father, brother, uncle, or even a position.
This can also be applied to individuals who lose certain abilities. A runner who loses a leg, or a person who loses his or her sight. Or even the loss of youth as individuals come to grips with a mid life crisis. What one once was or what one could once do, poses serious changes to individuals. Individuals may feel they are no longer who they were and may not recognize themselves. The reality is change occurs within any organism and change, both good and bad will occur. These changes cannot define the individual at the core but they can affect secondary attributes. How one is able to cope with the changes is key to life. Unfortunately sometimes, others face changes that are far more difficult and require far more effort and time.
Identity can also be effected in other ways. Change, whether bad or for the good is always difficult. The change alters one’s perception of oneself and in some cases how others view the grieving. An individual who changes will face a period of adaptation regardless. If one ceases an individual bad habit, then that change will create new struggles as well as new paradigms. Removing oneself from a party scene for example, may pose a challenge in and of itself but also create new difficulties with older friends. Others may no longer wish to associate since the same shared activity is no longer part of one’s life. Hence loss of friends and new challenges of finding new friends can make one question identity.
Ultimately, one can fall into a fear of not knowing thyself. Who am I? Who am I not? Grief and bigger changes can cause an existential crisis in some that requires counseling and help to truly find oneself again. Grief and change are powerful things and can erode one’s very foundation if one does not cope. One can lose a sense of self and become isolated and question one’s own very reality. It is natural to have fears of change, to struggle with these changes, and come out different. However, just because one is different after change, does not mean one is another person. One may have different outlooks and different perspectives, but it does not mean, one’s identity or true self is lost. YOU are still YOU. Just like physically YOU were different when younger, YOU can be different emotionally and mentally due to change of loss. It is important to hold on to the anchor of self despite the storm of change around oneself. Life is about change, but it is about how YOU change with it, not your very identity itself.
In all stories of our life, it is important to not allow the bad chapters in our life to become isolated from the story of YOU. While the story changes, the book title is still YOU. How one incorporates the past chapters with the present in writing the future chapters is key. Change is part of life and without it there is no existence. It is important to be open to change, even difficult change throughout life if one wishes to live. Some change may be very terrible, some minor, and others pleasant, but whatever the change, it will affect oneself. How one connects the changes in life to the overall theme of one’s story is key.
If you would like to learn more about Grief Counseling Training, then please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling
“Whats Your Grief” article on “Change, Identity Loss and Grief by Eleanor Haley. Please click here