Most people don’t think much about their own identity and how it is connected to others until they experience a loss. Once a loved one is gone from your life, you being to realize that part of your grief journey will also involve adjusting to a new identity. You will likely feel confusion over who you are now that your loved one has passed on.
There are multiple ways your identity can change following the loss of a loved one.
1) Relational Identity – If you lose a child you may wonder, "Am I still a parent?” If you lose a spouse, you will lose that identity that comes with being someone’s life partner. If your loved one was ill, and you were the primary caregiver, you may find that it is difficult to shift away from that role. Or you may find that you have now become the primary caretaker for an aging parent because your other parent has passed on. No matter the change, you may find yourself wondering if you will be able to cope in your new role.
2) Professional Identity - Following the loss of a loved one you may have to relocate or change jobs. Or you may have quit a job to help care for your loved one if they were ill and now you are able to return to the workforce. Our professional identity is a huge part of who we are and changes in this area can have a huge impact on how we see ourselves.
3) Spiritual Identity - For some, the loss of a loved one may change their outlook on life, and you may find that your spiritual faith can shift or even disappear. You may question your beliefs. If your spirituality was a big part of your identity prior to your loss, this can be hard to cope with.
4) Financial Identity – The loss of a loved one can also change your financial situation. You may go from a dual-income family to being a single income family. You may have medical bills to deal with. Alternatively, you may receive an inheritance that you must decide how to manage.
While there are no easy answers, know that facing a changing identity is common. It will take time to really feel like this new identity is truly "you.” Try to embrace your new role. By accepting your new responsibilities and the challenges that come along with it, you may find that your new role brings you a new sense of joy and fulfillment.