The loss of a child is a big change. One that you never anticipated experiencing. You are now part of the child-loss club. Becoming a member of the club changes your routine, your life and plans. Change is difficult, whether good – new job, marriage, a baby or bad. However, the changes we don’t want can be intolerable – death, divorce, or loss of a job. In the case of grief, some of these changes will be forever and long lasting and others will be short lived. Losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to any of us. So many times, there remains an underlying hope that things can be the same. This is a futile expectation, pining for things to go back the way they were. A persistent yearning to have your loved one back will stop you from healing.
Grief impacts your entire being; your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It also changes who you are as a mother.
Often times you don’t think about the changes in your health. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of changes in your health:
- Chronic pain
- Weakened immune system
- Difficulty breathing
- Eating disorders
- Mood swings
- Increased negative thinking
- Consistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- More than usual irritability, anger, aggression or hostility
- Loss of interest in activities you used to love
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Prolonged tearfulness or crying
- Loss in faith of higher power
- Distrust in others
- Unable to show gratitude
- Loss in ability to pray
- Loss of hope for the future
In my new book, Survive Your Child’s Suicide, I share in detail how to heal in these 4 areas of health. There is so much information that when I work with clients, we spend one week on each of these topics. I know it works because these are the same tools that helped me to get to a better place with peace, joy, happiness, feeling connected and supported by others. For a free 15-page booklet on Grief Healing Focused Eating – email [email protected].
I want to address the change in your identity with the loss of a child. Your identity is created by the way you think of yourself, how you define yourself, and the stories you tell yourself about who you are. Relational identity immediately comes to mind. It is the part of your identity that is based on your relationship with another person. As a mother, you may feel you have lost the mother-son relationship. You might be asking yourself, “if you are physically no longer a mother to (your child – insert their name here), then who am I?”
While you may feel like you are no longer a mother, rest assured that you will always be a mother. The physical relationship has changed yet your child will always be your child.
In this time of stress and change, you get to create a new identity. You will bring part of your past into the mixture, including both your happy and sad moments. The person you lost, the person you were are the parts that move forward with you. You can continue to have a connection to your loved one through memories.
Your change of identity can lead to positive gains. This may be changes in perspective, how you think about life and your future, improvements in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, or the formation of new skills. You may realize that because of this change, albeit one you never wanted, you have improved. My clients tell me that one of things that they really feel changes is their compassion for others. They understand what it is like to be going through a tough time – this time called grief. They make a conscious decision to reach out to others, listen and help in their grief. This is the recipe for version 2.0 of you!
After recently hosting a webinar, I downloaded the recording, converted it to an MP3, uploaded it to Soundcloud, uploaded it to YouTube then added it as a link in an email. When I realized what I had done, these were all part of my growth since my son passed away in 2018. Not something I aspired to do yet it was something I have grown into.
As you realize there are huge changes, you have choice to make. Are you going to allow your grief to control your life, or do you want to be in charge of it?
Think about how your loss does not have to define you but how it can refine you. You can do this. Version 2.0 can be in honor of your loved one, doing something they would appreciate or finding your new purpose and passion.