In life we’re always going through transitions. This is the nature of life. Birth and death. Inhale and exhale. Spring, summer, winter and fall. We are constantly in a state of change. Some of these transitions are easier to embrace while others, like losing a loved one, going through a divorce or breakup, losing a job or moving from a beloved home, for instance, really shake us to the core.
When we lose someone or something we love, we lose a part of ourselves. The people and things we love and regularly associate with become part of our story. We wrap our identities up in those we love. They become a part of us. So when they pass away or move on, we are left with a void. A void that can feel so empty and so overpowering it consumes us at times, maybe even all the time.
©️Erika Somogyi "Self Portrait as the Lost Coast"
In essence, it becomes a double loss. Not only are we dealing with the loss of someone or something we love, we are dealing with the loss of our own identities. Without your loved one, who are you?
This was an unspoken question buried deep in my heart after my mom died. My mom was my best friend, my soul mate, my everything. I looked to her for advice, to boost my self confidence and to strengthen my faith. After she passed away, I felt lost without her. Nobody else understood me the way she did. Nobody else loved me the way she did. How could I go on without her championing me throughout my life the way she always had?
That’s when I learned that nobody or no-thing can be your “everything”. I had to start relying on my own inner compass for advice. I had to learn to be confident in myself no matter what anybody else said. I had to practice strengthening my faith everyday on my own.
God knows the number of times I failed at these things along the way, especially in the depths of grief, but over time, and with practice, I grew stronger. Now that I can confidently say I don’t feel any more grief over my mom’s passing (after A LOT of heavy grieving), it’s 7 years later and I’m only now seeing how deep my loss of identity had run since losing her.
In a recent meditation I realized how male energy dominant I’d become over the years since she passed. Having ventured away from the corporate world to become a yoga therapist so I could help people heal from illness like my mom had suffered through, I’d been in a state of doing, doing, doing and giving so much that I often forgot how to be, how to receive, how to surrender and be in the flow.
It dawned on me in that meditation that my mom had represented that divine feminine energy in my life. And then it further dawned on me that my mom was never separate from me. She was/is me. I was/am her. In terms of quantum physics, we are all made up of energy and we are all one. Mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, friend, neighbor, colleague, even the woman or man on the other side of the world you’ll never meet, we are all connected by the very same fabric of life. Not even death can separate us because energy cannot be created nor destroyed.
This means 2 things: (1) we never actually lose the ones we love (only in the way we’ve come to know them in their physical bodies) and (2) we never actually lose ourselves. It just feels that way to our limited perceptions.
©️Carol Cavalaris "Third Eye Chakra Goddess"
For awhile after our initial perceived loss, we, ourselves don’t know who we are without our loved ones physically present. In the messy and complicated interim, the grief can become who we are. “I’m the girl who lost my mom. I’m the woman whose husband left me. I’m the guy who lost my dad.”
We unconsciously identify and define ourselves by our loss. Inevitably our grief shapes us, whether we like it or not. It becomes our story, our identity. We can’t imagine ourselves without it. Who would we be? We can never go back. We can never be the same person we were before.
And you know what? I wouldn’t want to be the same person I was before my mom passed away. Looking back I’m so thankful for the incredible growth it spawned. Her death was my rebirth. It showed me what’s important in life. It gave me courage. It gave me strength. It gave me understanding. And it gave me purpose.
The truth is I never needed my mom or anyone else to make me who I am (yes, she and my dad made me but they didn’t make me who I am). I’m still learning now how to reunite both my feminine and masculine parts to not only feel whole but to feel harmony from within. This is how my identity has been taking shape lately. Just like life and death, it is ever shifting, ever changing, ever evolving.
Consider what the person you’ve lost represented to you in your life.
What role did they have in your life?
How did this man, woman or child shape who you are today (whether for better or worse)?
How did the loss of him or her shape or change you?
How can you integrate what they meant to you in new ways in your life?
Who would you like to see yourself becoming after all you’ve been through?
As with my last blog post “The #1 Tool To Help You Make Sense Of Grief”, I encourage you to journal about this. Writing it down can help you sort through your thoughts and feelings and see things about yourself you may not have seen before.
It often (dare I say, it always?) takes life’s hardships to evolve our spirits. This is the gift of grief. Once we’ve accepted, felt and released the grief, we can move forward with a newly integrated identity, coming back to ourselves—only stronger, more compassionate, and more passionate about life. We recognize the fragility and temporality of life in these physical bodies and, so, we can take the pain we’ve experienced and use it as fuel to create our best selves and, ultimately, our best lives.
"Because only after the storm can we fully bloom." ~ Michelle Meier