Growing a new self

From my journal dated October 9, 2002:

Lisa* called today wanting to know if I wanted to go to coffee. I’m so glad she called. She asked if I was doing okay, said I hadn’t seemed quite myself the last few times she’d seen me. I told her I wasn’t that person any more.

I think some people are waiting until we’re “back to ourselves” before calling or whatever…back to who they knew….back to their comfort zone with the person and relationship they knew. But, that was “before.” That person is gone. There’s no way we can be those people again. I don’t think people understand that. I may look like that person, sound like that person, even act like that person sometimes, but I’m quite simply not the person I used to be.



On my facebook account, I recently discovered a “friend” called Transcending Loss, a site that posts little uplifting thoughts concerning grief and the death of a loved one. Today the author talked about how you don’t go back to your former self; you “grow a new self.” (!/transcendingloss)

As I thought about that, I realized that one part of the grief process, especially for bereaved parents, really could be called “growing a new self.” It’s just one part, but it is certainly a part.

We are not the same people we used to be. How could we be? It’s just not possible to be the same after the death of a child. At first, our pattern is to try to respond in familiar ways, but we soon realize that it’s no longer possible to do that. That old person is gone, and we start with what we are left after the death of our loved one. We not only have to learn to live without our loved one, we have to adjust so many things in our lives that it could accurately be called growing a new life or rebuilding your life. When everything feels like it’s been shattered, you have to start the process of rebuilding your life at ground zero. It never looks the same as the original. You end up being a different person than you were before.

We examine our belief systems. We examine who we are. We sort and sift through many, many things that others take for granted or don’t think about. Relationships change. We have to learn new ways to do things, make new memories while not forgetting the old. We have to learn how to walk through this horrendous loss and accompanying grief in order to come out healthy on the other side. We have to learn how to walk again – in our own shoes, in our own lives, in our own skins, in our own families, in our faith. We have to learn to walk on a new path with an entirely different landscape.

We have to learn new patterns of response. Our focus becomes different. Our future, our hopes, and our dreams have changed, and we have to learn how to adjust and make new ones. We read. We try to find a measure of understanding and learn many things along the way. We have to learn to “move on.” We may choose to move to a different location, get a new job, find a new occupation, or go back to school in order to rebuild our lives. We deal with so many more different things than a non-bereaved person does.

It’s all part of the grief process. And it’s hard work. We have to learn to live without our loved one and we have to grow a new self as part of the grieving process. No wonder it takes such a long time and can be really exhausting!


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