How to Deal with Identity Changes After Loss

Asma Rehman, LPC

What we do, and who we are, is based on the role we play in our family, our professional life, and social circles. It helps others identify us as we are shaped by these roles. According to the Grief Recovery Center Method, our goals and aspirations, as well as our values, are defined by an identity that gives us a meaningful life. These roles we play are challenging to be reinvented because we have become what these roles require of us. But, what happens when those roles change?

In the aftermath of the loss, whether that be the death of a loved one, the loss of a long-standing career, or the breakup of a family, individuals experiencing the loss often feel lost. Their roles had given them a purpose, but now that those roles have suddenly disappeared, they no longer have the boundaries and must face the drastic changes in the relationships and foundations that structured their identity.

Our grief counselors often utilize the Grief Recovery Center Method to help individuals who have lost their identity, recover and navigate the new chapters in their lives. Here are 6 suggestions or strategies we have used that helped our clients cope with their identity changes after a loss.

1. Avoid Over-Compensating

When we lose our place or a specific role, our immediate response is often to over-compensate with our other positions. We over-work, over-plan, and over-parent, as a result of losing momentum to our previous roles. With the loss of a loved one, we tend to replace the gap in our lives with our other identities to give ourselves a sense of normalcy.

The Grief Recovery Center method of dealing with these identity shifts is to help you realize that you cannot compensate for the voids in your life by putting in extra effort into another part of your life. Grief has to be worked on naturally so that you may move forward instead of doing a mediocre cover-up job short-term. When we avoid our loss by over-compensating in other areas of our lives, it may work, but it may also be destructive to our grieving process. Our grief therapists may suggest adding in new roles instead to give you meaning and fulfillment. They can help with suggestions for healthier ways of dealing with your loss.


2. Give Yourself the Permission to Grief

By allowing yourself space and time to feel the way you do, you are actualizing your feelings and learning to express them in a way that it helps you find closure to the loss of your identity. Our trained Houston therapists use the Grief Recovery Center method to help you realize that you have to give yourself the permission to work through your emotions in response to your loss. These powerful feelings cannot be neglected, but the good news is that you have full control over them.

You have a choice to find new roles and to find new meaning in your life after loss. Every morning, you get to wake up with a decision to move forward or to continue feeling helpless. You have full reign over the reactions to your thoughts, feelings, and anxieties; and you have a choice over what roles you wish to take.

Grief Recovery Center Method

3. Let Go of Old Roles

The next reasonable strategy is to really let go of your old roles and identities that you have lost. You can reminisce about them, but don’t hang on to them so that you can genuinely embrace new parts you create for yourself. The Grief Recovery Method will give you the proper guidance to free yourself up to experience new opportunities that may come.

4. Get Ready for Some Discomfort

Whenever we do something for the first time, it is probably filled with failure and uncomfortable embarrassment. Taking on new identities and new roles in our lives after a loss is no different. You will have good days on your new journey, and you will also have bad days.

Think of when you first become a parent, or when you were newly married, weren’t these roles filled with obstacles and challenges that you felt were too overwhelming to overcome? Expect periods of discomfort as you settle into your new roles, whether that’s being a newly single parent or a new position at a new job.

The Grief Recovery Method provides you with the support you need to find comfort in your journey into the unknown. Your loss may be painful, but adjusting to a new identity and a new role doesn’t have to. Realize that others are going through a similar journey as you and our grief experts are there to steer you through it.

5. Be Okay With Failing in Your New Role

It is okay to learn to laugh about your failures, you can gain perspective that way. Our natural capacity for learning a new role is to feel down about failing at it. It is enough to have to cope with your loss, but put that with having to learn to adjust to a new identity can be terrifying. Instead of allowing you to stay frustrated and angry, the Grief Recovery Method is utilized by our grief therapists to help you appreciate your passage to embracing a new role in your life.

Bereavement is a long and excruciating process, but when you find a new identity to take on, you will come to realize that your loss cannot end your world. Grief will always be there nudging at you, but you can accept them and choose to move on regardless of how you think you’re doing with the new roles in your life.

6. Take Your Eyes off Yourself

Instead of allowing you to feel sorry for yourself, the Grief Recovery Method is applied by our grief counselors to help you get out of the rut you are in. They may suggest finding a new passion or a new hobby; these activities allow you to take your eyes off of yourself while you are going through your grief recovery process. Staying active can help you embrace your new identity as a creative person that can do more than before.

Do you have any other suggestions for dealing with identity changes after a loss? Share with us and contact us at the Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX for more info today.

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