Often times during our grief journey, we spend time thinking about who our loved one would be now. Would they have a new job? Would they be retired and spending time out on the golf course? Would they have graduated high school and gone to college? There are so many what ifs that we think about in regards to our loved one, but what about ourselves? Sometimes people forget that part of our grief process is the loss of our own identity and life plan.
Over the past few months, as life has been moving at a fast pace and I have found myself thinking about this question. What would be different about my life if my loved ones were still here? Would it be the same but with extra people? Would I have the family, job, and relationships that I treasure if I had not had these losses as a child and teenager? I don’t enjoy spending time thinking about the “What ifs” of my life, because I am happy where it turned out. Did I love the fact that by the time I was 19 I had no parents? No. Absolutely not. Did I become the empathetic grief therapist that I am today because of them? Yes.
In his book “Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy,” William Worden describes four tasks of mourning. You can circle back to these tasks as many times as you need to and you can “complete” them out of order, because grief is anything but linear. His fourth task is “to find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life.” Over the past almost 18 years since my grief journey started, I like to think that my experiences, although I hated them, lead me to where I am today. After my father’s death, I learned the value of our true friendships. When my Grammy died in middle school, I learned how to handle more adult responsibilities. It was after my mom’s death that I realized that I should use these experiences that I have been given to help others. All of these put together have brought me to sharing the message that grief is a natural, beautiful, and hard journey but that it can shape us into something better if we let it. Some of you that are reading this may think I’m full of complete stuffing in the depths of your grief, and that is ok. I hope that reading some of these posts are able to give you hope that though the grief journey is a never ending one, it can still have it’s life enhancing moments. I hope that no matter where you are on your grief journey that you’re able to look ahead towards the life enhancing moments and do not find yourself spending too much thinking about the “What ifs” that we can’t control. I encourage you to take these experiences that you have been given to find your new purpose, your new identity.