Who are you? At first glance that seems like an easy question to answer. Most of us will say, I’m a mom, a dad, a son, a friend, a teacher, a boss, a coach, an athlete, a musician, a girlfriend, etc.
BUT…If you were to lose any of those things, would you still be okay? Would the core of who you are be rattled and lost? If the answer is yes to that question, would you consider that your identity was perhaps a little bit more than that? Yes, loss and death is devastating. I’m talking about when it become debilitating and takes over your grief process.
I started to explore my identity many years ago when someone asked me that very question. It kinda made me mad, if I’m being honest. I WAS a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter and a friend. What else could there be?
It wasn’t until I was raising my boys and teaching them about who they are and helping them identify with themselves, did I finally understand what that truly meant. They are young and the things they are involved in will end. If I taught them that their entire identity was wrapped up in being an athlete, what would they have when all of that ended or didn’t go well?
My mom died and left me grieving and lost. I was shaken and so horribly sad, as most of us would be. I didn’t know how to move on, I was literally lost. I didn’t know where to go, who to call, or what to say. A normal reaction perhaps, to a devastating loss. It wasn’t until a few days later when I arrived back home that I believe my journey to finding myself had begun.
I remember sitting on my back porch, filled with sadness and loss. I reached for my phone to call the one person who could help me through these feelings and I stopped in my tracks. I was calling my mom. I didn’t reach up, I didn’t look within, and I didn’t attempt to go through the steps of healing. I reached out to call her and it was then that I realized no matter what I did, I would never talk with her again. I also realized in that moment, for the first time I felt truly alone. No one could help me. (except for God) – I will tell ya about that lesson on another day.
I wasn’t only grieving my mom that day, I was grieving what I believed to be my identity. I had no idea that’s what I was doing at the time, but that is in fact what was happening. I knew how to be a daughter. I didn’t know who I was when that was taken from me. My identity was ripped from me and I was lost. And so the journey begins.
I shifted my identity to the others I had created. Mom, teacher, sister, wife, daughter, friend. As sad and horrific as this sounds, would my spirit be ok losing any of these titles as well? If I lost my job, would I be sad and able to find another one? Or would I go through a depression and feelings of worthlessness because I had my identity tied up in being a teacher? If my marriage suddenly ended, would I be able to pick myself up, fight, and live a productive life? Or would I find myself in bed with the blankets over my head, and for days on end battle depression?
When we go through an abundance of depression and hopelessness about the things that end in our life, maybe that is because our identities were tied up in those titles. A normal amount of disappointment, grief and sadness is appropriate when dealing with loss. A debilitating and prolonged grief period might have appeared because we didn’t know that a second loss was upon us. The loss of our identity. The title of what we called ourselves, was now dead.
Back to the drawing board. Who am I? If I cannot say that my identity lies in being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, or a teacher… Then who am I? What would you say?
I’m leaning on the lines of saying that I am a person of faith and integrity. I am a person with strength and love to give. None of those things can be taken from me. They are; Who. I. Am. It’s what makes my heart beat and it’s what drives my feet to serve others and give my time. No loss, no trauma, no person can take those things from me. It’s in my breath, my core, my heart, and my soul. It’s the light in my eyes and the passion in my heart.
Knowing that my worth, my identity lies in my own hands and that no one can take that away, is freeing. I have wonderful roles to live out in my life. Being a wife, mom, sister, friend, daughter, and teacher are some of the places my “identity” has lead me to.
I agree, it is confusing. I wish I had a better word for the word “roles” in my life. A role sounds like an identity, but an identity has so much more depth. Your role is something you do in in life. Your identity is who you are when you do those things. It’s your love, your integrity, your strength, and the core of what makes you, YOU.
I’m still sorting this out in my head. It does sound confusing to me. The best way I can keep it straight? I think back to when I was on the swim team. I was wrapped up in being the best, giving my all. When I didn’t become the best and when that sport ended, I still needed to be ok. If all I could identify with was being a swimmer, then what else could there be for me? How could I wake up the next day and find purpose in my day if I couldn’t be a swimmer?
Our role is like the skin we wear or the hat we put on. It’s the role we are given and the many things we do. Our identity is what is under our skin. It’s the words that come out of our mouths and the actions our hands take. It’s what we do when no one else is watching. Our identity is our spirit, our soul, our personality, and our passions. It’s something that cannot be taken away or lost.
Please chime in… I’m still sorting all of this out in hopes of understanding. I’m sure there are tons of articles and books on this, but I haven’t read any.