How To Find Your New Identity After Loss
The days after losing her, I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my body.
At 28, I had luckily escaped gut-wrenching loss up until Bella died when I was 20 weeks pregnant. Both of my parents were still living, I had healthy friends and extended family. I did lose two grandparents when I was younger, but processing the loss of our unborn child was nothing like grieving the natural circle of life.
I thought the pain and sadness would never end.
But 7 years later I can look back and see the silver lining. There was a gift in her loss. I can see now how the dots connected to bring our family to the amazing experience we’re living today.
Defining life moments (whether they be tragically sad or unbelievably happy) are also the markers of our personal growth as humans.
They are the times where if you choose, you can pull back the mask you wear on a daily basis and see (for better or worse) what’s hiding underneath.
Your loss opens you to the potential for immense self-discovery, healing, and hope. How can you expand more fully into who you want to become — beyond loss mom?
When my body stopped creating our first daughter, I had to create a new experience.
It was an invitation. One that beckoned me to honor the winding path that laid before me.
Even when you feel like a capsized, battered, broken boat lost at sea, you can still lean into a new identity after loss too.
Below are five ways to stay present with your emotions, honor your child, and open the door for positive personal growth after loss:
That seems so obvious. But for me as the person who ‘never cried’ and swept ‘hard emotions’ under the rug – grieving was like a foreign country. I had to learn the language. Know it was ok to cry. Allowing emotions to flow through you means you can process them faster. (Notice I didn’t say fast — healing doesn’t happen overnight.) I also learned that it was still okay to feel happiness and to laugh again too.
Tapping into creativity and the creative process was a HUGE piece of my personal growth while grieving. I found I loved photography and it gave me a place to hide (behind the lens of my camera) but still create after my body failed to do so. I created a body of work that showed my vast range of emotions and helped me get up, out of bed, and into the world again.
I started a journal after Bella died. I made it public (it was a blog). Funny enough, some of the words I shared there are still ones that stick with me as life lessons 7 years later. Don’t worry about if your writing is ‘good enough.’ You don’t have to start a blog like I did. Pick up a private journal and just write. Sometimes we don’t know what’s floating around in the depths of our mind until we put pen to paper and see what flows out.
Finding others who have been in your shoes will help you feel less alone. Read blogs. Listen to podcasts. Schedule a coffee date with another mom you know has walked the loss journey before. Try out a support group. Don’t walk this road solo. It’s isolating and lonely and will be so much harder in the long run.
Find a way to honor your baby directly or indirectly in your daily life. We have a few pieces of art, photos, and knick knacks in our home that keep Bella’s memory in our home and our hearts. Many of these shared keepsakes are subtle and indirect (The photo of a rose I snapped on her birthday 2 years ago, the rose locket I wear around my neck, or the rose pink chairs and shelving in my office). But, these items when shared, keep the memory of our daughter alive.
If you’re looking to uncover your identity as a woman, mom, and individual, the Recapture Self podcast will support you in using your camera and creativity to lead a life in deeper alignment with your true purpose.
We support all moms (note: not just loss moms) during all of life’s transitions, whether that be through loss, heartbreak, or new experiences; through inspiring interviews with photographers, bloggers, artists, and other creative leaders.