Staying Afloat When Grief Steals Your Identity

The hardest part of grief as well as the obvious loss of your loved one is the physical and internal changes within your self. Your being. The body’s response is sudden and arduous, truly your mind is not conscious of what is happening to you, only what has happened to your loved one. Yet, it may be months or years when you notice it. After the shock has worn off you may have had a chance to glance at your reflection in a distant mirror and you don’t recognize who you see in the reflection. The you that used to be is gone.

In that single horrible moment that I heard you were gone, a huge part of me went with you. A great big part of me anyway. So much of me disappeared the day you left and so much of me has changed that I am learning I really don’t know who I am right now. I question everything. Those of us that have lost someone so close to us often say, “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

What happens to us? Our hearts are shattered and within our bodies the explosion of all that emotion and mental shock have caused so much damage we get short circuited. It’s almost as if we are burned out. We are empty shells of who we used to be, left to figure out how to regain some form of who we are supposed to be now.

I questioned how any one thing could possibly hurt so much and not kill me. The grief is not comparable to anything I could ever explain. I still cannot comprehend how I lived through the first six months after I lost you. How any of us did. The gut-retching, screaming without a sound pain you and only you alone can go through. I believe I know now that Konnor was watching us and trying to comfort us. His gentle hand on our shoulders, his tears raining down with ours. Perhaps he had a hand in helping us get through it.

The change in cognitive function. I was merely able to stare blankly at the television, cry and sleep (with the help of meds). I cannot bring to my recollection how I spent my time the first year after the loss of Konnor. I explained in previous blogs I had gone through a few jobs, I had been unable to concentrate, to cope with any stress at this point. My mind was shutting everything out. I, in turn let my body go with it. I figured I would rejoin life when I was ready. Even today I find myself forgetful, at times staring off into space, a disconnection of sorts yet my mind is racing when I try to sleep. My thoughts will take me to horrible places at night, whether it is reality based or not. Why my psyche feels motivated at this specific time to attack with deep thoughts of situational probabilities and emotional conversation is beyond my comprehension.

Social skills. This is laughable. Who wants to hang around someone who is so depressed that all they do is cry? When I couldn’t cry anymore (surprisingly I was finally able to stop crying after crying every day for eight months) Now I have become so socially uncomfortable from NOT being around people for so long that I just gave up. The friends I do have that really know me, by that I mean the ones I have had for twenty-plus years, I do see from time to time. They make the effort to call and pull me out of my head and my home because we have the longevity and love that is needed to keep the friendship alive. I don’t think I would have made it out of the dark without them.

Irritability. I don’t know what is happening to me here. There is no distinguishing what can set me off. One thing may set me off and another issue you may think would anger me will not bother me what-so-ever. I do know that it does not take much to put me into frustration mode. I used to think I was a pretty strong person. Death has stolen my ability to be strong. It has crushed me. A minor traffic jam can put me into tears. A small non-complicated issue will have me searching for alternative ways around it. Avoidance is my new best friend. I used to be the “go to” person. In self-preservation mode I can barely help myself. I can only hope that those I love and that love me will respect and understand my journey and not give me additional things to worry about.

Along with irritability, mood swings are its constant companions. There is no rhyme or reason for the ups and downs of my moodiness. Although I have figured out that the closer I get to the 22nd of the month the more sensitive I get. Everything makes me cry around this time. I wish this number held a different meaning than the day Konnor passed away. The number two used to be my favorite number. I am very aware of my mood swings. If I’m not crying, I am angry. In an instant I can be spewing obscenities out of frustration because something didn’t go the way I felt it should. They frighten me in that they have no obvious warning. With relief I only have my son to apologize to if I get out of hand. Otherwise, I just hide and ride it out.

Seventeen months have passed since Konnor left this earth. Seventeen. I have never asked myself when I think I will be over it. There is no OVER IT. I realize this is a process, an adjustment that may last the rest of my lifetime. Every single thing that has changed within me, every mood, every tear, every small step I have taken to figure out who I am now, is because of Konnor. It is still because my love for him is that strong. I can’t let that go. Maybe that’s the part of loss we have been trying to fight against. The letting go. Accepting the fact that we have lost them forever. We don’t know who we are without them in our lives. They were the part of us that is forever gone. But…maybe they aren’t.

If we use what we have learned and remind ourselves that our loved ones are here with us. I know… It’s difficult to comprehend, some don’t believe but they are still with us in spirit. It’s up to us to put the pieces together and move forward with this as our guide. As hard as that is to do, I know Konnor would want me to.

 Every day is a struggle to move forward in this grief journey. Although I am finding a new me in this process there is no question who I will always be – Konnor’s Grandma.

 Photo Credit: Marco De Waal/Wassenaar, Nederland
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Grieving Grandmother to Konnor Mason who passed suddenly at eight years old on November 22, 2015. With this blog I hope to share my thoughts and feelings as I move forward through grief toward hope and healing.

35 thoughts on “Staying Afloat When Grief Steals Your Identity

  1. I lost my daughter 17 months ago in a tragic car accident. She left behind an 11 year old son..You are right it is a whole body while life crushing experience..We are supposed to bury our parents not our children or grand children..I am sorry for your loss.. Thank you for writing this and sharing it

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      1. My wife and I lost our 21 year old son. These are the ways we have kept afloat.
        1. God is good even when we don’t understand.
        2. Grieve but dive into the promises of God by reading the Bible like you never have before. It became like air to me.
        3. I began writing poetry to deal with the pain to help others with their pain. Perhaps writing may be cathartic for you.
        4. Exercise, get your sleep and eat properly. Don’t let food or drink become a pathway of self medication.
        5. Reach out to others and in doing so you will find your burden lightened.
        6. We go to a natural health practitioner who has helped us with adrenal fatigue and other things to help our body recover naturally. I’m not a fan of pharma that has a list of side effects longer than what the benefit is.
        7. Don’t ask why because that question may never be answered but rather ask what. What can I do to encourage other people who are struggling?

        In the end we can either become better or bitter from the tragedies of life. I pray for strength and increased faith for you.

        Blessings,
        Daniel Mortimer

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    1. We lost our 26 year old son tom to a boating accident along with his coin dan our tom was married had 2 kids 1.5 years and 3 months old ,a girl and boy Manny families and friends they left behind still very hard for us a great true article you have wrote and how true.

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  2. I lost my 36 y/o son Patrick 17 months ago, November 29, 2015 and you message touched my heart and spoke to me. I have felt so many of the same things, lost, broken, empty and exhausted. His birthday is in two weeks and I’m not sure how I will handle it this year. I am much less numb that last year, so much more raw and emotional. I don’t know what to do with myself most days, I’ve painted every room in my house because other than the decision of what color, I don’t really have to think to complete that task and since my husband hates to paint, he leaves me alone. Sorry, I’m babbling again. Take care of yourself 💙☘️💛⚾️

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  3. Thankyou for your words they resonate very deeply with me. I lost my partner in November 2014, very suddenly to cardiac arrest. I also felt that in losing him I’d also lost so much of myself that it would be impossible for me to go on. At the beginning the only thing that kept me here was my dog, it was clear he was also grieving and needed me badly, well we needed each other. Now I’m very thankful that I did survive, the hurt and loss will always be there but now I’m also able to feel happiness as well as just sadness. But yes everything’s changed so much, in my life and myself, so I too sometimes look in the mirror and wonder who I am now.

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    1. It’s hard to understand who we are without them. It’s the most difficult process I know I have ever experienced. If not for others in our lives most of us would give in to grief. I’m happy to hear you are feeling some happiness. I wish you love and healing. ❤️

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    2. I also think you’re right – there is no getting over it and most of us would never want that anyway. I feel I’ve just grown accustomed to walking around with a gaping wound in my heart. But 2 and a half years on I do feel calmer now, the intense distress has receded, at least to a point, where I’m able to continue on with my own life. It gives me strength to know that’s what my partner would have wanted, just as I’d have wanted him to carry on living and try to be happy – had things been the other way around.
      Love and strength to everyone else coping with grief
      Lou

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  4. My only child, my love, died in January 22, 2017 at age 30. At a church service recently, a clergy member asked if I had any other children. When I replied, “No,” they said, well that must be hard, you’re not even a mother anymore. I replied, “Oh, I will ALWAYS be a mom” and she responded with “No, not really.”

    I haven’t lost my identity and never will as long as I have breath in me, but there are others who seem to be intent on trying to take it away.

    Great post. Thank you.

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    1. I’m sorry that happened to you. Clergy is supposed to be sensitive and was a very uncaring thing to say as well as inaccurate.
      Losing your child no matter what age they were does not mean you are no longer a mother. You will always be a mother just as I will always be Konnor’s Grandmother. As long as we live and breathe.

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  5. My Mom passed 9 months ago. She had a lot of health issues over the years. Her goal was to see my daughter graduate HS her last and youngest Grandchild. The Lord allowed her to see her graduate. A few days later she ended up being in the hospital. A few weeks later we put her in Hospice. I kept praying Lord please take her she has had enough few days later she passed. I ended up being angry. I was surprised at my anger. My Birthday and Mother’s day is coming up. Not looking forward to either of them. Yesterday was the first time I saw my Mom’s headstone. I cried like a baby. Sometimes I tell myself stop all that crying. I miss my Mom so much. One step at a time one moment at a time.

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    1. I lost my mom 10 months ago. I cant function. She was 82 with lots of medical issues, CHF, etc but we never thought she was gunna die, she didn’t want to die. One day she had trouble breathing, i took her to the hospital and it was awful. They tried to tie hers hands and arms down to give her oxygen and i feel responsible for her last waking moments. To add after signing a dnr my other sister was at beside when she had a masive heart attack and said save her. They worked on my mother, beating her up for 29 mins. Her pulse returned only to have another sister say take her off everything and let her die after 12 hours. The worse is my blessed mother had 5 living daughters who now dont talk. Because the eldest tried to give her home away to her friend, threw away my moms things in the trash and allowed another drug dependant daughter and family to move into home and violate her home and things. I am struggling with having no control over all that. I have children and a family but im broken. I miss my mother and feel i failed in saving her from all of this….

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      1. I’m sorry you not only lost your mother but you feel you failed her. You did not.
        You had no control over what was happening around you. When family is involved, unless there is a clear cut Power of Attorney, and no spouse it is up to the children to make the decisions together.

        Family issues like this makes grieving complicated. I hope you have other loving support in your life to help you cope.
        God bless.

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  6. Your testimony rings loud and clear within me. My Fiancé died five years ago from a rare type of stroke. As I suffer from severe insomnia, we stayed awake talking until 3 am, on April 22,2012. This one night I slept only to awake to my Bride to be having a seizure. She was taken off lifesupport 2 days later. I’ve had a great deal of death around me. Nothing as life-changing as the death of my best friend and soul-mate, Theresa.

    You captured my feelings perfectly. There are no rules for grieving. There is no “prescription” for a cure. We grieve until…. forever? I don’t know but my life changed completely.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I can appreciate every offer of help via the wonderful posts by those who felt a similar experience. Unfortunately, I have no roadmap to guide you out of your grief. My belief in God is strong yet my prayers have yet to ease the pain. It may be possible I subconsciously choose to hold on to her. Still, I allow myself the freedom to grieve until God provides my peace.

    Comfort in knowing your little one is in Heaven with a wonderful new relationship with Jesus the Christ.

    God Bless you and all who loved Konnor during this season of your life.

    Greg

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    1. It is because we are not only blessed with being a part of their beautiful existence but also a part of when their souls leave this earth that we struggle?
      Yes, we choose to hold on to them with every breath we have. This is love.
      You wrote beautifully, God Bless you. 💔

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  7. How this has touched me is beyond words. I have lost so many in my family and I still grieve them. My Daddy died in 1986, My Momma died in 1994, My sister was murdered in 2004, my other sister died in 2010. I have one sister left and she has Alzheimer’s. I am too young for all this grief. I am only 59. I miss them all so much. My pain is always near and it is so hard to let go. I miss them more than I can explain. I am the only one left. Sometimes I feel that I am not worthy of life. Then I have to remember that Jesus died for me so I know I am worth something. I know grief. I know how it can change a person. I am no longer the same person I used to be and I miss me. Things have changed too much. The toll it has taken on my health and my personality. I know I will never be the same. It is a comfort to me knowing that others feel like me. Thank you so very much for this. I know I have to go on although sometimes I marvel I have made it this far. Just when I feel like I can’t go on, God always throws something or someone in my path. Tonight it was you. I am sorry for the loss of your Grandson. May God be with you and comfort you.

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    1. To say I’m sorry is not enough for what you are going through.
      You are stronger than you think. Every day you get through is another testament to your will, whether guided by God or your loved ones.
      Please know that I believe your loved ones are with you and watching over you.
      My prayers are with you. ❤️

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  8. I am so very, very sorry for the loss of your Konnor. Thank you though, for putting into words what I have been feeling since February 9, 2017 when my only child Joshua took his life. He would have been 28 on May 13, the day before Mother’s Day. I feel a little less crazy (although still not sane) after reading what you wrote. While I will always be Joshua’s mom, I sadly fear that I will never be the same person that I was…

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    1. I am so sorry for your loss. We can never be the same after such a loss. When we are left with unanswered questions it can tear us up inside. I cannot even imagine your loss.
      Our only comfort is knowing they are in peace, in time we may find ours.
      Your in my prayers.

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing I lost my husband two months ago to a car accident! The sting of death is awful!

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  10. I lost my husband who was also my best friend after 25 years of marriage on December 17 2016. Everything you wrote describes what I’m going through. I need to find me but how can I do that because for 25 years it was we? I fight the mood swings every day. I get mad because he left me here. I get frightened because I can’t make a decision. I’m alone even when I’m around friends and family. There’s this tapping whole in my heart. I know that he is with me always in my heart and I feel his presence at times. But still I get angry at him at God and at stupid little things that just happen. And I cry at the dumbest times. Night’s are the worst. That’s when I feel the loneliest. My life has forever changed and I didn’t ask for this. Our grandkids a boy 16 and a girl 12 their lives where devistated at the loss of their grandpa. I had to make a trip to California to be with them for 10 days during Christmas. They were feeling a lot of the same feelings I was and still am. They were angry with God. I tried to console them but I was feeling that anger too. During that 10 days our little family talked about how would we go on without him. Then we spent hours and hours talking about the good times. I told them no one could take the piece of their grandpa away from them that they carry in their hearts. They are so young but at that moment they understood that their grandpa was still with them and to not be afraid to talk to him and that he would here them and still guide them. I think I got more out of those 10 days than anyone else. Being strong for them set me on a path of understanding. It really set me on the path to finding myself. Finding the me that my husband would want me to find so that i can go on. Its an uphill battle every moment of every day. But im trying. I was paralyzed for three of the 4+ months since he left us for his own journey one we all must take. I feel better knowing he is at peace and not suffering anymore. I understand we will be together again. But when those moments of grief hit I loose all sense of those beliefs. I don’t know as I write this if it makes any sense. That’s what I tell our wonderful friends we have who have supported me emotionally when I was paralyzed with grief. They stood by me and understood when all I could do was cry. I will never get over this loss I will just learn how to better deal with it.

    Thank you for writing this piece on your blog. You have put into words what I try to but do not do such a good job.

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    1. I think you just put into words, beautifully I might add, exactly how you have been feeling.
      I was very afraid to start this blog. I am not a writer and I did not want to sound immature or stumble on my words. I write what I feel, it’s honest and open. It was the only way to get my pain out from losing my grandson. To ease my ache.
      If I can help others by exposing myself then perhaps Konnor’s name will be on the lips of many with this website.
      Keep moving forward, I’m right there with you.

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  11. I am truly sorry for your loss. My grand babies are my life… my youngest Michael just finished 31/2 yrs of chemo for leukemia and is in remission. I can only imagine your pain.
    I lost my 6 week old son Brock to sids at 6 weeks in 82… my stepson Michael of 22 years at 32 in 09 and most recently my son David was killed in a car accident at 36 last Nov. the day before Thanksgiving.
    When I read this sentence “The gut-retching, screaming without a sound pain you and only you alone can go through” it’s what I feel inside that nobody knows I’m going through, its literally what I feel like. Thank you and God bless you

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  12. Reading your thoughts and feelings sound so very familiar. I lost my son in 2008 to cancer. He survived 5 years and I saw his struggles and the pain. I can not describe how much I wanted to do it for him. He was my rock and told me, “mama I feel sorry for you because I am going to be fine” I love him sooo much. I still struggle to this day. Having to find myself and putting different things in perspective was not an easy task and I still struggle with it today. The first time one of his friends that had moved away came back and sought me out to find out how he was doing hit me like a rock. My memories of full of love and joy and that is what helps me day to day. Wished I could have been as brave as he was. I will continue to grow and honor him. Jason M. Pearce you are never forgotten and always loved!

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    1. I never realized how brave Konnor really was in his short life until he left this earth. I will spend the rest of my days shouting from the rooftops how proud I am of him.
      Like you, I will honor him in the only way I know and that is with my story of love and light dedicated to him.
      Prayers to you, what you went through with your son was more than any mother should bear.

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