“How Grief Changes Our Sense of Self”

The Grief Reality somehow stumbled, tripped and fell our way into a wider grief community, outside of wordpress. We could not be more grateful for the support, advice and joy Katie and I have felt across our social media platforms.

One Instagram account that has given me a particular amount of support, is GoodGrief_UK. They describe themselves as an online membership platform for women who are experiencing the side effects of loss.

One of their most recent posts was titled “How Grief Changes Our Sense of Self”. I would like to take the time to analyse GoodGrief’s statements, because I feel like I’m in a position where I can challenge my grief’s lessons. This post provoked so many memories and thoughts that I had to write about it.

  1. We can get locked into anxiety/fear of change and hold onto our old self. This fear and anxiety used to cripple me. At one point in time, I used to be so afraid of change that I would not start simple things, such as books, because I was too afraid I would never get to finish them. The only thing I felt comfortable doing, was being the daughter I was to Mum. That meant I never threw away anything Mum bought for me (I still haven’t), I would talk about Mum in present tense to anyone who would listen. If I could explain it, I would say I became a handprint of who I was, a handprint of the girl Mum knew and loved.
  2. We can get lost for some time, and find it difficult to work out who we truly are. As time progressed, my grief clouded who I was. I sometimes acted childlike and barely had a handle on my emotions or understood what I was feeling. I didn’t know what I wanted to eat, I didn’t know what I did for fun anymore. There was a point where I did not even recognise myself in photographs. I didn’t know my natural smile, that seemed to have disappeared with Mum as well, only to be replaced with a forced one.
  3. Business/numbing can take control in an effort to self-soothe and so we forget who we are and what’s truly important to us as we are afraid of being vulnerable. I have always coped with difficult times through working. At 6th Form and university; that just means I’ll work my way through sad days, catching up on work, or even getting ahead for the following week. Nobody ever questioned it, because that’s a “healthy” way to deal with stress, until my mum was going to the hospital and I would take my revision books with us, or I would have breakdowns for not making grades. After my mum died, there was a time where I would just go in on myself to avoid burdening people with the familiar sad spiel. I have since developed better coping mechanisms, but it has taken a lot of bad moves to get here.
  4. We develop walls around us where we begin to thin negatively about others who seem more confident because this seems so inaccessible and alien, so instead we choose people we simply ‘don’t like’ out of our own self hatred. I would never say I hated myself. I think I became wrapped up in my pain that I would lash out; at strangers who were having fun, for example, never at them, but to my sister. I was toxic with my pain, and I think I wanted others to realize how much I was hurting. I was so angry that everyone elses worlds didn’t stop when I lost my mum as well.
  5. We might want to blend in so we wear black/grey tones, agree with everyone, keep quiet, give, give, give, in an effort to feel safe. I don’t think I have felt completely safe since my mum passed away. I am definitely a giver though, but this isn’t a bad thing; I enjoy making people smile, and I enjoy trying to make their days a little bit better.
  6. We might stop doing things that used to feed our spirit out of fear of feeling happiness without the person we love so much. This one hurts my heart. It is simply the truth. I used to lie in bed with insomnia with one question circling in my mind: How can you dare to be so happy? These were in the days I began to live again, the days where Katie and I would laugh hard and smile vibrantly without a hint of forcedness.

The guilt eventually goes away. Happiness gently becomes an old friend again, rather than an awkward lump of emotion. Remembering the familiar ache of my fresh grief hurts my soul, yet it reminds me of the whole point of this post.

The idea of the ‘Self’ is often a static one. There is this romanticised idea in society that the self is this inherent core part of you which cannot and will not change. But the truth is; I did lose my ‘self’ in my grieving. I only came back truly when I went to university and I was repotted into a garden with no rotting roots. But no doubt, I will probably look back at who I am today and say I don’t recognise myself. When you are grieving how can the ‘self’ stay the same, when a fundamental part of who you are is ripped away violently and traumatically?

My only advice could be to simply ride every single wave. Don’t try to rush back to who you were, because that is not growth, and is not possible. Our hearts hurt, and it is simply testament to our love.

To everyone who knows someone who grieves; this does not go away. To think it will, is a sign of ignorance. My heart still breaks some days, and I cannot imagine getting through another Wednesday without my Mum. We will keep growing, and we will let our grief guide us through this.

Lead with love for yourself; everything else will fall in line later on.

Go easy, friend.

Evee x

26 thoughts on ““How Grief Changes Our Sense of Self”

  1. Hi. I am sorry for the reasons behind your grief. There are a few things that I had read about pain from a psychological point of view. And how we unknowingly increase the pain that we feel. I don’t know if it will be of any help to you or not, but I’ll post it in my blog within the next couple of days. : )

  2. Wow, this is such an important topic to blog about. I’m sure you bring a lot of comfort and support to others around the world who are going through the same thing. Sorry for your loss and grief, but thank you for your beautiful post.

  3. That is beautiful and so true. I’ve kinda come round to thinking that grief isn’t me. It’s not my self. It’s something awful that we have to navigate, try to learn from, but ultimately I’m ultimately still me. Eventually you just have to let that ‘me’ start to shine again.
    I’m still trying to get my head round Instagram, really don’t know why mine has kinda just become a quotation thing. Your video worked so well. x

  4. For me the experience of attention to grieving is one of growth as long as I am also attending to the need to not grasp and then become the experience. I experience grieving, I am not becoming grief.

  5. Thank you for sharing. Number 6 on your list really resonates with me. Though I have not experienced a loss of doing things that bring joy from losing a loved one, I have definitely lost myself at times. I struggle with depression and on bad days (thankfully less of these days now than there used to be) the joy in those things seems distant and unattainable.

    Kia kaha (stay strong). We are all in our own journey of rediscovery. 😊

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