Recently I was sent on a short term assignment at work. Not a big change really. I go to the same building everyday, see many of the same people and while my responsibilities have changed the core mandate of the work I am doing is the same.
Yet I found myself feeling lost, not knowing what to do, or perhaps more clearly stated, not understanding my purpose in this new role and questioning my abilities.I felt unhappy going from a job I knew very well, in which I had the respect of my colleagues and peers, to a job where I was not the expert, where I often needed to ask for help and in which I felt less worthy of the respect of my colleague and peers. I was challenged to focus on a task and relieved as the day ended and I could head home, a familiar place where I feel comfortable, understand my roles and know what to do.
Observing how this little, short term, non life altering change had impacted me really got me thinking even more deeply and concretely about the impact grief and loss can have on our sense of who we are. The death of a loved one, mother, child, husband, dear friend cause us to reflect on “who am I” in light of this loss. Am I a daughter, wife, father…what do I look like with this change in my life? What is my role? The perspective of the stories in our lives changes. Our ability to envision the future is compromised.
Depending on the nature of the loss, the cause of the grief, our sense of self, the meaning of the things we do, the life we lead are brought into question. Our mourning of a loved one no longer being physically present in our life causes us to question how we see ourselves and the life we are living.
We may question our social roles – father, mother, husband, wife, sister, child…..
We may question our functional roles – employee, supervisor, coach, teacher….
We may question how we view our personality type – organized, cheerful, responsible….
Already unsettled by our grief the questions that come can make us feel even more uncertain, ungrounded. Looking for answers to our questions can feel scary and lonely.
Grieving and mourning are natural change enabling processes. Unfortunately in a world where we are judged by our appearance of strength rather than our willingness to be vulnerable. The temptation is to grasp onto any form of certainty rather than allowing ourselves to “be” in a space of uncertainty which could lead to authentic insight and creativity making space for our redefined self to unfold. To grow and learn from grief we need to get comfortable with “I don’t know”…..the space of “not knowing” is a space of great potential.
Natural as the process may be, it is not simple. Asking for help may be the hardest yet most helpful step towards creating space for moving through grief into growth.