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 yourself. 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 that I really don’t know who I am right now. I question everything. Those of us that have lost someone so close to us so 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’ve 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 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’m 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’s 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. And 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.

Patricia Mealer

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Comments (10)

  • I lost my 36 year old daughter, Bridget on June 1, 2019 & I thought I was the only person on earth who felt all of this mixed bag of emotions. I have lost me! My daughter was part of me! Many of my friends say, “they hope I regain my joy.” I was always happy or appeared so, but I don’t feel joy now. I feel as though there will never be joy in my life. I look at my friends going through their life with their children & grandchildren & quite honestly, I am not jealous, I am angry! Why was my only child taken from me? Why am I the one who has to process the impossible? I am a woman of deep faith, but I am still questioning why. If I hear one more time, that “time heals everything & put it in God’s hands” I will scream & tell them they don’t have a clue! I know my baby girl is in a better place, but I am not. My heart is truly broken. Thank you for being so candid & sharing true feelings through your loss.

  • Lost only son Brandon on 3/22/18. Relate to story. I see a Reno, NV chapter. Work grave but perhaps I’ll check it out. Want joy in life again.

  • My Twin sister’s 5 month old granddaughter was found deceased last week in her bassinet by her daughter. The pain is unbearable and my niece blames herself. She is already fragile with coping with everyday life but this is something we fear may lead her down a path of destruction. We need a tangible support group that specializes in loss of a child.

    Where do I look?

    • Hi Catherine, I am so sorry for the tragic death of your twin sister’s little granddaughter. My heart goes out to your family. Here is the chapter locator from our website to look for one of our approximately 600 chapter meetings around the country where peer-to-peer support is offered. No one can come as close to understanding the pain of this loss than others who have “been there”. The Compassionate Friends’ chapter meetings saved my life after my daughter, and then my stepson died many years ago. This chapter locator is very easy to use. I hope you will look to find a chapter meeting for your niece. If you have any other questions, please feel free to call 877-969-0010. The Compassionate Friends is here to help.

  • My husband passed on October 10th,2014 we were at the store on the store the night before buy Birthday cards for my twins. He went to bed I kissed him good night not knowing that was our last kiss ever! He went to work the next day .His boss called me telling me he was being rushed to the hospital he was gone when I got there! I never got to say goodbye I never got to tell him I love him he was gone on my sons Birthday? He was a great father to my boys they loved him so much he was “DAD” How do I fix their broken hearts let alone mine? I wonder what I did to deserve all this pain? I feel like I’m living a horrible nightmare. But u also have anger because I recently found out that my husband was unfaithful to me for many years of our marriage so I don’t know how to deal with this how can I continue to mourn for someone who apparently didn’t respect me and our marriage. During our marriage he had many demons he was addicted to drugs and then there was gambling then he was addicted to pills in 2006 I was prepared to leave him and my mom suddenly passed and that sent me into depression . In 2010 I decided to start working on me and my husband did the same and we were doing ok and he passed away on his job. He passed for Blunt forced trauma to the neck and chest and blood went to his brain and he hemmriged and his neck broke.

    • Hi Renee, I am so very sorry for your tragic losses. I hope that you are getting support from family, friends and/or a grief support group in your area.

  • This article is “on point”! I related to so many things mentioned in the article. I one thing that caught my attention immediately was the name, “Konnor” . Another way the “22”….
    My name is Kim and I lost my son, Cameron, on August 22, 2009. 22 pops up constantly…. Cameron was number 22 on his basketball team, killed on the 22nd by a careless driver…..
    Cameron is a twin to Connor…. Connor watched his brother being struck by a car. He yelled to Cameron that there was a car coming….. He witnessed the car strike and kill his brother. Those were some of the things that got my attention, but the most profound things were the description of the feelings. I too wonder how my family and I got through the first years. I truly believe that God give you the shock as a protector in those early years. I don’t think that your heart could handle all of it without the shock. Ten years and nearly four months later, I still experience so many of the emotions mentioned. The irritability, the mood swings, the dread of the 22nd, those moments when grief slams you like an ocean wave…. Thank you so much for sharing this article….it verbalized so many things that I have thought, but haven’t been able to say.

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