Grief Identity Crisis: Who are we now?

"I'm not the same person. Neither is Dave. Who am I now? Who are we?" asked Alexandra.

Alexandra and Dave's son Duke was their only child. He was a talkative kid, with an active imagination. He was the superhero of the neighborhood, with a strong preference for Batman and Thor. 

Despite watchful and involved parents, Duke began to run with a questionable crowd. In high school, he got into drugs. He pursued some college, but never followed through consistently. He had trouble holding down a job. One morning, Duke's roommate found him unconscious on the floor. His death was ruled an accidental overdose. Duke was 25.

"Duke's death was complicated. So is our grief. I miss him. I miss me. I miss our family," Alexandra shared.


Loss can create an identity crisis

Some losses strike us at the core of our beings. Part of us has been suddenly, perhaps forcefully, stolen away. Where did they go? 

Their absence changes everything - every dynamic, every relationship. Their death hits our hearts and souls. We feel ourselves changing. The person we were, along with the life and family we knew, has been altered forever. Who are we now?

This can throw us into an identity crisis. Part of us has disappeared. What do we do with that?

Like waves on a beach, the unwanted changes keep rolling in, continual and relentless. The after-shocks pound us. Collateral damage piles up. Who knew so many little deaths could come from one big one?

Our hearts are stunned. We're reeling. It feels like we're in a free fall with no safety net. We brace ourselves and wonder what will happen next. We go into fortress-mode, trying desperately to control the damage and protect who and what we have left. 

We sense our hearts and lives changing, shifting. We hold our breath, hoping that all this will soon stop and be over somehow. We have dreams about the way things were. 

We gaze into the mirror. Who is that? We look different. We are different. Perhaps we barely recognize ourselves. 

This identity crisis is a natural and common experience for those suffering a heavy loss. Weathering this storm takes guts. We're in uncharted waters with almost no idea where this violent wind might drive us. 

In most cases, this identity crisis will be temporary. As we process the grief, we will adapt, adjust, heal, and grow (though any and all of these might seem impossible on any given day). But we will not go back to who we were. That's impossible. We walk now with a pronounced limp. Every step reminds us of the shattering blow we've experienced. 

Who are we? Who will we be? We don't know. But we're not the same, and we won’t be.

"I don't know who I am or who I'll become, but I'll never be the same. I don't want to be."


Adapted from the new bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child. Watch the Shattered videos here: Gary, Michelle.



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About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at

I'm Grieving, Now What?