When Death Shakes Our Identity
What am I supposed to be? At different times in our lives we may ask this question or versions of it. Our sense of purpose – what am I to be? – is wrapped up in our identity – who am I?
Nothing shakes identity’s foundation more violently than death. We were spouses, but now our mates are gone. We were friends, and then our lifelong BFF dies. Sisters, now without a sis.
Or we were daughters, but now our mommies and daddies are dead, leaving us with a crisis of identity. Or perhaps the feeling that we are orphans. Adult orphans. Lost. Belonging to no one.
I told you earlier this year about my crisis of identity after the death of my mom. I’d been her caregiver. I walked around with a label – “dutiful daughter.” I couldn’t let go of that. I threw my energies into cleaning out my parents’ home – my duty – but there was still a great big hole. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I passed the greeting card aisle. A voice in my head said, “You can’t buy a card. You aren’t a daughter anymore.” What an ambush.
Now I defy that voice. I am a daughter. I am a loyal daughter. I carry the torch. I carry with me the memory of their love, the stories of their lives, the lessons they’d taught me. I carry all this without the slightest encouragement, but for one thing – that I will see them again. They’re still alive, thus, I am still their daughter.
I am not special. You carry the same things within you. The love of your parent or spouse or sister or brother or friend. You tell the stories. You remember the things they taught you. They serve as guides even though they are not tangibly here.
I do not mourn without hope. Because my parents trusted in Christ, and because I do, I am assured of a day that we will be reunited.
As I write blog posts, I keep in mind that there may be among my readers those who do not consider themselves followers of Christ. I want to reach out to everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, and encourage them within the reality of their loss. But the greatest hope I can offer is the assurance that God wants us to come to him. Yes, on his terms, but we don’t have to be crazy religious or good to be accepted by him. He’s made a way in Jesus. He wants to be with us in our grief – our small losses and our big losses. He wants to call us child.
As the years pass on the freshness of my grief, I think more and more on this identity, that as a child of the Heavenly Father. I cannot say the ache of not having parents here on this earth has disappeared in light of these meditations, but I don’t feel alone. I must exercise a faith that I didn’t with tangible parents, and that’s a bit unsettling, but I am not alone.
What am I supposed to be? Who am I? These questions cycle back to me from time to time. Sometimes I think I know and then another season of life arrives and I ask again. Aside from a child of God, who am I? What is my purpose? What am I supposed to be doing?
I will keep asking. Searching. Groping in the darkness with a hand of faith, though confident that as a child of my Heavenly Father, he will help me to evolve as many times in my life as necessary. After grief. In sorrows. Among joy. During success. After rejection. From my identity as his child, I launch into a future of possibilities.
We launch into a future of possibilities. Anchored by a Heavenly Parent, we’ve got the strength to find out who we will be next.
If you don’t have a relationship with the Heavenly Father, will you reach out to him today? If you do know Him, will you step out in faith today and explore the next phase of life?
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