Navigating Crisis: Accepting A Loss Of Identity

Navigating Crisis: Accepting A Loss Of Identity

Moving forward means not only focusing on parts of our identity that we have lost, but also how we have changed.


I won't even say how I've lost a big chunk of my identity, and perhaps that speaks volumes to how devastating what I've lost the past few months. Of course, I'm not the only person that feels this way. Any person undergoing some major transition or loss in their lives, form losing their jobs to moving to another place to losing someone close to them feels, to some extent, that their identity was taken from them. So what should we do when it happens?

According to psychologist Guy Winch, in a 2013 TED Talk, the pathologies of a loss of identity are eerily similar to heartbreak after a breakup. From his 20 years of private practice, what he learned was this: "when your heart is broken, the same instincts you ordinarily rely on will time and again lead you down the wrong path. You simply cannot trust what your mind is telling you."

Winch tells the story of one of his patients, Miguel, who completely lost his identity after a breakup with his girlfriend, Sharon. "Miguel didn't just lose his girlfriend; he lost his entire social life...He lost his identity as a couple. Now, Miguel recognized the breakup had left this huge void in his life, but what he failed to recognize is that it left far more than just one."

The last point, in that a loss of identity is more than just a singular loss, but a holistic loss, is critical. That explains why it is so devastating when we have huge transitions in our lives. Those gaps in our lives need to be filled so we can heal, and not just one of them, but all of them. "The voids in your identity: you have to reestablish who you are and what your life is about. The voids in your social life, the missing activities, even the empty spaces on the wall where pictures used to hang."

I found Winch's TED talk to be a great place to start. The more devastating losing something is when it's gone is a sign of how all-encompassing that thing is in our lives. But filling those voids in identity are easier said than done. When you lose your identity, you need to answer the "who am I?" question again, and try to find that again.

I still do not know how to handle the question of distance. I know I cannot cut the people I love completely out of my life, but I also know that the relationship I have with them has evolved and is no longer the same. There will always be people in our lives that love us despite whatever labels we put on ourselves and our identity, and one thing that has saved me during this time is holding onto those people. I hold on to them in a different way than I used to, just like after a breakup, an ex-partner becomes a close friend.

What now, though?

One thing is very clear: to regain a sense of identity, you have to accept that your new identity is going to be different. And that's not a bad thing. We don't move on. We move forward, carrying the person we lost. We cannot shut out our past lives, but we need to look back on them to grow from them. Likewise, we cannot shut out the loved ones from our past. According to Eleanor Haley, "trying to go back to how things were before the loss just isn't possible." Haley goes on to say that "though there will always be a deep sense of grief around the people and things in life that we lose, this does not mean there will not be other things that bring a sense of purpose, joy, and contentment and that will slowly become part of your identity."

I am in a transitory state of identity and loss, and so are many people, including some of you reading this article. One thing that is absolutely necessary is to take more time for ourselves to reflect on our identity, according to Haley. "Consider how your identity has shifted. Make an effort to focus not just on the losses, but also on gains. This may be the new relationships that have formed, positive changes in perspective, [or] new skills or growth that have come." Moving forward means not only focusing on parts of our identity that we have lost, but also how we have changed. "This means bringing pieces along, acknowledging pieces that will never be the same, and establishing new pieces of the self that are built on things that came before."

Applying this mindset to myself, I look at pieces that I have built in this transitory state, and the one thing I have gained is hope. It's not hoping for outcomes or positive circumstances anymore; those are expectations, and expectations so often fail us. My faith in Christ has grown substantially in this point of my life, and I believe that it is God's plan and design to gift us in our suffering. I have hope for how I treat others and how I see people. As someone who wishes to be an educator, seeing others and particularly young people as capable of doing anything, I believe, is the most important gift I've gained throughout my recent struggles. God kept me alive and gifted me in so many ways, and because I'm so lucky, I intend to make the most of it and move forward, even if I'm not the person I was a few months ago.

I've lost a lot of who I am and what I stood for. But I have also gained so much, despite how hard that is to see right now. Because of what I had, what I have, and who I will be in the days to come, I look back and look forward with only fondness. I believe this, to the fullest extent: I am the luckiest person in the world.

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A Letter From God To Help You Finish The Semester

God sees your struggles and He's here to give you strength and motivation.

My Child,

The lack of motivation towards the end of the semester is normal. You are mentally and physically tired, but you are almost at the end. Don’t stop walking down the perfect path I have for you. When you’re going along and you come upon a speedbump, I want you to go over it and keep driving. The paper you have to write and the test you have to study for are just small speedbumps I have given you to make you wiser. You can write that paper and you can gain motivation to study for that test. I am here to give you strength, and am here to open up your mind and give you motivation.

You are so loved. You have such a beautiful mind. The light of Jesus shines through your eyes and your smile brings comfort to the world. There’ll be times you feel like you’re carrying a heavy load. There’ll be times you feel like the task I have given you is impossible to perform. But remember this: I would never put anything upon your shoulders that you cannot carry. If I put you in a certain situation, it’s because I know you are strong enough to go through it.

When you feel like crying, cry to me. When you feel like a failure, remember how much I love you. You are not a failure and you are not going to give up. I will hold your hand through every second of your life. I will seek your heart through your darkest moments. I see you, I see your heart, and I see your burdens. And remember that I have your heart which means I also have your burdens. Follow my footsteps and you will be free from the doubt. Remember Mark 4:40-41: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I have the power to calm any storm and wave. I have the power to calm YOUR storms and waves. Set your doubt, anger, and tiredness in my hands and simply be patient.

Romans 8:14-15 says,“For those who are led by the spirit of God are the children of God. The spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again, rather the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” Nothing can separate you from my love. Not even your lack of motivation. You have no motivation because you do not feel good enough. You are more than good enough. You were perfectly made by me and when I look down at you, I think of how proud I am of your heart.

Throughout the last few weeks of this semester, you will stumble upon speedbumps. But hold the hand of my son Jesus and you will be able to go over that speedbump with ease. Go write that paper, go study for that test, and go get an A in that class. I know you can because I have given you power.



Cover Image Credit: Margaret Carnes

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The Notre Dame Cathedral–Such A Loss Of History And Beauty, But What A Gift It Was To Experience It

Reid shares her story as she is saddened for Paris and the church.


After the massive fire that devastated large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the 850-year-old cathedral's spire fell. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to share in the nation's sorrow but gave hope for the future. This includes the rebuilding of the cathedral together and making it more beautiful than ever. "The fire of Notre Dame reminds us that our story never ends. And that we will always have challenges to overcome. What we believe to be indestructible can also be touched," Macron said.

Tyler Reid

Among many others, Tyler Reid is saddened for Paris and the church. Although, she counts herself blessed to have seen it such a short time before it was destroyed. Reid, who was lucky enough to visit the amazing structure this past spring break, remarked:

My trip was filled with so many wonderful sites. Although, because Notre Dame carries the title of most-visited monument in Europe, my expectations were high. When I first walked up, there isn't one specific feeling I got; instead, it was more of a million thoughts running though my head. Once inside, looking at the massive stained glass windows combined with all the details in every crevice, it was hard for me to imagine people actually building this without the technology we have today. This hand crafted masterpiece really is so influential considering people still went there to worship, even after so much time has past and so many other cathedrals had been built. This proves how special the Notre Dame Cathedral really is. Due to my experience here, hearing about the fire hurt my heart, especially thinking about how some of the irreplaceable artworks and all of this history may be gone. This place truly influenced people, including me, and for it to be gone is a true tragedy.

Like Macron, Reid shares in the sorrow; although, for her, it was just from one visit. This proves the amazing impact the Notre Dame Cathedral had and hopefully will continue to have even after this devastation.

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