Positive life changes, loss of identity, and how to stop over analyzing your grief.

Overthinking Change: A Pie Chart

As a wedding photographer I used to witness an unusual phenomenon amongst wedding couples - as soon as the wedding was over, they would have a sense of grief.

To be clear, they weren't crying over their choice to get married, instead they were going through a process of grieving their loss of identity - whether it was the identity of being single, or the identity of being the bride or groom to be, or something else completely. Thinking about name changes, wishing they had done something differently at the wedding, etc, and then feeling shame around feeling sad about being done with the wedding. They would then go into a spiral of overthinking these positive changes in their lives.

At the time I did not recognize this as grief because, well, I hadn't studied it so much, but now as a grief educator, I now know that grief around a loss of identity is something to be expected.

When you start a new job, when you start school, graduate from school, when you get married, when you move to a place you have always wanted to live, when your child graduates from high school, when you stop having pain, when you leave a toxic relationship -grief is grief is grief. Grieving your lost identity even when the new identity is something you want, is totally expected, healthy, and NORMAL. That doesn't mean it isn't startling when it happens, however. I want you to know you are not alone when you experience this grief while being excited for new changes in your life!

Human beings are complex creatures. We are completely capable of feeling joy and grief all at once. Though we may be ashamed to admit we are feeling grief around a positive change in our lives, it is a sign of being human.

What are some signs that you are grieving a loss of identity?

  • You may find yourself more pessimistic

  • You may find yourself more controlling

  • You may find yourself wishing things had happened differently

  • You may feel ashamed around how things happened

  • You may feel ashamed that you feel grief around a positive change

  • You may lose friends from your prior identity

  • You may find yourself questioning your decision, and lashing out at those around you who have been part of the change

  • You may find yourself over analyzing your choices

  • You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile and ask yourself, how did I get here (oops sorry - that's a song.)