“Change means loss; loss means grief; grief requires mourning”- Dr. Alan Wolfelt
Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings you experience within you about loss. Grief has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance, and recently added, meaning, a sixth stage by Dr. David Kessler. Mourning is when you take the feeling you have on the inside and express it outwardly (i.e. crying, talking about the painful feelings, journaling). Anything that you do to express your grief counts as mourning. It is okay to mourn your life before you became a mom.
Feelings of grief and loss when you become a mom (gathered from Dr. Ashurina Ream’s “Keeping Mommy in Mind” course)
- I no longer feel in control of my life.
- I no longer feel like I have independence.
- I can no longer be spontaneous.
- I don’t have time for myself.
- I lost closeness in my relationships/friendships.
- Things have changed with my partner.
- I feel like I was robbed of my birth experience.
- I lost meaningful time with my infant because he/she was colicky, I was not myself, etc.
- I lost financial means.
- I lost a part of work drive and career potential.
- I lost confidence in my body.
- I feel like I lost a part of my identity.
Feelings of grief and loss when you become a mom during a global pandemic
In addition to these feelings of grief and loss listed above, we are also feeling grief and loss about life before covid-19. Becoming a mother of two during a global pandemic, I am not only grieving life before covid-19, but I am also grieving my second baby’s first year of life looking nothing like my first baby’s first year of life. It has truly been hard to accept (the fifth stage of grief).
The entire world is grieving right now. The loss of normalcy, the loss of connection, the loss of safety, the fear of economic toll. The world has changed. We know that it is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way. Dr. David Kessler, the founder of grief.com, states that we are feeling anticipatory grief, which is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. To calm yourself, he says you want to come into the present, focus on your senses. He says that the goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking and to think about how to let go of what you can’t control. Once we accept that we are experiencing grief, then we will be able to find meaning in it. We are able to find control in acceptance. We will be able to find light in these darkest hours.
Let’s take the time to talk about identity crisis a little more thoroughly because it is not talked about that much and it is something that many moms experience. Identity crisis is a time of conflict or confusion about your current role (i.e. Who am I?, I am just a mom). Occupations (including motherhood) are key to creating and maintaining an identity. We can still reconstruct our identity through engaging in meaningful work and activities. We can still recreate ourselves–negotiating an identity between who we were before motherhood and who we’ve become. It is important to find new or old activities of interest to find that sense of fulfillment. Sometimes, the daily house chores just won’t make the cut! Make that time for YOU, whether it’s writing, photography, reading, singing, blogging, baking, sewing, gardening, dancing, etc.
Take a moment to reflect: What are you grieving? Have you mourned properly? How has your identity shifted? What activities can you engage in to feel like YOU again?