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Shattered Identity ‒ The Impact Of Grief

Written by: Margaret Dennis, BA, MCA, ESFCD, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


When you are hit with grief that rocks you to your core, that cracks the foundation you had built your life upon, and that will forever change how you look at the world, your identity is shattered. This kind of grief knocks the wind out of you and leaves you broken on the floor. It is emotional. It is physical. It is devastating.

You are not, nor will you ever be, the same person you were before grief.

My Grief Story:

That is what happened to me the day that I held my 3-day old son, Isaac, in my arms while he took his last breath, as his twin sister fought to survive in the next room. He had been fighting a good fight and struggling to survive, but his body just couldn’t do it anymore and we had to make the hardest decision of our lives to take him off life-support.

I remember feeling separate from my body, watching the events unfold before me like I was an actor in my own movie but also an observer. I was numb all over and just going through the motions. And then, when Isaac died, the rush of sadness and grief took over and I felt so much pain and gut-wrenching sadness that I collapsed on the floor at my own mother’s feet and sobbed until I became too exhausted to cry and my tears fell silently on their own.

In an instant, I went from being a new mom with so many hopes and dreams for her son, to being a mother whose son had died and whose dreams had died with him. The identity that I had been building as a new mom to twins since I found out that I was pregnant, was shattered.

I was now living a new reality. I was both an excited new mom and a grieving mother. How do you consolidate the two? Who do you identify with? How do you honour both? Who WAS I?

Navigating Grief:

Our society does not make it easy for us to navigate grief, nor does it support it very well. In North America, we are expected to grieve and then continue to be the same person that we were before. To show up at work as the successful leader of our team and not show any emotion or weakness. To be the mom who throws the best birthday parties and is president of the PTA. To go to dinner parties and social get-togethers and talk and laugh with our friends like we did before. IF we are invited at all and that is a whole other topic unto itself!. But we aren’t that person. We are grieving wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, entrepreneurs, colleagues, and friends who will have grief as a part of our lives forever. Who we were before grief no longer exists at least not in the same way.

Before we were a wife, now we are a widow.

Before we were a mom, now we are a mom without a child to hold.

Before we were business owners, now we are business owners without a business.

Before we were best friends, now we are without our closest confidante.

Before we were healthy, now we have cancer.

Navigating that journey to a new identity is hard and, at first, it is normal to cling to who we were before. It is familiar, comforting, and brings us closer to who or what we lost. We hold on tight, so as not to let the memory go. But that feeling of familiarity and comfort doesn’t last long, as we are constantly reminded of our loss and can no longer align who we were with our new reality, leaving us floating in an air of uncertainty, instability, and loneliness.

It is at this point that we have a choice: live in our past, stay stuck in our grief, and long to be who we used to be OR choose to move forward frightened and uncertain, yet courageous, into a new version of ourselves.

Consciously Creating An Identity:

My journey to redefining my identity as BOTH a new mom and a grieving mom took time.

Time to discover how I wanted to show up for both of my children so that I honoured them equally.

Time to discover how to manage my grief in a way that didn't take away from the love and attention that my daughter needed and deserved.

Time to figure out who I was now.

It took time, courage, and coaching to help me become the Empowered Grief Warrior that I have consciously chosen to be today.

I don't shy away from my grief I acknowledge and embrace it; I feel the sadness when it appears but have learned how to not let it take over; I honour my son by talking about him. And I honour my daughter by talking with her about her grief, supporting her as she learns to live without her twin brother, and I am present for her every single day. I love them both equally and deeply.

What has your experience been with grief? Have you ever been rocked to your core? Have you ever found yourself sobbing on the floor not sure how you will ever go on? And have you found your way to your new identity or are you still stuck in the past?

Picking up the pieces of your shattered identity and putting them back together into a new mosaic that represents who you are now is never easy.

If you are finding yourself at a juncture where you are not sure how to move forward, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who or what do I want to remember and honour?

  2. How do I want to honour this person/event/situation?

  3. What do I want to leave behind?

  4. What do I want to bring forward with me?

  5. Who do I want to be now?

  6. How do I want to show up in the world now?

  7. Can I figure this out on my own, or do I need help?

  8. If I need help, who/where can I get it?

Taking time to reflect on the above is a great starting place in moving forward and creating your new identity.

Is it easy? No.

Will there be big emotions along the way? Yes.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! or book a Discovery Call to learn more about what I do and find out how we could work together. I look forward to meeting you!


Margaret Dennis, BA, MCA, ESFCD, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

In 2008, Margaret’s love of human connection was shaken by the loss of her son, twin brother to her daughter Lily, when he was just 3 days old. Rocked to her core, she immersed herself in her event management business and the custom trim company she co-owned. After a complete emotional breakdown, she realized that women can’t just make the grief go away the way society expects them to. In 2020 she founded EVOLV coaching to help women around the world honour their lives, emotions, and businesses while gracefully handling everything life throws at them. Her 2021 TEDx talk opens the door to exploring grief and inspired her to develop a transformational methodology that guides women in moving from messy, to functional, to empowered grief. Margaret supports companies through 1:1 coaching, team coaching, motivational speaking, grief workshops, and creating grief plans to help their employees who are suffering. Personal growth junky and lover of funky shoes, Margaret loves road tripping with Lily, and their mini Bernedoodle, Daphne.



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