Thursday, February 25, 2010
Loss of identity following the death of a loved one
I had lost my twenty-one year old daughter and I was not sure how I or my wife and son would go on living. As time went on it became clear that life does go on but it is and will always be different for me. I saw how kind and caring people did not know what to do to offer comfort(perhaps I did not know how to receive what they offered) and as time went on some of those I knew were trying to be so protective of me, especially in the office. They would almost apologetically ask me to do something, tell me to take my time or even that they did not expect anything of me for quite a while. This did not sit well with me and I was not sure why at that time. I have come to realize that I felt that I was losing something else-my identity at work. I had lost Casey and now I was losing the identity that I had as a trial lawyer representing consumers and being a partner in a center-city law firm where I had been employed for twenty-eight years. Too much had been lost and more was being taken away and it was as a result of well-intended acts of colleagues and friends. They and I did not understand that the loss I suffered had torn apart my belief that I had some control over my life and being too solicitous and protective was taking away more. I realized this when one of my partners asked me to look at a truck accident case that was coming to trial. He just asked me to do it-did not say "when I was able" or anything else except that he would appreciate my help. I felt empowered and grateful to be "seen" as my former self. That simple act did more for me than many gestures of protective concern. I am not being critical-people just do not know what to do under these circumstances. It really is a matter of respect and affording someone the dignity of making their own choices and finding their own way after a tragic loss. Support does not have to be in the form of protection. Just a thought to consider when a death occurrs and one wants to be helpful.