Ambiguous loss is something people experience when they look the same on the outside but feel completely different on the inside. It affects both the person dealing with the loss as well as their loved ones. It’s something I was once unfamiliar with, but following my brain injury, I now understand all too well.
However, ambiguous loss is not something that’s specific to us brain injured folks. Anyone who goes through some sort of dramatic life change (i.e. illness/disability, job loss/change, divorce, move, etc) can experience it. People all the time are going through trials where they end up feeling like they’ve lost a huge part of their identity and what makes them who they are.
These trials can also result in people going through all sorts of unfamiliar emotions as they’re trying to figure out who they’ve suddenly become - frustration, confusion, fear, anger, bitterness, embarrassment. I know that I’ve dealt with all of these as well as many others. However, I believe by changing my perspective on what was taking place in my life that I was able to find a way to move forward in the midst of them. It was literally a “matter of life and death.” Let me try to explain what I mean by that.
Following my brain injury, I’d suddenly become a brand new person. That’s why, in many ways, it felt like the old "Jeff" had died. For the longest time, this made it very difficult to move on. But then I discovered a new way to look at my situation, a perspective that was radically different than the old one. Instead of perceiving my situation as one of "death” I started to view it as one of "birth.” Instead of thinking about all I’d “lost,” I began thinking about all I’d “gained.” Instead of focusing on the old me who’d “died,” I started seeing a new me who was “alive.”
I don’t what you’re going through, but if ambiguous loss sounds like something you’re dealing with, don’t give up. Try to take your eyes off what you’ve lost and keep looking for what you’ve gained. I bet you’ll soon find something and it just might bring you back to life!