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When People Say 'You've Changed' After a Loss

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“You’ve changed.”

Have you heard this since your loss?

Maybe you have.

Maybe you haven’t.

But my guess is you’ve felt it.

You’ve may have felt it about yourself.

You’ve may have felt the eyes of others judging you with those thoughts: You’ve changed.

Here is my question: How could you not? How could you not change? Were you supposed to remain the same? Was a deep, profound and tragic loss not supposed to change you?

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a meme about grief on Facebook that spoke to me. A line in it stated the following words: “an alteration of your being.” Think about those words.

An Alteration of Your Being.

That is raw. And that is true.

I haven’t just changed.

No, it’s more than that.

My very being has been altered.

We all have different stories. Some of us got to say goodbye. Some did not. Some of our loved ones passed peacefully. Some did not.

Regardless of how your loss took place, regardless of the exact details of your story, one thing is almost certainly true: You’ve changed.

I know I sure have.

I went from cloud nine to utter despair.

I went from a man reunited with his high school sweetheart, the only woman he’s ever loved, to a man desperate to try and save that same woman from the cancer taking over her body.

I went from truly happy for the first time in my life, to off-the-charts bitter — terrified that my everything was about to be taken away.

My wife. My stepdaughter. My everything.

There were so many horrific moments during those two and a half years in which she fought bravely against the disease that eventually took her life.

It got to the point where there were moments near the end in which I begged God, with tears from the gut and desperation from the soul, to put her out of her misery. To put me out of mine.

I had changed.


And then, I changed again.

Shortly before Michelle passed away, while she was in hospice, I had an awakening of sorts.

I realized how blessed I was to have had Michelle in my life for as long as I did. I realized how blessed I was to have my amazing stepdaughter in my life. I realized how blessed they both were to have me in their lives as well.

My bitterness began to fade.

I began to change for the better.

As I stand here today, nearing the one-year anniversary of the day my wife passed away in an unexpectedly beautiful, yet obviously tragic moment, I can say I have changed.

I have changed in dramatic ways. And I continue to change.

There are days when I am a better person. There are days when I am a worse person.

But one thing is for certain, I am surely not the same person.

My outlook on life. My goals. My desires. My heart. My soul.

None of it is quite the same.

I have changed. To my very core. I have changed.

Often for the better. Occasionally for the worse.

I have changed.

And I’m betting you have, too.

After a deep and profound loss, I am now convinced it is impossible to remain the same person you once were.

So the next time someone says, “You’ve changed,” whether it be as a compliment, a criticism or a general observation, tell them you know that.

Tell them you haven’t just changed though.

Tell them what you have truly experienced: an alteration of your being.

Tell them, that for better or for worse, you’ll never be the same.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: January 11, 2017
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