We can’t send in our taxes electronically. They have to be printed out and mailed in. Our identity was stolen through the IRS. But that’s not the only way to lose your identity.
I am the last living member of my former family. My parents, my sister, my uncles and aunts, they all live only in my memories of the past. No one else will ever remember Aunt Ruth and Aunt Sylvia, and Grandma and Grandpa Hecht. When I look at my life now, I wonder how my children and grandchildren will look at me when my memory, too, begins to fade. I want the next generation to know and remember what my family and my life were all about. I’ve been searching through old photos, but find that I’ve already lost many of those family memories.
Identity theft happens when we leave an old life and enter into a new one. Major life transitions and traumas can leave us wondering who we are now. We often hang on to who we used to be, even if it’s in conflict with who we are now. Divorce and death may result in an altered sense of self. A newly divorced spouse may feel worthless, both psychologically and financially. An adult child may feel like an orphan.
This is a good time to look at you, to define, or redefine, your worth in the world and institute new goals for your future. The most important person to have a relationship with is you. The key here is to keep the identity theft of a major life transition from leading to an identity crises. To do so, you must hold on to your true self-identity.
Aging is a normal process, but it’s often difficult to accept decline and loss as we get older. I’ve become wiser and a little gentler as I talk to folks who are struggling to accept their parents decline. I often suggest a new vocabulary:
It may be time for you to accept and support this new reality. Your parent will learn to accept their new identity and new limits on their lives.
“It’s okay that you don’t want to go shopping by yourself. It will be our way to spend some time together.”
A positive approach means saying yes in a new way. Forget using “no.” Find a way to say, “well, alright…”
“I need help with my grocery list too. Let’s plan the grocery list together and save time for both of us.
Making life easier means making room for new ways of doing things. It’s not about changing your mind, but about changing your approach.
“Sunday dinners are now our special meals together. We can put the wash in when we go out and it will be ready to hang up when we return.”
Many people have their identities stolen each year. But holding onto your identity isn’t only about securing your personal information; it’s also about making an honest effort to reconcile and retain the identity of your past and the identity of your present.
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