I Don’t Know Who I Am

The loss of a child can leave you questioning your very identity

The loss of a child can leave you questioning your very identity


August 9

5 months. I can’t even believe it. 5 months. My God, how I miss him. Every single moment of every day. I’m sorry if I repeat myself, but I cannot fathom this amount of time without seeing him and hearing him and touching him. With intention I remember him in life going about our house, how he would come down the stairs every morning, sleepy and wrapped up in his favorite blanket, ends trailing behind him .  And every morning I would say, “Careful buddy, so you don’t trip on that thing.” and he would rest his head on the table while he waited for his breakfast. And I would stroke his hair because I still could. I see him coming through the back door, swimming in the pool “Mom- time me!”, playing soccer (of course) and watching him sleep. He was so beautiful, especially when he was sleeping. He had these long, thick eyelashes that seemed to lay on his cheeks when he slept. 5 months without Aiden. To be perfectly honest, the time goes so incredibly slow. It feels like 5 years. Time relentlessly drags on. Dad reminded me the other day the I have a long life ahead of me. I felt dread at those words. Dread that I had a long life of feeling like this. A Long life of trying to figure out how to live without Aiden and figuring out who the heck I now am. The honest-to-God truth is, I don’t know who I am. Most of who I was, I am not anymore. I don’t recognize my life or myself.

My identity crisis started long before Aiden died, it’s just magnified exponentially since then. The moment I sold my practice I felt my entire self-identity disappear. I didn’t see that coming either. I realized very quickly how much of my “self” was tied up in my professional name and position. My self worth, my sense of purpose, my role outside the home and in the community. All that was sold along with my patient files and equipment 3 years ago. More importantly, everything related to my “Mother identity” is largely gone and that is what is so completely disorienting. Washed away somewhere, lost with Aiden and something of the past now. I was Aiden’s Mom- especially with all the other life crises going on, that is all that really mattered. It’s what made everything else OK. I remember saying those exact words to our eGroup. ” The boys are OK, so nothing else really matters.” Yes, I have older boys, but they don’t need to be mothered so much now. Boys aren’t BFF’s with their Mom’s like girls are. I know they need me and love me, but they don’t want to be mothered anymore. It’s a whole different world. “Mom” is more a noun then a verb.

I was a soccer Mom. I lived by carpools and group emails and spent lots of time in Dicks sporting goods every spring and fall for soccer shoes that could never fit past one season. I socialized with other Moms on the sidelines weekend after weekend after weekend. I am not that Mom anymore. I will never rush off with my blanket, hot tea, lawn chair and camera to another windy “spring” practice or another tournament. Ever. In one mind-numbing moment that was all gone.  I was a classroom Mom. Gone.

lawnI was the Mom with the big side yard that the kids played football in and had snowball fights in. I loved hearing the laughing and exclamations (and yes, the arguing, I mean, they were boys ) I loved the big red dirt spot in our lawn where the grass was worn away because I knew it was made by a slew of little boys doing what little boys should be doing. It made me smile. I don’t know where they all play football anymore, if they do. I don’t want to know. I just know it’s not my yard. I don’t want the lawn to grow back there. I don’t want it to stop looking like a little boy lives and plays there, even though he doesn’t anymore. Is that denial? Or will I just face that when Im more comfortable in my new role? Let the grass grow in and be OK with it?

So, who am I then? ‘Who I am not is so painfully obvious it’s difficult to see past that to the ‘who I am’, but I need to know. I need to feel that I am someone, but I feel like no one. The most important role I had was the role of being Aiden’s Mother. Without that, I’m insignificant. Yes, I know I will “always be his Mom”. It’s not the same, don’t go there. The shifting and loss of one’s role has to be one of the greatest challenges for bereaved parents to recover from and map out. It is for me. I remember very early on, sitting in the counselor’s office with Dave and the boys, still in fresh shock, and they were giving us an overview on grief- the different philosophies on how people grieve. None of it resonated with me at all until the paragraph on “adapting to a new and changed role”. I crumbled at the sight of those words. They were correct- I don’t know what my life looks like anymore. I don’t know how to construct it in my mind. The materials, the subjects, the theme- I can’t see it. Nothing is as it should be. I am not as I should be. I’m not doing what I should be.

In an instant everything I knew to be true, everything my physical and emotional body has learned to understand as true and safe and sure- was no more. The death of a child is so unnatural, so out of the natural order of life. So very, very wrong. A true existential crisis that leaves you spinning and wandering into territory unknown. Hostile and frightening territory.

I know this will take time. Time I don’t want to face. I mean, who would?

As of Friday, I will have an empty nest. Seriously, now. After this. Realistically, this is going to get worse before it gets better. To think otherwise would just be foolish. I blinked my eye and my home, with voices in the yard and music blaring down the stairs and yelling at the x-box (and each other), and constant comings and goings, is going to be still. Just like that. It was only mere moments ago! Still and quiet and I don’t know what I’ll do. I have been blessed for so many years to have so many wonderful, important, beautiful and significant roles that I am lost without them. I never had to wonder who I was or what I was supposed to do. Never.
The only thing I feel led to do to reign in this battle is to confirm what I know; I’m an overly protective and anxious Mother who is deathly afraid of losing another child. A Mom who would give anything to keep her middle son home just a little while longer, however, I am a Mother. I am a sad wife who is so overwhelmed with her own struggle she doesn’t have much left over for her equally broken husband, however, I am a wife, and we have always been a team. I am a sister with brothers who love me. I have a father every girl should be blessed to have, who is helping to understand this by reading every word of every post and talking with me about it and encouraging me to keep writing.  I am a daughter. I am a friend who feels like she saps the blessed life out of all her incredibly supportive and loving girlfriends, however, I am a friend. I almost deleted my blog today because it also seemed useless and insignificant, however, I am a writer and I don’t want to delete my blog. I want it to help someone, someday. God has given me this call and so I will write. Nancy, from one of my favorite blogs, An Intentional Life  wrote to me to today, confirming what was already heavy on my heart.

“I encourage you Jenn… keep your words coming, even when they are messy raw and hard. Your story and your courage to keep showing up will bring hope to another… and sometimes in that moment it will be enough.” 

Tell Your Story

Tell Your Story

I can keep showing up. I know I can do that much. Thinking this could bring hope to another ignites purpose in my heart again. Blessed purpose and even more- blessed hope. I wish that purpose and hope didn’t come and go like the wind, but it just does. I am not tethered well yet. Do I wish more than LIFE that “who I am” could have been a DIY blog or a Food blog? Heck yeah. But it’s not. I am so grateful I read Nancy’s post on finding time to create “sacred spaces in your life.” Oh my gosh. Those times like this, where I can sit with myself and pour my heart and tears into words are truly sacred. They are healing and they honor my son. If this truly is something I am supposed to do, then I know God will drop it into someones life who need it. I wish I could physically be there with those Moms, but they have my heart and my words.


If I can allow and push my mind to look beyond this cloud of tragedy, confusion and life-clutter for a minute, I can see something. It’s better and good and it’s promised and I want to trust in it. Trust.

It sounds so easy.

Trust God for it.

Trust God again.

I see who I was and who I can be again. If He makes all things new, then I will be a new me. Scarred and different, but new. I knew love and happiness and security for so long, I can at least imagine it again and I can start to thank God for it again, in faith.

Just a little faith,

mustard seed faith.

I can do that. I will keep believing against the grain.

  • Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
    Luke 12:6-7 NIV


  • I praise you, Lord, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest. I am your chosen one. You won’t leave me in the grave or let my body decay. You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me.
    Psalm 16:7-11

…and my favorite

  • Because what you hope for is kept safe for you in heaven. Romans 8:28

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  1. Forgive me for my tardy response to your latest, very beautiful essay. It took me three whole days to find the courage to share once again in the fierce and courageous struggle you are waging against grief and despair. Part of what makes reading your postings so painful for me is my own grief over the loss of my beautiful grandson Aiden. I, too, ache to see him again, to hold him, to make him smile Your blog posts bring back once again the whole, tragic, grotesque nightmare of Aiden’s passing. But it is your pain that is most painful to me, Jen, primarily because I have nothing to offer, nothing to give to my little girl that I love so much that will ease her pain. Everything that I write sounds trite, platitudinous, stupid! It won’t help much, but, of course, I also have come home to an “empty nest” and the realization that something very precious, some part of who I am, is gone forever. Most all parents who really love and care for their children experience this sense that some purpose, some sense of yourself, is gone. But, Jennifer, you are still very much a Mom; those two boys in college need you just as much now as they ever did. They may not think so, but they do, and you need to be there for them. You’re their Mom, and you always will be, even when – especially when – one or both of them make you a Gran’ma and give you a whole, beautiful new definition of yourself and a whole new reason to thank God for life, a long life. And I also know the real crisis of identity that comes with walking away from a career and people who for 30-plus years have powerfully defined who you are and your self-worth. But, Jen, you are already on your way to a great new definition of yourself: you are already a writer with an audience and with the potential to be as good a writer and as effective a healer as you were a chiropractor. I know. You are dealing with much more than these things, but know this, Jen: You will find new definitions of who Jennifer Noonan is. They are already there.
    Of course you will keep showing up. You must keep showing up. You’re a friend, a sister, a mother, a wife, a child of God who has a plan and a purpose for your life; and you are my precious daughter whom I love as much as you love Aiden. We all need you, Jen. Aiden, especially, needs you, Jen, because Aiden loved his father and he would want you to be there for David, to love him and comfort him in a grief as great as yours; and Aiden loved his brothers, and he would want you to continue to cherish and guide and comfort them; and he would want you there for his grandparents and for Flo and for all your wonderful friends and all the other people devastated and lost by his passing. We all love you and need you Jen. We are defined by you just as you are defined by us. Purpose? Hope? It is all there! And. yes. the new Jennifer will be better and good, and I ask you to trust in it.