Every Wednesday

Every other Wednesday, I will post a reflection on grief as I continue to explore its landscape and listen to your experiences. In the sharing of our stories with each other, we find encouragement and build a community of support and understanding.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The New Normal

Let’s say we’ve adjusted to the death of a loved one to some degree. We’re back at work. We’re cooking, shopping, and taking care of the house. We’re gathering with friends and talking about something other than grief like sports, politics, and the sale going on at Kohls Department Store.

Hopefully we no longer feel like a victim but a warrior because we have battled tremendous forces and survived. We understand our emotions better, and we feel ourselves transforming into someone different, perhaps someone we’ve always wanted to be. 

We are new creatures because of grief. Don’t expect us to act the same.

We’ve discovered hidden strengths we didn’t realize we had. Maybe we’ve learned how to manage the finances, take care of the yard, or make basic repairs on the house. Maybe we’ve discovered that we like to cook, go on 100-mile bike rides, or paint landscapes.

Maybe we have new friends – people we met in a grief support group. Maybe we’ve started dating. If our child died, perhaps we are trying to get pregnant again.

We have a new life because of grief, not because we wanted one, but because death ripped the old one away. We have a new normal (some people hate that term), and how we view reality has radically changed. We live on the margins of society.

We realize that society does a poor job of taking care of individuals. To get through grief, we had to do it on our own with the help of a few others.

We know that any of us can died at any time.It doesn’t matter how young, good, or successful we are. Not everyone will live to a ripe, old age with all of our abilities intact. Too many of us will get cancer and have to endure surgery and chemotherapy. Some of us will get hit by a car and die. Or have a stroke and go through months of rehab, or suffer a heart attack. An increasing number of us will develop dementia and require help navigating through each day. We realize that old age is a gift, not a right, and it’s no longer one of our assumptions.

Our priorities have changed.We don’t put important matters off anymore. If someone needs assistance, we help them today, because tomorrow one of us may not be here.

Friends are not the people we see and chat with every day. Most of them kept their distance when grief began. Our friends are those who came, sat with us, and helped us bear the weight of grief.

We now value compassion over judging others. When we needed help, a few people showed up and made all the difference. We understand how suffering feels, and how death can tear your life apart. Most people do nothing to deserve the sorrow, illness, or pain that comes their way.

We also realize that many people don’t know how to help someone who is grieving. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they don’t realize they don’t need to have answers. All they have to do is be present and listen. We’ll do the talking.

The hardest thing is to trust people again and believe that goodness is the foundation of life.

If you ask how I’m doing, and I’m feeling crappy, expect the truth. I’m no longer going to tell you I’m fine, so don’t ask if you don’t want to know. I don’t have the time or inclination to sugarcoat the truth. Politeness no longer butters my bagel.

(I'll share some thoughts on the term "New Normal" shortly.)


This post first appeared in The Grief Dialogues.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your insight.Learning everyday how to cope after 2 years of losing my spouse.