After I lost my husband I joined a grief group. One of the topics the counselor covered was the “new normal.”
I had no idea what that was, but I came to understand that it refers to life after loss. What we knew as normal is gone after a death. In order to move forward we all have to find a new way to live.
But what does that mean? The answer is that the new normal is a very individual thing. Those of us that have suffered a loss share the pain, but how we deal with it depends on many factors. Each of us has a different path as we cope with grief.
It starts with the circumstances surrounding the loss. Recovering from a sudden death is often not the same as it is for a death from a long illness. Many other factors come into play, like the nature of the relationship with the lost loved one. Age is also sometimes a factor.
Trying to survive after losing a younger loved one under tragic circumstances is obviously different from how we handle the death of an older relative who died peacefully after a long, happy life. The pain from each loss is just as horrible, but the way we work through that pain varies.
Everything from our habits to our friends often change as we try to handle grief. For example, I found that many of my couple friends disappeared because, as my counselor explained, “You are not a couple anymore.”
Changes we encounter range from adjusting to eating alone or finding new ways to celebrate holidays, to suddenly needing a caregiver or having to deal with additional responsibilities. My husband had always handled with our finances. I had to learn to take that over and make it a part of my new normal.
For some, the new normal might include returning to work, going back to school, moving or even being forced to sell a home. For me, it involved relocating half way across the country.
The bottom line is that after a loss, the new normal is inevitable. We all have to face the fact that life will never be the same. As awful as that reality is, it is necessary for us to accept it.
Realizing that we can’t have what we had enables us to each take our own fork down the road to recovery. A positive attitude helps as we stumble over all the bumps and contend with the detours that we encounter.
Even though our challenges are unique, the new normal is waiting ahead. The best way, in my opinion, to move forward is to tackle the obstacles armed with our wonderful memories. And with each challenge we overcome in our struggles to reach a new normal, we can be assured that our loved ones are proudly smiling down on us.
Updated: September 26, 2018