“What I am getting used to, is the new normal. But in the new normal, I am not normal”
- R. C. Sproul
It’s an unsuspecting and innocent word, isn’t it; normal. One we use in conversations every other day – never meaning any malice or pain, never spoken with ill-intent. It’s a word many of us use to harmlessly typicalise life.
However when used in the context of ‘grief and loss’ (or any other significant life adjustment for that matter), that’s exactly the result it may have.
In fact, when speaking within such a context, I humbly ask; what is normal? Who is normal? What classifies as normal? Are we normal? Are our behaviours normal? Are their actions normal?
Who defines the constraints and characteristics of normal – because seemingly, we ourselves are the experts – are we not?
You see the beauty of our world and of sharing this planet with almost 7 billion others, is that your answers to the above will be unique and unlike any other’s.
They will be shaped and moulded by what our parents taught us was ‘normal’, what our teachers educated us was ‘normal’, whose voices we listened to, what society personified as normal,
our familial environment and so forth.
For the most part, the realities of our ‘normal’ are harmless (hopefully ever changing as our minds expand, ignorance’s diminish and experiences increase, but harmless none-the-less). Offence rears its ugly head however, when we project our definition of normality onto others; especially those whom are grieving.
As a friend, I have journeyed the road of complicated grief with innumerable others; watching on as they struggle to put one foot in front of the other (let alone run with open arms into their ‘new normal’) – and if I may, the most significant piece of advice I can offer when walking with a grieving friend, is to not place your judgements and expectations of healing onto them. Do not hold them to the same standard or account that you may hold yourself to – for it is not your path to walk, it is theirs – and their new normal is not going to look like it did before. They will not be the ‘same’ as they were before nor should they be, for they have lost something or someone that was inextricably linked to the very core of their being.
I have regretfully been guilty of this many ‘a time and it has been filled with unending frustrations, had devastating consequences and caused intense pain (not just for the other person!)
Additionally, I have come to understand and appreciate that for those grieving, it is so excruciatingly difficult when everyone else’s normal has remained unchanged, yet yours has collapsed around you. Those they love, their friends, their colleagues … their lives are continuing on as ‘normal’. They’re awakening to a brand-new day filled with routine, comfortability and regularity, yet those grieving awaken hoping that it was all just a nightmare; unsure of what the day will hold, unsure where to even begin.
Thus, I beg you – if ever you are privileged enough to walk the intimate road of pain and suffering brought on by significant loss, change or grief – let grace, patience and unwavering support and love abound for those whom are painfully trying to find their ‘new normal’, because the reality is; not only do they not even know what ‘normality’ they’re searching for, many don’t want to find it because finding it would mean acknowledging that their loved one is truly gone.
It may be hard, it may be frustrating and it may be tiring, but it pales in comparison to the pain they are experiencing.
By Angelica Klein-Boonschate