Creating a New Normal

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Every second Saturday I run a grief support group at The Center in Long Beach. Sometimes two people show up, sometimes twenty. This past weekend we had somewhere between two and twenty; some new, some veterans; all with the same goal to identify the answer to the following question:

Who the hell am I now that ____________ is gone?

We spend so much time putting our lives together based on the people around us that when they’re gone (due to death or any other reason for a relationship ending) we have no idea who we are without them.

A normal day might include getting up and ready for work together. Or kissing her on the cheek before you walk out the door to your job while she catches another hour of sleep before getting ready for hers. Or your own version of a morning routine that includes your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your partner, your wife, your husband, your person.

But when they’re gone there’s no one there to get ready with or kiss goodbye when you leave. There’s no one there to eat breakfast or lunch or dinner with. There’s no one to share those little moments that no one else gives a shit about, but you know even if they don’t care, they still want to hear about how your coworker made a reference to Dane Cook this morning and you relived the whole, “I did my best…” routine right there in the middle of the office.

You’re grocery shopping for one. You’re eating alone. You’re watching TV, going out, staying home, doing everything you used to do with your partner, alone.

This is your new normal. And it fucking sucks. 

People who haven’t experienced loss have no idea how to treat you or what to say to you, and so they end up saying some pretty stupid shit. Everyone around you is telling you that it will get better with time, or that the other person is in a better place, or that you just need to move on. They tell you you’ll feel better if you go out, if you meet new people, if you start dating, if you would just get back to your life.

But the thing they don’t really understand is that you don’t have that life to get back to. That life is dead and gone, as is the person you used to be before your person died. You’re like a fledgling animal that looks like an adult but is still awkward with walking, communicating, and moving through life in general. Life as you knew it no longer exists, as what in its place now doesn’t make any sense to you.

This is your new normal. And it fucking sucks. 

You still have some sense of who you used to be. You know you’re a strong, capable individual. You pride yourself on being able to take care of yourself. You don’t want to be a burden. You don’t want to present yourself as a mess to the people around you who obviously love you. But they couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through, and you don’t have the time or the energy to explain it all to them.

You go to work and either become so engrossed in your job and work yourself into a such thick layer of denial that nothing else outside that layer matters to you because you refuse to see anything beyond what is right in front of you; or you stumble around, unable to focus on anything right front of you because your world is falling apart in slow motion from the inside out, no way to stop it, change it, or send it in another direction.

This is your new normal. And it fucking sucks. 

At some point you realize that this is your new normal and just how much it fucking sucks. And you ask yourself, “How do I get this to not be my new normal? How do I make it so my life doesn’t fucking suck?” [Enter Talking Heads: and the days go by …]

The simple (and mind-numbingly annoying) answer is time. Time spent feeling, processing, getting to know your emotions intimately. So intimately you don’t question why any emotion shows up, you just hug it and give it its due, allowing it to be heard and seen and loved.

I’m not one of your trying-to-make-everything-better-right-now-because-I-don’t-know-what-else-to-say-and-this-is-really-uncomfortable-for-me-so-can-we-please-talk-about-something-anything-else friends. I’ve been where you are.

My circumstances were different, I’m certain. But my emotions, they were the same. The rage. The sadness. The guilt. The disappointment. The grief. The depth. The bargaining. The hole in your heart. The numbness. The pain. The emptiness. The need for solitude. The longing to not feel so goddamned alone.

I get it. We’re a part of the same club that neither one of us asked to be initiated into. But here we are. So now what?

Now you begin to create your new normal. Moment by moment, step by step. You begin to heal, little by little. Sometimes day by day, sometimes minute by minute. You take time for yourself when you feel like you need it. You go out every now and then just to see if you’re ready. And when you’re not, you try not to beat yourself up for not being ready yet. And when you are, you try not to beat yourself up for being ready so fast. Sometimes you succeed and other times, well, those times you spend too much time in your head and it does no one any good but it’s something you need to do because no one can get you out of this space you’re in except you.

That’s the truth, unpretty as it may be.

But it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Some people benefit greatly from therapy. I certainly did after my mom’s death when I was sixteen and my friend’s suicide when I was 21 and my grandmother’s death when I was 27. By the time my father died when I was 30 I’d been in therapy for nearly six months in preparation for his death. Therapy is exactly the right thing for some people, and not for others. Only you can decide—just don’t let your ego make the decision for you.

You have to find your new normal. One that doesn’t fucking suck. 

See a therapist if you want/need to. Go to a grief support group if you want/need to. Talk to your friends and loved ones about how you’re feeling; if they don’t understand where you’re coming from, ask them to just listen to you rather than try to fix it for you. Read a book with characters you can relate to. Write a book with characters you can relate to. Journal if it makes you feel better. Eat as well as you can muster the energy to. Take vitamins. Let others help you.

Create a new normal that makes fucking sense to you

Create a new normal that doesn't fucking suck.

You will stumble, you will fall. And you will get back up and learn from yourself. Sometimes you’ll even dust yourself off. You will learn from others, despite yourself. Your new normal will create itself if you let it. But if you don’t stand up for what you want in that new normal it’s going to continue to fucking suck and you will have no one to blame but yourself.

Until you’re ready to do something different, you won’t.

And even that’s okay. As long as you’re the one calling the shots (and not your ego).

Just remember that growth happens outside of your comfort zone. So if you’re uncomfortable right now, you’re probably in the midst of one hell of a growth spurt.

That’s normal. Even if it fucking sucks.

  • Twice, I read your full post. And I’ve read bits of it several times. So much of it spoke to me as I reflected on where I am today regarding my new normal surrounding my father’s death in 1999, my mother’s death in Sept. of last year, and my nephew’s death three weeks ago. What gave me the most comfort was that you brought to light that the time between our loved one’s passing and creating our new normal does fucking suck. For me, even with my father’s death so many years ago, the “fucking sucks” times can still flare up … I think that’s just part of a lifelong process, though. Just saying, “Hey, this totally, fucking sucks!” really helps. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks for sharing what spoke to you, Kelly. And you’re welcome for the post 🙂

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