I know a lot of people hate the words “new normal.”
At one point in my life, I thought I may be one of them.
After my husband died by suicide, I had plenty of unkind thoughts toward the do-gooders who tried (even within weeks) to “normalize” our loss by commenting on how the kids were smiling again, or it was nice to see me having brunch with friends, or good to have me back in the school pick-up line.
The underlying trite message always seemed, “glad to see that things are getting back to normal.”
My husband was dead. The father of my three living, breathing, and deeply grieving children had been alive one morning and comatose by the afternoon. We will never be OK, I wanted to scream. Our world exploded into a million pieces when he died. We’re still digging out from underneath the rubble. There is nothing about this that is normal.
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It has been eight years since we buried my husband. I have since remarried—a widower actually, with four children of his own. Though our lives definitely lack the effortlessness of a 1970s family sitcom (not to mention the glaring absence of an ever-ready-to-help Alice), we do exist in some kind of beautiful existence of our own. At least we did. Until the pandemic.
The pandemic cued the sort of screeching halt to life in our house as I’m sure it did in yours. We have high-risk individuals living here. We had a graduating senior. We were in the middle of a new home purchase and move an hour away.
And you know what? I found myself looking forward to the days we can settle into a “new normal” again.
It is the “new” part that makes it OK. I will never get my first husband back. My children will always know their father is missing. Our old normal will never, in fact, exist again. But, our new normal was hard-won. Our new normal is precious in its own right.
It didn’t happen overnight like so many with rose-colored glasses willed it to. It took a conscious effort. It took courage. It took risk. It took work. But, once we achieved it, the “new normal” was oh so much better than the “new disaster” immediately following his death. The new normal came with new relationships, new dreams, new opportunities to help others through the hardest of their days.
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As this pandemic shifts and rolls and cracks beneath the old rhythms of our entire world, I’m aware of the disaster it is creating—in the health of individuals, in our country’s economy, in systems and ways of life we’ve all only ever known as normal.
Yet, I also know the new normal is coming.
It will be hard-won. It will take time and effort and sacrifice and love. But, if my new normal is any indicator of things, it will be so worth it in the end. It won’t be a consolation prize for how things used to be. Rather, it will be its own new, living, organic and wonderfully made creation.
I won’t rush the world to get there. I won’t speak useless platitudes of positive thinking that insult the very real suffering of so many. But, I think I’ll easily recognize when the world begins to really smile again. I’ll know when she finds a new normal. It will totally be worth the effort and wait.