The New Normal
There’s a new ‘normal’ in my life now. As a widow, I have changed. I am not the person I was before Mark and never will be again. Friends find it hard to accept that, which is understandable. When you take steps forward as a widow, there will be friends that walk with you on your path, and some that don’t. That is their decision, you can’t make that decision for them.
Your life has altered. You can’t run from that. You can’t change it either. Life is different for you to what it was before. For me, ‘before’ is over three years ago now. In some ways, I feel every moment of those three years, yet in other ways, it feels like yesterday. There does come a time though, when your life has to ‘restart’ or ‘reinvent’. However, for each one of us, that comes at a different time and in a different way.
When I first went out for a meal after the loss of Mark, and asked for ‘table for one’, that was the first time that the realisation hit me that life was now nothing like the normality I once knew. It was now me, as opposed to us. Joanne, as opposed to Joanne and Mark. It was ‘the new normal’. It was a strange feeling and one that I struggled with initially, but I did it. After all, what choice do you have? I had a glass of wine, my meal and walked home from the pub. I knew that things like this were now the new lifestyle, as my days and weeks moved forward. I knew I had to learn to deal with them.
Now, I would’ve given my last dollar for five extra minutes with my husband, but the realism was, I couldn’t have that. Life now was just me. Life was mine and not ours. I had days where I didn’t want to get up. I had days where I watched TV but couldn’t tell you what I watched. I had days where I shouted at his picture, angry that he wasn’t here with me and that he’d gone. Each of those were part of dealing with grief
Getting on with life after such a huge loss, is a strange phenomenon. Everyone tells you they know how you feel. Unless they’ve lost a spouse, they really don’t. Each loss is different.
Everyone tells you that ‘he/she wouldn’t want to see you like this’ but how do they know? After all, such as in my case, I knew exactly what Mark wanted for me. How? He’d told me. No one else were privy to those conversations, so they couldn’t possibly know what he wanted.
Everyone tells you that you have to move on, but do you? Why should you move on? I don’t ever consider myself “moving on”. I will move forward taking Mark with me, but how can I move on from him, after 27 years of amazing memories?
Remember family and friends mean well when they comment, but grief is a strange being. Family and friends hate to see you unhappy and want to “fix” you. Grief can’t be fixed, but some people find that hard to comprehend.
When all is said and done, how do you keep going after a loss?.
The answer is – you do. Sometimes you dont know how you do, but you keep putting on step in-front of the other.
Here are a few thoughts…
- Give yourself time. Do not be bullied into rushing things, by family or friends.
- I didn’t listen to people who said cleaning clothes out was ‘too soon’. When it felt right to me I did it. I did it the following week. Do what feels right when it feels right for you.
- Ask yourself this – ‘what do I want from life now?’ Make a list.
- Look at the list and see what’s feasible for you. Realistically and dependant on circumstances of course, you may have financial obligations.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family.
- Don’t be afraid to tell a friend that they’re not helping with their behaviour. I wish I had the courage to do this with someone in my social circle.
- Remember you can say no to party/Christmas invites. If someone is offended by your refusal, it says more about them than you.
- Make changes that make your life easier.
- Take all the time you need.
When you are ready to face the world, you’ll know. Trust me when I say, you will just know. Today, as I write this piece, it is 3 years and 1 month. It is 1128 days, since I lost my husband. It’s taken me that time to be ready to face the world. Don’t get me wrong, I will still say no occasionally to invites, but my life has started to change. Three days ago, I drove 212km round trip, to meet a group of people, some of which I hadn’t seen in some time. Coffee, lunch and laughter. To coin a phrase….it felt normal.
After a loss, life does go on. The big rucksack of grief that you carry will always be there. Every now and then it gets lighter. Sometimes you even forget you’re carrying it. If you’re really lucky, you get to put it down for a while. But life continues. Grab that life with both hands. Grab it back for yourself.
My “after” became my writing. Two authored books and a website.