Hello again from Amy at Fierce Hope! I had hoped to connect with you all sooner, but I had technical difficulties navigating the blog after Jim passed away. A former student of mine offered to help me get it fixed and it was such a blessing that came at just the right time. Now Jim’s words are out there for all of those who were inspired by them. When I wasn’t able to access the blog, I started sharing posts on the fiercehope.com facebook page. Join me there if you haven’t already. Over the next few weeks I will try to republish anything here that I think was important. So, let’s start here. I wrote this in June of 2016, about 2 months after Jim passed away.
Finding Our “New Normal”
Finding a “new normal” when a loved one passes away seems to be a common phrase. I’ve used it myself, but sometimes it feels somewhat cliché. So, what does it mean to find a “new normal,” after what my family has been through? I’ll share what it has meant for us.
-Finding our new normal means figuring out how to help three kids with different personalities and different ways of coping with things deal with the loss of their father. It means doing this while also trying to figure out how to cope with it myself.
-Our new normal is remembering we are now a party of 4 instead of 5. Seems like a small thing, but it is a reminder every time I set the table or figure out how much pizza to order, that Jim is gone.
-In that same vein, our new normal is getting used to being just the four of us after having so many people staying with us and helping out for several months. Getting back to making meals and doing normal things after having help from friends and family was harder than I thought at first. Little things like remembering that we need milk or bread or someone doesn’t have any clean socks can seem like they are no big deal, but I had people here keeping up with the laundry and running to the store whenever we needed it, so I just have to remember that my new normal in that department is just getting back to my old normal.
-My new normal means putting the kids to bed and then finding something to fill the silence. Reruns of “Friends” seem to be working for the time being. Sleep is elusive. It is too quiet; too lonely; too much time to think. Yet I am glad to have some time to myself. Morning comes too quickly and then I have to drag myself out of bed to get back to finding my new normal.
-Our new normal often means being woken in the night by someone having a bad dream. Most of the times it is one of the kids. Occasionally it’s me.
-My new normal means I am a widow and no matter how many times I hear it, it just doesn’t seem right. I am too young. My kids learned what a widow was at church during the children’s sermon one day. They never once mentioned it at home. I wonder if they will grow up not thinking of a widow as an old lady like I always did?
-My new normal means trying to hold back tears when a song hits too close to home. It also means letting a few tears escape so that my kids know it is o.k. to cry.
-My new normal means not knowing what to say when people ask how I’m doing. It doesn’t mean I want them to stop asking. Some days I’m o.k., and some days I’m not.
-My new normal involves researching how to explain cremation to my kids and deciding when is the right time to take them with me to scatter the ashes. That one is really tough.
-My new normal brings a lot of tying up of loose ends. . .filing paperwork, dropping off death certificates, trying to unlock Jim’s cell phone so I can download his pictures, rolling over his retirement accounts, and lots of other things that just keep cropping up. Each one is just another reminder that he is gone.
-New normal is meeting someone new and wondering how many conversations we should have before I tell them my situation. Maybe someday that won’t define me and I won’t even have to think about mentioning it, but right now it feels weird.
-My new normal is going to grief support groups and feeling like a fish out of water. This doesn’t seem like somewhere I ought to be. Yet I feel like I need it. I need to find other people like me. At least I can smile thinking that Jim is likely getting a kick out of me going to these groups like Edward Norton in one of our favorite movies, “Fight Club.”
-My new normal is worrying about the future. Worrying what I should say to people when they ask me if I am going to get a job and if we will be able to stay in our house. I know those questions come from genuine care and from us so openly sharing our journey, but if you’re wondering, just know that I am using our cushion to buy some time to figure out the right answer for me and my kids. It is always on my mind. It is complicated, and I am working on it.
Those are some of the hard parts of finding our new normal. There are positives too and I don’t want to overlook them.
-Our new normal is keeping busy. We have been blessed to have help in keeping the kids engaged in activities that they love this summer. They have had opportunities for theater and music and camps. I have found fun, free stuff for us to do locally. I even won tickets to a theme park on the radio, so we got some free family fun from that. Busy is good right now. We will slow down eventually, but for now, busy is what we need. I trust my neighbors will overlook our overgrown weeds while I am keeping up with our busy schedule.
-My new normal is spending time with friends. Having a loved one who is ill can be very isolating. Knowing that Jim is at peace allows me to get caught up with some old friends. I have gotten to chat with friends while the girls are at swimming lessons, and I enjoyed some lovely desserts and conversations while the kids were at Vacation Bible School. Being with friends this past week has been so refreshing.
-Our new normal is sharing stories about Jim and not being afraid to mention him when something makes us think of him. It is nice to be able to remember the fun times when he wasn’t sick and it’s so important to me that the kids have some memories of that too. It will be especially hardest for our twins since they are young and he was sick for so long that they may have very few memories from before he was sick. Even our oldest may start to forget. Telling stories about him makes them smile, and that is good for all of us.
So, the next time you hear someone talk about “finding their new normal,” think about all that that statement can entail. Sometimes it’s o.k. to just forget about what is new. Who needs normal, anyway?
Blessings and Fierce Hope,