What Exactly IS Normal In Grief?

It hurts my heart every time I hear it or see it written at the end of a long, heartfelt post in a bereaved parents’ group: “Am I normal?”

Because in addition to bearing the weight of child loss so many mothers and fathers wonder if what they are feeling, what they are thinking and what they are doing is within the range of “normal” for those who have buried a son or daughter.

If we didn’t closet the deepest and most difficult aspects of grief and loss hearts wouldn’t have to fret about whether or not their experience was common, expected, typical, ordinary and very, very NORMAL.

I just came home a couple days ago from a weekend retreat for bereaved moms and was reminded again that the range of “normal” in grief-especially child loss-is so very wide.

Still crying after a decade? Absolutely normal.

Trouble getting dinner on the table or remembering your child’s school schedule? Yep. That’s normal.

Read the rest here: Grief-So What’s Normal???

Looking For Normal

There are lots of social media memes floating around about 2020 being an interminably long series of disaster after disaster.

“If only it would end”, is the hidden hope whispered inside hearts longing for the calendar to turn from one year to the next.

“If only things would get back to normal!”

But there’s no magic in how we humans divide the days or months or years as this big blue marble travels round the sun and through the universe. It’s simply a convenient way to mark time.

And there’s no guarantee that time, by itself, rights anything. There’s no promise in the next sunrise that what’s been broken will be mended.

The rest of the world is learning what bereaved parents have known ever since the awful reality of child loss was laid at the door of their hearts: there’s no way back to “normal” once your world is violently torn from its moorings.

All you can do is assess the damage, pick up whatever pieces may still be viable and try your best to cobble them back together into usable shape.

(Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

Some use the term, “new normal”, to describe a state that (most bereaved parents) eventually reach. A way of walking in the world with a profound limp, a wounded heart, a half-smile that hides tears threatening behind tightly closed eyes.

We make adjustments because we have to. The world doesn’t stop and ask permission before continuing on its merry way.

I would not wish this pandemic on a single soul.

I grieve (maybe more than many) over every person lost to Covid19. I cry every time I hear of another lonely elder separated by glass from human hugs and family kisses. I am counting the cost of witnessing traumatic deaths for nurses and doctors who have to hold hands as well as treat illness because visitors are not allowed in the rooms of the dying.

We haven’t begun to assess all the ways this pandemic is changing and will change us-individually and communally.

But if you’re waiting for 2020 to end, for a magic vaccine or for some other relatively instant and far-reaching cure to transform current reality, I think you will be waiting a long time (if not a lifetime).

I think, that like me, you will have to work through your own feelings and fears. You will have to decide what risks you can take.

You will have to figure out who and what in life is non-negotiable and hold onto that with both hands no matter what else happens.

Bereaved parents are good at this because we have to be.

If you are looking for trailblazers through unprecedented tragedy and unfriendly territory, follow them.

They can show you how it’s done.

Wondering If All These Crazy Emotions Are Normal In Grief? Yes. Absolutely.

You’d think that the depths of despair, the breath pressed out of your lungs would stop a brain from wondering if even here, I’m “normal”.

I’m not sure it’s the same need for affirmation junior high girls crave-am I doing/saying/being the things that will guarantee I fit in-but it’s a close cousin.

The human heart longs to know that what it feels is something other hearts feel.

I was desperate for assurance that what I was going through fell well within the range of “normal”.

So let me assure you.

If you wonder if all these crazy emotions are normal in grief, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”.

Grief is a ball of emotions any one of which may demand more or less of your attention on a given day. It’s not just sadness or missing or sorrow or even pain.

It’s anger, frustration, rage, relief, abandonment, jealousy, rejection, inadequacy, guilt, denial, dismay, apathy, bitterness, longing, anxiety, woe, depression, vindictiveness, despair, confusion, depression, yearning and more.

Just like loving a living child is complex and complicated, loving a child that has run ahead to Heaven is just as complex.

So don’t make your journey harder by worrying that what you’re feeling is outside the range of normal.

It isn’t.

I promise.

Bereaved Parents Month Post 2020: Who Gets to Decide If I’m Stuck in Grief?

“Stuck in grief”-it’s a theme of blog posts, psychology papers and magazine articles.  The author usually lists either a variety of “symptoms” or relates anecdotes of people who do truly odd things after a loved one dies.  “Complicated grief” is a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis.

But who gets to decide?  

What objective criteria can be applied to every situation, every person, every death to determine whether someone is truly stuck in grief? 

Read the rest here: Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?

Grief-So What’s Normal???

I just came home a couple days ago from a weekend retreat for bereaved moms and was reminded again that the range of “normal” in grief-especially child loss-is so very wide.

Still crying after a decade? Absolutely normal.

Trouble getting dinner on the table or remembering your child’s school schedule? Yep. That’s normal.

Struggling with crowds, back-peddling on commitments, feeling trapped by phone conversations, shopping when you are least likely to run into someone you know? Perfectly normal.

Our losses ranged from very recent to decades old and all of us admitted our behavior, our feelings, our ability to handle change, nearly every aspect of our lives was impacted by the death of our child.

So if you are wondering if your expression of grief is normal, it is.

Our lives were shattered.

Our hearts were broken.

Picking up the pieces, whatever that looks like, is absolutely, positively normal.

It’s All Part Of The Journey: Good Days, Bad Days

Will today be a good day or a bad day?

Not sure yet.

Mainly because what usually determines THAT is something that happens (or doesn’t happen) at some point after my morning quiet time.

But whether it’s a good day, a bad day or somewhere in between, it is absolutely, completely, utterly NORMAL for my emotions to change as I make my way down the path called “Child Loss”.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/02/11/child-loss-good-days-bad-days-all-part-of-the-journey/

Child Loss: Good Days, Bad Days-All Part Of The Journey

Will today be a good day or a bad day?

Not sure yet.

Mainly because what usually determines THAT is something that happens (or doesn’t happen) at some point after my morning quiet time.

But whether it’s a good day, a bad day or somewhere in between, it is absolutely, completely, utterly NORMAL for my emotions to change as I make my way down the path called “Child Loss”.

As long as I am doing the work grief requires I will continue to have some better days.  

But grief still comes in waves in response to triggers or in response to nothing at all and it may be a bad day.  

waves-of-greif

How well did I sleep, rest, eat or exercise? My body affects my emotions in ways I don’t fully understand but absolutely experience.

Stress can bring tears to the surface.  Even GOOD stress can do it.  Looking forward to things, planning a party, large meal, trip or event is stressful, even if it isn’t sad.  All stress weakens my defenses and makes it harder to employ the techniques I’ve mastered for diverting my thoughts or controlling my tears.

Sunshine or rain? I have learned to count the number of recent cloudy days if I wake one morning feeling bluer than normal.  I often realize that a week or more has passed since I’ve seen the sun.

Too much interaction or too little interaction with other humans makes a BIG difference. My introvert self loves long afternoons alone, sitting in silence with a book or crochet, quiet walks in the woods and chore-filled days without music blaring.  But healthy solitude can turn to withdrawal if I let it and sometimes I realize my sudden sense of overwhelming grief is, in part, due to lack of human company.

The list is endless.  

Thankfully, at nearly five years, the better days outnumber the worse ones for me. 

But  no matter what kind of day it may be, I no longer worry if it’s normal. 

Because it’s ALL normal. 

you will have good days bad days keep showing up

 

 

 

 

Repost: Nothing “Normal” About It

Something you hear early on in this grief journey is that one day you will find a “new normal”.

I hate that phrase.

Because while I have certainly developed new routines, new ways of dealing with life, new methods for quelling the tears and the longing and the sorrow and the pain-it is NOT normal.

It will never be “normal” for my son to be missing.

Read the rest here:  Nothing “Normal” About It

Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?

“Stuck in grief”-it’s a theme of blog posts, psychology papers and magazine articles.  The author usually lists either a variety of “symptoms” or relates anecdotes of people who do truly odd things after a loved one dies.  “Complicated grief” is a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis.

But who gets to decide?  

What objective criteria can be applied to every situation, every person, every death to determine whether someone is truly stuck in grief?  How do you take into account the circumstances of a death, the relationship of the bereaved to the deceased, trauma surrounding the event or any of a dozen other things that influence how long and how deeply one grieves a loss?

Obviously there are certain signs that someone needs professional help, medication or intervention.  If a person is abusing drugs or alcohol, acting out in ways that harm or threaten harm to themselves or others, or is experiencing depression or uncontrollable anxiety then please, please, PLEASE get them to a doctor who can diagnose and treat them.

But for the rest of us, “normal” grief covers a wide variety of behaviors, feelings, attitudes and timelines:

Posting photos or videos of our missing child is normal.  It’s the last visual link we have to someone we can no longer see.

Mentioning my son in conversation is normal.  I mention my other children and his life is still intertwined with ours.

Crying-even years or decades after the loss-is NORMAL  Grief waves can hit with tsunami force from out of nowhere and slam me to the ground. The only thing I can do then is let them wash over and around me until they pass.

Keeping space for my son in my home, at my table, in my heart and on holidays is normal.  Some parents do this with a special candle, photo or ritual. Some do it with a stuffed animal or other item that represents their child. Some do it with words or deeds of kindness done in honor of the missing one.  No one has sat in Dominic’s space at my table in these three years.  It’s my silent witness to his ongoing influence and irreplaceable presence in our family circle.

Keeping a room exactly as it was is normal.  Boxing everything up is also normal.  Every heart is different and every heart has to decide what helps it heal.

Sleeplessness is normal.  Some parents never return to pre-loss sleep patterns.  I wake every morning at about the time the deputy came to our door.  Every now and then, if I am extremely tired, I may fall back asleep for an hour or two.  Sleeping the day away is normal, too.  Sleep may be a welcome relief to a weary heart and some parents find that when they can, they sleep a lot.  (Note:  if this continues for days or weeks, please check with your doctor about the possibility of depression.)

Anxiety is, sadly, VERY normal.  The worst has actually happened and that makes the possibility that it could happen again oh, so real.  Anxiety may well spread to things that seem to have no relationship to loss.  It’s also normal to have a “devil may care” attitude. The worst has actually happened, so what could be worse?  Might as well live life to the full.

Withdrawal is normal.  So is over-scheduling and staying busy.  Both are ways someone may try to deal with heartbreak.

You don’t have to be “stuck” in grief to still feel the pain and have it continue to affect your life.

I am and have been highly functional since the morning the deputy arrived with the news of my son’s fatal motorcycle accident.

But I am a very different “me” than I was before that doorbell rang.

Some things I can’t do anymore. Some things I do differently and some things are brand new and I have only done them since he left us.

Labels are rarely helpful when applied to people.

Every person is unique, every relationship unique and every situation unique.

And every grief journey will be unique as well.

roller coaster 2 better image

 

 

 

Repost: Am I Normal?

 

grief not a disorder

There is so. much. pressure. on grieving parents during the holidays!

A constant tension between the world celebrating the “season of joy” and a heart that carries great sorrow.

Perhaps more than any other time of the year we may ask the question:

Am I Normal?

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