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.

Of Child Loss, Pandemics and Panic

Child loss has changed me in ways that continue to unfold even years later.

As pandemic and panic sweep the world, my heart has been both more anxious and less anxious at precisely the same moment.

I’ve experienced more generalized dread and unease fed by media frenzy, friends’ posts and comments and the other-worldly photos of empty streets in big cities and families hanging out balcony windows in Italy and Spain.

Coronavirus: Quarantined Italians sing their hearts out. It's ...

Trauma from sudden death has left its mark and societal panic is is ripping open the wound.

The thin layer that protects my heart most days is wearing thinner.

When the thing you think won’t happen DOES happen, you simply can’t find solace in platitudes or pithy prayers or puny human promises that “every little thing will be all right”.

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In a perverse twist, knowing the worst HAS happened, makes me less apprehensive about the future.

I’ve given up the idea that protection is guaranteed by doing all the right things or following all the rules or obeying every law.

Oh, we still do all that!

We are washing our hands, practicing social distancing and limiting necessary trips to anywhere. But my faith is not in any of those things to necessarily keep this silent, creeping evil from my doorstep.

Some might call it defeatist.

I call it reality.

The hours of each day are filled balancing these two opposite but very much connected feelings. Sometimes I want to crawl out of my skin or run as far and as fast as I can. Sometimes I just sit, waiting for whatever might happen TO happen.

The anniversary of Dominic’s death is less than two weeks away so all THIS is layered on top of THAT.

Honestly, it’s exhausting and I wake most mornings already worn out.

Almost six years has taught me the world doesn’t stop spinning and the rising sun won’t wait.

So here I am.

Again.