Grief and the art of reinvention.
“The new normal” is a phrase often used in grief circles. It carries the idea that following bereavement, not only are your circumstances changed, but you are too.
It can happen suddenly or it might be more subtle. How we react to what is going on around us might be one manifestation. Crowded rooms filled with talkative people might be uncomfortable. Values and beliefs can alter. What used to fill our thoughts now seems important.
We’re standing in a supermarket and overhear one woman complain to another about the cost of replacing her teen’s phone. Complaining about her LIVING teen. We are gobsmacked. What would we give to buy our teen something new beside a headstone?
I’ve sometimes heard from widows, particularly those who have been bereaved early, that their social circle has shrunk. Relaxed dinners with couples aren’t what they used to be. Perhaps there is some anxiety on the part of the other wives; is this newly single woman a potential threat or rival?
An old anecdote tells of a family whose child had died. Their faith leader tells them, it’s as though the table, that had 4 legs, now only has three. The table is wobbling and unsteady. To live with grief is to find the way to manage the 3-legged table.
The new normal. Managing in changed circumstances. Managing our own changed expectations.
This is where the art of reinvention can be vital. We find new interests, new social circles, new friends even, that suit who we are now.
It can take courage to book a holiday alone if you’ve always gone with your partner. It can take courage to attend the celebration of a young couple when your own child has died. It can take courage to go out on a date.
It can also take courage to say, “I’ve been doing ‘this’ for a long time, but now I w ant to try something else.”
I wonder how many people change jobs – or quit paid work – after a profound bereavement?
No matter our age, it’s never too late to do new things.
Some activities I’ve tried for the first time since my bereavement:
- Felt making
Volunteering with a new charity
Tai chi classes
learning to drive
learning to say “no”
What’s on your list?
A kookaburra, one of the new birds I have seen for the first time in Australia