It’s been awhile since I’ve contacted you. I was busy. Busy surviving. Busy grieving.
I have been more focused on my journey and me than anyone else’s. I had to. For my own and my family’s sake. Otherwise I might no longer be around.
My child has died and even if/though this is months or even years ago, my memory is as fresh as if it was yesterday. For the outside world it has become a story, the story people tell each other at the shop about the woman who lost her baby. But even those conversations have started to die as the news is no longer headline worthy. In the best of cases, it has become a memory. A fading memory.
I might seem better from the outside and in comparison to the first weeks and months I am… Or so it seems. And then grief rolls over me like the unexpected wave that catches me from behind. These were the moments I didn’t recognise myself. The moments I was the crazy ‘new normal’ woman loudly cursing every detail about her life, wishing death upon her to end this pain. This however usually happened (not so) quietly behind closed doors. They have become less frequent… By not contacting you, you were spared those moments. You wouldn’t have liked them. I didn’t and still don’t. You might have been so shocked by your ‘new normal’ friend that you never contacted her again.
It has been a hard road to get used to the ‘new normal’ me, which honestly is nothing like the normal me you and I knew. Ask the husband, the rock – who knows how he managed to not walk out the door. I’ve kept the ‘new normal’ inside a lot because you see, she has no (or little) social grace. I prefer to spend time with her by my own, not that she is pleasurable company but she just doesn’t fit in my life pre-loss. It was my way to save whatever face was left.
I haven’t just been a crappy ‘new normal’ friend I’ve also been crappy ‘new normal’ mother, wife, sister, daughter, human being. Once I’ve realised that I actually had to merge with the ‘new normal’ myself, I struggled with this truth. She or rather I had to relearn what it means to live, to treat people, to care for myself, to be in relationship, to be a responsible human being, to treat things and people respectfully… Most of all myself.
The ‘new normal’ doesn’t have energy nor desire to be pleasing as I was before. I’ve given up on returning to or getting back the self that used to be me – I’ve given in on being ‘new normal’. Resistance is exhausting and fruitless. The more honest and straight-forward I’ve noticed the ‘new normal’ was and is, the less socially digestible I’ve found myself to be. A simple ‘starting-a-conversation’ question like “and how many children do you have?” make the ‘new normal’ a party killer. And for those who know the story, I can imagine them rolling their eyes and thinking: “Here we go again…”
The sad truth is I’ve become quite used to the fact that my friends prefer to stay away from ‘new normal’ and I can sort of understand their potential motivation. As much as the ‘new normal’ has needed to talk about it she/I might have also strained your ears and overused your capacity to listen. I myself would prefer the ‘new normal’ would be able to tell a different life story.
Now I want to be a good new normal friend.
The new normal good friend is honest, real and authentic.
When I integrate the new normal…
I will call or contact you when I truly feel like it.
I will tell it like it is.
I will always mention all my children, dead or alive.
I will learn to love myself, life and what I’ve come here for.
I will appreciate your patience, love and care.
I will be human, fallible and imperfect.
And I’ll hope you to meet your humanness too.
Nathalie Himmelrich is the author of a number of resource books for bereaved parents and the producer of the Podcast How to Deal With Grief and Trauma. As a relationship coach, grief recovery expert, and bereaved mother herself she believes that relationships (intimate and with other support people) are the foundation for a healthy grieving experience. She is also the founder of the Grieving Parents Support (GPS) Network and the May We All Heal peer support group.