It’s a new year, a time for resolutions and new beginnings. While others set goals and make plans that they hope will in some way make them a better person or improve their quality of life, we grievers just face another day, week, month, or year on the relentless calendar of “The New Normal”.
The “new normal” is a term often associated with the deviant passing of time after loss. After the initial shock, we live everyday with the reality and magnitude of a hurting heart. For others, time passes in a perpetuity marked by the hands of a clock or the pages of a calendar. Some periods of time pass too quickly, and others drag. But, when you have lost a child, time ceases its normal continuum. In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis says, “In grief, nothing stays put. One keeps emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I’m on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?”
I find the expression “the new normal” somewhat unsettling. After all, what is normal? The dictionary explains it as, “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; the standard.” Do we conform to grief? What does that even mean? To conform is “to act in accordance or harmony; to become similar in form, nature or character; to comply” Really? There is no “normal” in grief except that it is for life and the passage of time merely shifts us from one phase to another.
If there is no “normal” in grief, then what is “a new normal”? The urban dictionary defines it as, “the current state of being after some dramatic change has transpired.” There has certainly been a dramatic change in our lives! It’s that “current state of being” that remains problematic. I don’t like the current state of being. We try to do normal every day for our own sake as well as for the sake of others. But, in this new state of normal there is a huge elephant in the room that people are afraid to address. You try to hide it, but it’s too big to shove in a closet. You try to wrap it in pretty paper, but there isn’t enough paper. You can’t see around it. You can’t hear over the trumpet. You try to pray it out, fight it out, or cry it out, but it remains. In this current state of normal there is a pain in our hearts so immense that it radiates to the stomach. There are both expected and unexpected tears that flow at inconvenient times. There are unanswered questions and disappointments. We have no idea what normal will ever be. Nathaniel Hawthorn wrote in The Marble Faun, “Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” It is in this shadow that our lives now remain. We are forever transformed by our grief because of the enormity of the love we have for our child. We will never be the same.
There is one part of the definition for “the new normal” that I find comforting. Ironically, it’s the same part that I find unsettling – “the current state of being”. You see, to say that it is a current state implies that it may change in the future. Praise God it does!!
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” – Philippians 3:20-21
In the deafening silence of your current “normal”, choose to listen for the Voice of Hope. Choose to listen carefully, for sometimes it is a whisper. In the darkness that blinds, choose to look diligently, for sometimes its pictures are inconspicuous.
Let us make a resolution to be determined in our effort to seek hope as we stay the course. Choose to keep taking steps in the current path of normal because they lead to a glorious transformation. It culminates in the true New Normal where we will be forever free from pain and grief. Where darkness is forever dispelled by His radiance and where the sound of silence is filled with songs of praise.
“I’ve walked the valley of death’s shadow
So deep and dark that I could barely breathe
I’ve had to let go of more than I could bear
And questioned everything that I believe
But still even here in this great darkness
A comfort and hope come breaking through
As I can say in life or Death, God we belong to you.”
“Yours by Steven Curtis Chapman and Jonas Myrin