You're walking through Wal-Mart and you reach for the tomatoes. The bright red ones look great, so you pick out five or six and place them in a bag. Then, all of the sudden, tears begin to flow. You remember that you hate tomatoes and the person who ate them at your house is no longer there. Death doth hide, but not divide, is a phrase with truth; however, when you lose a loved one, the feeling of being severed from that individual becomes the "new normal."
Whether you were recently divorced, widowed, lost a child or other family member, or lost a job or are in financial crisis, a "new normal" begins as you commence to pick up the pieces and begin again. Death is No. 1 in the mental health list of major stressors of life. Divorce comes in a close second, however, and the death of another family member ranks right up there, too. Job loss and financial crisis also rank high and many at this time are seeking to begin "the new normal."
Last night I viewed a 2 1/2-minute video that changed my life. I will never whine, complain, or "belly ache" again without this image popping into my mind. The short video was of a man with no legs or arms. You may have seen it as it has made the rounds on YouTube, Facebook and on television. The young man speaks to groups of young people, entertains them, and then inspires them by falling flat on his face ... literally. He then shows them it is possible to "get back up again." Tears flowed in the audience from these young people as he has a way of getting to the heart of "getting back up again." You simply cannot watch this without the tears flowing. He is funny, endearing and real.
The "new normal" for many means picking up the pieces of a life and starting over ... getting up again. Dreams shattered on the pavement of reality is commonplace as Cinderella beginnings often end with a dark twist, and "getting back up again" becomes imperative to beginning anew. Don't get me wrong here, I love Cinderella and the other great "feel good" stories and movies. They refresh our souls. But real life happens and not always with storybook endings. However, with the help of God and his orchestrating in our lives and ordering our steps, a full, productive and joyful life with a good finish is not only possible, it is certain. I have heard it said (and read it in the Bible) that life is a marathon, not a short sprint.
One of the first steps in beginning again is to be patient with yourself and your life. I often counsel my grieving clients that taking one day at a time is too much, but rather you simply must take one moment at a time for awhile. To begin again and find your new normal, things you'll need include:
Believe in God's work in you. Know that, with the help of God, you can do anything! You will need to tell yourself, "I can do it, by the Grace of God. "
Carefully analyze the situation and see what needs to be done, but stop the "what ifs." A man who helps in my grief support groups, often tells our grieving individual concerning "what ifs" - Do not go there! When a person dies, the "what ifs" need to be put to rest. I have known folks who suffer from constant "what ifs" for years after a death or divorce. Life is short. Perhaps you have been through a death, divorce, financial crisis, or have had to start all over from scratch. Having to start over from scratch is not easy to do, and the "what ifs" will stagnant you and keep you from moving forward. Determine to stop by saying, "That is in the past, I am moving forward now." You will begin healing, and just as it is not wise to remove a scab from a cut over and over, it is not wise to continue digging up what you could've done differently. We learn from our mistakes, but we cannot stay in a pity party pit by revisiting them daily.
Set goals for yourself. Don't make the goals too big, or you might lose heart and give up before you achieve each one. Start out with small goals of what you want to see happen in the near week to 30 days - maybe a job, going back to school or relocating to a new area. Put it in writing, so you can see it all the time to help motivate you. I like the bank sign on the five-lane in Elkins: "Dreams are goals with a deadline."
Once you complete a goal, mark it off and reward yourself for completing it. After you celebrate, set another goal - one that is bigger than the one you completed. If you don't see any results right away, don't give up or lose hope. This is the time to press in and press on.
Strive daily to make things happen and take time for some joy by enjoying simple things. Think of new things you can do to help make your goals complete and bring them to pass. Keep a list of things you wish to accomplish that day. Crossing off every item on your "to do" list gives a feeling of accomplishment and will encourage towards the bigger things in life we wish to accomplish.
Never quit and never give up. There will be times when you will want to give up, but don't. Tell yourself you can do it, because you can. It's in those times when you feel like giving up when your answer is right upon you, so don't quit. "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" is my mantra when times are tough.
Edify yourself. Go to church, listen to audio books or read books about folks who have had a rough time, but persevered and overcame with the help and grace of God. Music also nurtures the soul. This is a good time to fill your mind with positive things, so it will seep down into your heart and revive your faith.
Don't read or listen to things that will lead to negative, fearful, angry or depressive thoughts that will feed the emotions of the situation and the pain of it. Avoid too much news right now.
Breathe! Take a deep breath and know you are making progress even when you do not feel like it. And more than anything else, know that God is working even when you cannot see or feel him working to rebuild your life! God is "for" you and waiting with open arms for you to run into and be safe.
Beginning for you may feel as if you are on foreign soil for awhile, but before you know it, you will have a new life, good memories that always stay of your old life, and a "new normal" that is just right for you!
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA is the grief counselor and chaplain for Mountain Hospice and a homeschool mom. To contact her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or call 304-823-3922, ext. 114.)