Remembering Doria

One Father's Journey after the Death of his Daughter

The New Normal is Weird—-And Keeps Getting Stranger

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When we were completely brand new to this whole thing, I kept seeing one phrase that summed things up: “The new normal.” When everything changed after Doria’s death, different things became normal. It’s just been striking me the last few days how odd some of those things would have been, but how normal they are. As my comfort zone has been amazingly stretched, I’ve just been reflecting a little on how far its gone.

1. Talking about the death of children is normal now. That never was normal before. As a history guy, and someone that apparently has an eye for troubling subjects, I seem to gravitate towards awkward, disturbing, painful, and troubling subjects. I see a body exhumed and put on trial, and I’m having a good time reading that bizarre story (look up the “Cadaver Synod” sometime). One of my dissertation sources involved a little kitten boiled to death. I was troubled, but pressed on. With that and much more, I never thought that talking about children and death would be normal. That was one bridge beyond where I was prepared to go. My comfort zone is in troubling, but not that troubling.

2. When Doria just comes up in conversation, that’s as normal as can be. Her name came up a bunch of times in a group discussion recently, and it never seemed awkward, just like a normal thing that would naturally come up. It certainly made me grateful to be surrounded by really good people. And it’s nice to hear people say Doria’s name.

3. Encouragement can go the other way. This will be something more detailed tomorrow, but the things that are encouraging in one way cause me to miss Doria more. Any good news can do it, because I can’t share that joy with my little girl, but certain ones can do even more. That’s going to be something that takes some thought and work in the next few months.

4. Bad news is normal . I’m not like  for the other shoe to drop, not for a minute. Instead, bad news seems normal in an “of course” sort of way, like “sure, that happened. I believe that without any questions, because that’s just how things go.” I’ve counseled people in difficult times, and even done some crisis suicide counseling. I thought that understanding was part of my life before, but now it’s there in a much deeper way.

5. It’s even harder for future things to make me nervous right now. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen the worst that life can offer. Nothing else has compared to date, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I’m not normally very nervous about those things, but they barely rate a first thought now. I may be too stupid to be afraid. That’s just an increase to the norm, but it seems to be working well.

This isn’t complete. It’s just a quick though that was striking me as my comfort zone starts to stretch out again. I always knew that life wasn’t completely meant just to be comfortable, but these past 11+ months have been bringing that home in surprising ways to me.

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2 thoughts on “The New Normal is Weird—-And Keeps Getting Stranger

  1. I went back to college two months before Jason died – after homeschooling our three kids for many years – and I kept on going to school following Jason’s death. In one class, I had to make a presentation in front of the whole group. Previously, something like this would have made me so incredibly nervous, but I didn’t care a bit about standing up there. I had been through the worst thing that could happen to me, so it didn’t bother me at all.

    I also find that I don’t shy away from talking to people about the death of their loved ones; I tend to step forward instead of away. I worked for a probate attorney for several years and realized that I had no problem talking with our clients, looking them in the eyes and really listening to their stories. I understand loss; I can relate.

    My husband and I were talking the other day about the misconception of how long it takes to “get over” the death of a child (NEVER!) and how long the path is to find a new normal. I have decided that, since Jason lived almost 20 years and it took me that long (I am in my 50’s) to develop the normal I had at the time he died, that it would not be excessive for me to take a long time to find a new normal. My normal up until the time Jason died included my whole life – experiences, expectations, everything I had walked through or learned. All of that changed when Jason died. I have been working on establishing a new normal ever since then. It takes a lot of energy and time.

    • It really does take a surprising amount of energy. I’m used to a seemingly limitless amount, and I get tired so much more quickly now, even with things going so much better.

      Just for fun, I’m picturing you in that classroom filled with young folks that likely just don’t know what these things are like yet (and thankfully so). It’s kind of a fun picture in an awful way.

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