Casually dropped into recent conversations one woman told me she is struggling to do her bookkeeping, since her husband died 2 years ago. Another tells me she left a long-term abusive partner, her family and her country, but she is doing well now, working at a minimum wage job. Another lady told me she too recently left an abusive relationship and is currently homeless, but things are working out. And more tell of their childhood abandonment, divorces, infidelity, a frightening diagnosis etc. with the ‘but I’m fine’ disclaimer on the end. I see their pain, like I see their eye colour. I wanted to put my arms around each of them and tell them,” it’s ok, you can stop acting ‘normal.’”
If you have recently overcome a big life change, are currently experiencing a big life change or you have had several big life changes that you never had time to properly adjust to, here are some ideas/suggestions that I have found helpful.
1) Acknowledge that your identity has changed. I was no longer a mom with kids at home. That lady I met is no longer someone’s wife. When the way you identify yourself gets changed, your normal has been permanently altered.
2) Stop behaving ‘normally.’ I wish someone would have given me permission to do this. Instead of expecting yourself to behave like you always have, stop and take stock of what is absolutely necessary for you to do. Pay the bills and your rent/mortgage – keep a roof over your head and buy groceries regularly – keep yourself alive. Sleep. Everything else is optional. If you have not grieved your loss properly, everything that is not surviving is added pressure and weight upon you. There will be time to add back ‘options,’ just not right now.
3) Process the change and what it means to you. Talk- Hire someone to listen to you, phone all of your friends and family. Write - I used a journal to write many, many pages as my way to process my emotions. Cry, scream, dance, run - do whatever it takes to get it all out.
4) Mark the experience: We used to have rituals and rites of passages for life events. Through my writing I realized I needed and wanted something to mark this experience. I held a ceremony for myself one day, not that long ago. I did some research and gathered some items that were meaningful and significant to me. I used the items to honor my mother and grandmothers and my experiences as a mother. I then honored the grief I felt about this chapter of my journey ending. I then sent out intentions and prayers for the new, next stage of my life. This helped me tremendously.
The definition of ‘normal’ is: conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. Are you conforming to someone else’s idea of what you should be doing, how you should be behaving? Maybe it’s time to make your own definition of normal.