Back to Normal. Just ponder this simple little phrase for a minute. For me, the only time this phrase really applies is after a vacation. During vacation, you truly are out of your norm. Returning home, you get back to the grind, back to 'normal'. In any other situation, 'back to normal' is impossible.
The specific application of this phrase that sparked this blog post refers to the passing of one of my friend's sons. After the funeral was over, and the weekend following, she was told, now it's time to get back to normal. I'm sorry, but that's just not even in the same universe of possibility. I've struggled with the term 'normal' in general for years. I had a son who was not 'normal' by conventional standards, but 'normal' for him and our family. Occasionally, he would do things out of his 'norm', but then we would have a new 'norm'. 'Normal' is so relative. What's normal for me would have been complete chaos for you. And this is just in every day life, not when there has been a death. Death takes 'normal' to an entirely different level.
We are expected to bury our parents. They came before us, they are older than us, they will die before us. 'Normal'. Once you lose one, your normal becomes different. Where you may have called Mom every day and talked about nothing, now you can't because she's gone. Or, when you need help around the house and Dad was your go-to guy, once he's gone, you have to find another go-to guy. It all hurts, but we've accepted this as a 'normal' progression in our lives. Losing a child is not 'normal', not really anymore. I'm sure people would argue with me about child mortality rates of old, but in this day and age, with modern medicine etc, we in America, are not expected to lose a child. It does, however, happen. Once it happens to you, your 'normal' is completely obliterated. So trying to get back to it is impossible, because 'normal' doesn't exist anymore.
Me, being two years out from my son's death, I have a different perspective on 'normal'. My friend's recent loss has brought back a lot of issues for me, and shone light on things I didn't know were in the dark. I can look back and see that life does get 'normal'. Maybe my main problem with the phrase is the 'back to' part. You can't get back what is gone. The 'normal' life you had with your child in it is in the past, never to be lived again. Anything that happens after your child's death is part of a 'new normal', but not 'getting back to' normal. Eventually, you will realize this. 'Normal' falls around you, without you even realizing it. You look up one day and realize, "wow, six months, eight months, 12 months have gone by and I'm still here, without my child, but I'm still here and there's a routine"; your new 'normal'.
As I said, I've had an issue with the word 'normal' for years. Now, I guess I don't like 'back to' either.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
I haven't blogged or really written anything in forever. Life has changed dramatically for me in the last three years. To start with, Hubby and I started our own business. This caused him to move 30 miles away, to be with the business. I stayed in our hometown, with the kids. A year after we started the business, on June 23, 2013, our son passed away. I stayed in our hometown through our daughter's sixth grade year, ending in 2015, so she could go to a special science camp. This past August, our daughter and I finally moved back in with Hubby, in the town of our business.
Drastic upheaval in my life. This post isn't really about all of those changes. It's about the most significant change, though. A little over a month ago, my "oldest" friend, the friend I've known longer than anyone besides my family, also lost a son. J has lived out of state since 1989, when she moved away from me and crushed my soul. Just kidding. She moved right before our sophomore year of high school. It did crush me, as she'd been my bestest friend since 5th grade....but I digress. This post is about our losses.
Yesterday, I had the extreme pleasure and satisfaction of meandering through The Founder's Grove; a beautiful trail through some ancient redwood trees in N. California. I had a very moving experience. First of all, I realized my soul breathes in the mountains. I have loved camping since I was a child and always enjoyed getting up into higher elevations and cooler temperatures. It just occurred to me yesterday, though, that I find peace there as well. Peace has been a difficult commodity for me these last three years. It was a welcome epiphany.
Something else struck me, as I strolled the path through those beautiful redwoods. I found two trees, both damaged by fire, but with different wounds. One is J's tree, the other is mine. These trees reflect the story of our loss.
J's tree is kind of hollowed out on the inside. The outside bark of the tree goes all the way around and there is a massive, charred cave inside. The rest of the tree grows up and out of it, reaching for the sun. For J, it was a sudden loss, hollowing out her core. The rest of her children and family cause her to stay strong and continue to function, while inside, her heart is blackened with despair. I spent a week with her between her son's accident and the funeral. I have spoken with her often since. She just came to visit me last week. She struggles every day.
My tree is also charred on the inside, and actually has a pass all the way through. It is more like a tripod, with more of its core missing. My loss was anticipated but completely devastating. We watched our special needs son decline over three months. With his loss, my entire life was ripped to shreds. I'd been his primary caregiver for 13 years. He was my life. My husband and daughter are my other two legs, keeping me standing, but my life's purpose is gone. When I saw this tree, I cried. I touched it's core and saw myself, my life. My life and my heart have been hollowed out. I continue to function because we have a daughter and business to run, but that is all I do, function.
J and are are both forced into the light by and for our families. We are strong women. We've had to be over the years, dealing with the challenges of our sons. We both have faced circumstances most people our age haven't. We've had to "grow-up" quickly. We are strong and mighty like the redwoods, and equally as damaged as these two specific trees.
In the quietness of the forest, surrounded by light and mist and trees, I saw a physical representation of my grief and loss. This tree resonated deep in my soul. The question now is, where do I go from here?