Written by Clara Hinton
Following a loss, well-meaning friends and family members have often said, “I wish that he/she would act normal again. It’s been so long since we’ve had any fun together. I can’t wait until the old person returns.” Unfortunately, what most people don’t understand is that life will never, ever again be the same for the parents who have lost a child. The fact is that the parents often realize early on, “I forget how to feel normal! I don’t even know what normal is anymore!”
When a child dies, no matter what the surrounding circumstances, life as was once known, is turned upside down for a while. Nothing makes much sense. The things that kept life so busy before the death of the child don’t matter anymore. Who cares if the laundry is clean? Who worries about keeping the garage neat? Why bother to think about buying groceries? Food has lost its taste, and there is no energy to cook a meal. For a long time following the death of a child, life seems void and meaningless. Friends and family members find this part of grief particularly disturbing. Others are ready to move forward in life, taking on the mundane routines of living once again. For the parent, though, life will never be viewed quite the same again.
Normal takes on a new meaning to parents who have had a child die. Things such a fine china, fancy furniture, and collectible knick-knacks don’t mean anything. It is of no interest to discuss the make and model of the car you are driving. What matters is finding some way to help you get through this time of acceptance and healing.
There is no set of rules for normal living following the loss of a child. Some people would prefer there to be a book of rules. It would make life a lot easier for everyone to have special grief guidelines to follow. Instead, we must learn to accept as normal whatever anyone chooses as his/her way of working through the particular grief of the day. We must each remember that grief is individual, and grief will touch every person just a little bit differently.
Tears. Anger. Frustration. Excessive talking. No talking. Working longer hours. All are normal ways to work through the tremendously difficult emotional swings of child loss. A parent will often think that he/she will never again resume normal living. In a sense, that is correct. Life will never again be the same because losing a child changes the way a parent views life. Grief never leaves. It becomes more gentle, but it never completely goes away.
All of this is not to say that life will never be joyful again. Joy will return, but probably in different ways than you experienced joy before the death of your child. Priorities in life will change. Small things will carry great meaning. A flower will take on the look of a miracle. The blue sky will give a feeling of renewed hope and inspiration. Somewhere deep down inside you will know that your new “normal” is a more simplistic, more abundant way of viewing life.
If you are feeling like you have forgotten what normal is since your child died, you are not alone. Every parent who has experienced child loss goes through a time of questioning. Following the questioning, though, is a renewed sense of self and a new perspective of life. Grief never leaves, and you’ll never feel like your old normal self again. But, you will feel hope and joy as you continue on in your journey of healing from the deep, life-changing grief of child loss.