The Long, Bumpy Road to a New Normal – Grieving After Loss

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


Photos by DiAne Gates

The phone rang, and my son-in-law’s voice held a hollow tone. “Mom, you need to come right now. It’s Michelle, and it’s a matter of life and death.”

His words ricocheted in my head, and my body transformed numb. My husband and I got on the plane, were met by a military escort, and the next 24 hours I begged God to save my 28-year old daughter’s life—to heal her and give her back to us.

It wasn’t until three years later I realized God had healed her, He just took her home to do it. And we were left with the tsunami of grief and tragic pain the loss of a loved one dumps on a family.

The Long Bumpy Road to a New Normal - Grieving After Loss

Fifteen years later, I look back and think about the bumps and bruises this journey of grief have inflicted on all of us. Her two children, her husband, her brother, and of course, her parents. But we’ve all developed spiritual muscles we never would have had, because you do indeed have bumps that only you can climb over.

The word “normal” has been scrubbed from my vocabulary. Nothing is ever the same after a loved one dies. We now live everyday in a new normal. Holidays and special occasions are difficult days, because grief is the price you pay for loving someone. But grief is natural, necessary, and good. Did you know the Book of Psalm tells us, God saves our tears in His bottle? So go ahead. Cry a river. Just keep sinus relief medicine and lots of Kleenex on hand.

Grief will make you bitter or better—it’s your choice. Yes, there will be troublesome loose threads of grief that will attempt to keep you entangled and tied in knots. There will be ambush moments when a song or a picture or a smell will bring tears. Expect them, and let them wash over you. But before long you’ll notice glimpses of joy flashing through your mind, and you won’t even realize you’re smiling.

I love to remember God makes us three dimensional people, just like Him, and pain and joy can abide in your heart and soul at the same time. Look for those moments of joy. Relish them. Don’t sit and soak in a gulley-washer of tears waiting for all your pain to vanish.

Last year, I learned an important lesson about the sorrow of the holidays—you don’t have to keep traveling the same road—when that road causes great pain. You can travel a different road.

The Long Bumpy Road to a New Normal - Grieving After Loss

Our Christmas tree had been a family tree. And, putting up that lifetime of memories caused me anguish, not joy. So in order to travel a different road, I sorted the ornaments. Boxed those that brought debilitating tears and marked them for Michelle’s children and placed them in the top of the closet. Put the old tree in a garage sale and bought a new slimmer tree.

The Long Bumpy Road to a New Normal - Grieving After Loss

Give yourself permission to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, and remember the reason we celebrate. Love the family and friends you are blessed to have, and treasure the happy memories with those who’ve gone home.

I recommend visiting GriefShare and clicking on “Find A Group.” You’ll come to understand you’re not alone and you’re not losing your mind. You’re grieving.