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Grieving Our “New Normal”

Grieving Our "New Normal"

Remember “normal” life? Yeah… me neither.

Even though things in New Jersey have opened up some, it’s definitely not the life we closed up in March.

One of the amazing things about human beings is our ability to adapt to our environment and circumstances. Earlier in quarantine I could still remember, and miss, my normal life and all it’s routines and responsibilities. Now many months into it, we’ve adapted and how we’re living life now has to feel “normal” because this is what it is and will be for the foreseeable future.

But life is still anything but normal, and it’s important we acknowledge that.

I remember the first few weeks of people wearing masks to stores, how jarring it was to see so many people in masks, it felt like I was in a sci-fi movie, now I don’t think twice about it. While it is amazing how adaptable we are, we do need to remember and acknowledge that we are living in a chronically stressful state. It’s not natural for us to question if everything we do, every where we go is safe or not. We are evaluating on a daily basis, deciding what we feel comfortable doing and what we’re not ready for yet. Most of us are fortunate enough, that this has not been a normal state or how we’ve lived so far.

I remember when my daughter was a baby, she was, as babies go, pretty easy. For the times I felt tired, drained or overwhelmed by parenthood, at first I felt like I shouldn’t feel that way because she wasn’t difficult, she was just a baby. But I realized that even the best baby is still a baby, and a huge responsibility and stressor. Similarly, even if you are enjoying aspects of quarantine with the slower pace and more family time, a “good” quarantine is still a quarantine!

When things started shutting down, how many people thought “oh this will just be two weeks, then we’ll be back to normal”? Then we adjusted to “ok this might take a couple of months”. Now we are seeing the time frame continue to extend as the realization of our true “new normal” sinks in. This lack of normalcy in our world is a loss.

Whenever we experience any type of loss, there is an emotional grieving process we go through.

This pandemic has created many types of loss, the biggest obviously being losing a loved one and/or losing a job and financial security. Some other types of loss are the loss of innocence, especially for children and teens, kids and adults have lost sports, school, social interaction, graduations, proms, etc., to name just a few.  The overall loss for everybody, across the world, is a loss of normalcy. Normalcy gives us a sense of control and security. These losses needs to be acknowledged and grieved.

So how do we grieve these losses? Here are a few tips:

  • First, realize and acknowledge how you, personally, are feeling and reacting to our new normal. You may not be feeling the same as your friends or neighbors, that’s ok, everybody is affected in their own way. Acknowledge within yourself how you are feeling, talk to a friend or therapist about it, write it down.
  • Next, try to find normalcy where you can, even small things can help you feel more grounded and “normal”.  When going out to run an errand, my daughter put on her sneakers that she would normally wear to school (and hasn’t worn much in quarantine) and she said this made her feel better because it felt normal.
  • Practicing gratitude can also help, after acknowledging what you’ve lost recently, remind yourself about what you are still grateful for.
  • Start a new hobby or project. Having something tangible to do and distract you can help feel more normal.
  • Put a goal in the future. Although we have no time table for when life will resume normally, what do you want to do, or where do you want to go when the time comes?

This is not an exhaustive list, but just a start to help you grieve our new normal and to be aware of how this is impacting you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you, or a loved one, could use some support through these difficult times. Be well.

Kathy Most
Therapist in Westfield, NJ
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