New normal

Today was my first day “back at work.” I have been re-visiting old emails and notes to see where I left off before my world changed. It’s strange to see my own emails in the days leading up to January 25, when I rushed mom to the emergency department at 5 AM. I read them like they were written by a different person.

A friend described the ghostly feeling she had after her mother died a few years ago. She talked about floating through streets and grocery stores in a sort of alternate universe, as though no one could see her and she was just out of reach of the strangers around her. I understand that feeling.

The last two weeks have been filled with taking quiet time, visiting with friends, spending time with G., getting a massage, going for walks. I’ve let myself sleep in, and did not push myself to get started on work too soon.

Today was my first day back to “normal.” Getting up early, exercising, having breakfast and dealing with clients. And yet nothing feels normal. It is an altered form of normal.

It was about this time every day, around 5 PM, when I knew she would be watching her Portuguese soap opera. I would start organizing my work for the evening, jotting down my to-do lists for the next day. And I would call her at 6 PM, after her show. We had almost the exact same conversation every night—a quick status on my day, her medical update (mostly tired, but she called it “lazy”), if Greg was already home from work, who visited her, the weather.

I can almost hear her voice.

My life seems demarcated between BEFORE she died and AFTER she died. It does not feel like the same life, although I know intellectually that it’s all on the same continuum. Emotionally and psychically I can not resolve those two lives into one. This semblance of a normal life does not feel real.

I am told by those who dare to be honest about their own experiences that it never really feels “normal” again. Instead, you learn to live with the profound loss. You adjust. A friend and spiritual sage wrote to me the day my mom died and I shared it with the friends who were with me. I turn to this every day (thank you, Ellen):

But I do want to tell you, from the vantage of a hospice chaplain, within your grief are planted deeply the seeds of gratitude.  Gratitude for having her as your mother.
Gratitude for all the time you had her.  Gratitude for all she taught you and showed you.  Gratitude for the things you know because she was your mother.
And with the gratitude will come grace, and it is a fierce grace that in the end sees us through such loss and leads us toward what is the inevitable transformation that occurs in its wake.
Let the grief, the gratitude and the grace move through you, Emily.


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