The New Normal

A few weeks ago we were heading out to play boards games with some friends. And I was dreading it!

Now what is wrong with some competitive play between long-time friends?

Really nothing.

These are the same fabulous friends to whose home we would drag our two oldest children for years. They always believed our friends' home was really Disneyland in disguise with all the cool "toys" and extra square footage to run around and be a kid. The adults would chat, eat lots of good food, and the kids would just be kids. It was amazing. It was full of laughs and good times.

And then we moved away and didn't get to have those good times any more. And when we moved back, Joey was sick. Really sick. And suddenly our lives were consumed with hospital visits, bad news, agonizing pain and suffering and it was all consuming.

And then we lost our son.

The first few days are a blur of excrutiating sadness, days of darkness and longing and heartache. You wonder how everyone else is getting up, going to work, living their day-to-day lives while you are at home with an open wound, mourning the loss of your oldest child. How can they not feel that same pain? How does the universe go on without this amazing child? What is wrong with them? And what is wrong with us? It's not anger. It just pain.

It does get easier. I won't say it gets better. Losing a child NEVER gets better. But you learn to breathe again. You learn to get up and get through an entire day without sobbing. You learn to return to the day-to-day living. You learn to push it aside and only let it out when you have the time to grieve.

But you're not normal.

And you won't ever be normal again.

You exist. You might even achieve real happiness again. But you're not normal.

No. When you lose someone that you love, you're never normal again. You can certainly function and you may appear normal. But it's a new normal.

It's laughing with friends with sadness in your heart. It's being excited about Christmas morning and missing him terribly. It's avoiding doctor shows because it hits too close to home. It's someone calling his name, but it's not your child. It's being surrounded by people who NEVER even knew him. It's walking around with a hole in your heart but no outward appearance of that pain.

So why did I dread going to play games with our beloved friends? Because they loved him. Because they REALLY knew him. Because they love us. And because without him it seems so wrong sometimes to let go and have fun.

I did have a good time. In fact, I had a great time. And I love them as dearly as I ever have. It has nothing to do with them, in fact. It's just the new normal triggering old, painful memories. And I will be fine. We all will be fine.

But if we laugh a little softer, if we play a little less, if we gather close together and let fewer people in, it's not because we don't care. It's not because we're not happy. It's not because we're not ok.

It's just the new normal.


  1. Oh you have been through a really rough time! I didn't know you lost your sweet baby as I just found your blog a week or two ago. Couldn't imaging not having any of mine. Guess the wound will always be a big part of you but you will know how to cope better each day.

  2. My heart goes out to you and your family, my grandson had leukaemia so I know a little of those feelings, bad things happen to other people and then suddenly you are in a nightmare you can't wake up from. xx

  3. I share the same sadness that all the new people you get to know never knew this wonderful person who is your child that left for a better, but still another place. What a loss for them, even if they can't understand how big that is.
    But YOU can enjoy the marvelous feeling of having known this amazing person and rest in the knowlege that you will hold this child in your arms again just the same as they were when they left, but well and not ill anymore . I so do look forward to that day.

  4. It must be heart breaking. I am glad you managed to have a fun night out in spite of everything. You shouldn't feel guilty to enjoy yourself - life has to go on. xx

  5. This is a beautiful, honest, transparent post. Thank you for it. Prayers for you.

  6. I cannot begin to imagine your pain, my heart goes out to you. The fact that you are able to blog about it, must mean in some way there is healing happening. But like you said, it's the outward wound because the hole in your heart will never mend. God bless you for sharing your feelings, so many people NEED to read this and the rest of us need the reminder. And your friends already know, they are just trying to help you. And apparently, they are.

  7. Anonymous10:38 PM

    This is a beautiful, heartfelt post.Many hugs for you. ~Lisa Risser

  8. You've captured your feelings so beautifully and articulately that I understand what you are saying and can understand your pain.

  9. Maria E. Royval-Perez5:35 PM

    I have been a big fan of your work for many years. I remember when Joey passed away. Even though I didn't physically know Joey, I feel like I knew him through the beautiful pages you have created about him. He was a wonderful little being that has touched the lives of people that never met him. My heart goes out to you.

  10. Deborah10:59 AM

    I cannot believe that I opened and read your blog today. I lost my 6 year old daughter, 33 years ago yesterday. Seems like such a long time ago yet it feels just like yesterday. I could not have said it any better than your words expressed it - It does get easier but never better - you just learn to cope with the new normal. My heart goes out to you and to your family. I know just how you feel.

  11. I'm really sorry for your loss. Clearly you are an amazing woman to have endured such a loss and still have the capacity to create beautiful things. Thank you sharing your memory-making skills with us.

  12. This post touched me so much, Jen. It's really raw and true and beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost a child too, in a different circumstance from you, and your post had me feeling particularly sentimental. Hugs to you.

  13. What a beautiful, beautiful post.


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