Lots of people talk about creating a ‘new normal’ or ‘going back to normal’ – these words are not helpful, but they probably are really trying to be.
Of course life continues after death for everyone that’s left, even if you want the world to stop it won’t (I know because I’ve tried), time relentlessly continues to pass; hours turn into days and weeks and months and as the world keeps turning things inevitably go on as before – like ‘normal’. Initially we just worked in half hours, getting from one to the next, then hours and we’ve slowly upped to days, and now it’s weeks. We get to Friday and take a breath – we did it! We made it through another week.
There is some solace in this because it’s in those everyday functions and events that we can relate to the world and our place in it. By completing tasks we are familiar with we can return to more complex routines and behaviours that are required of us and slowly return to real life. It’s a good thing.
However there is also a crushingly painful part of being, or even attempting to be, ‘normal’. It can feel as if by continuing on you are not paying due homage to the tragedy and memory of your loved one. By being able to get dressed or make a meal you are perhaps coping too well? I’ve been asked how I’m out of bed, how impressive it is to have done the school run and in my more flippant moments I’ve simply replied ‘I didn’t realise I had a choice.’ When you have other children there are things that have to happen (5am nappy changes for one…) and I appreciate others could have done most of them for us for a while; but the girls needed us to be there for them as the world we all thought we understood turned into a Dali painting around us, they needed the security of some things staying the same. For a while there it was literal chaos, then things were just weird and then they went back to school and Cubs and everything they had expected – for the kids being normal is totally a good thing.
Thinking more personally being normal terrifies me, surely such a tragedy should mean that there should be some cataclysmic event to mark it? A fireball in the sky maybe, or a huge crack in the surface of the Earth… How can people not know, how can people shop and chat and have fun, or get their nails done or go to the gym? And yet in the ultimate irony I spend all of my time pretending to be normal because I simply don’t know what else to do, there is no release from the torture of grief currently except to ignore it. Rather like the boy with his finger in the dyke if I don’t plug the holes there will be a flood – one I may not recover from in time to be all the things I need and want to be. There are of course lots of ways that I do and will sort all this complexity out, and it’s all in hand (no need to worry I promise) but the idea of being normal shouldn’t be handed to those in grief like a magic solution.
Nothing feels normal any more, nor should it.
The good news is that there are pockets of escape.
We had booked some gig tickets before our summer holiday, we don’t often go out just the two of us, maybe three times a year and it was a band we both love so we pushed the boat out. As the day got closer we thought about cancelling or selling the tickets but then thought it might be good for us to just go to Rock City where no one would know us and we could sing out loud, shout, cheer, dance and yes… enjoy it. And for those three hours we did thanks to Scouting For Girls – we’ve loved their upbeat, fun loving and hilarious songs for a very long time and when they played Michaela Strachan I actually laughed as I sang along. Remembering our long history together has been a real help to Mike and I as we navigate this truly horrific bit of our lives together. The knowledge that we have already been through so much, and of each other’s character and coping mechanisms gives us confidence that we will somehow get through this too.