During this current viral outbreak, I often read people’s comments about their “New Normal” for the last two months.
Two months?! I have lived with a New Normal for nearly two years. For two years I have been unable to have meaningful conversations with most of my family or friends from ‘before’. The shelter in place order removed one of my few outlets to be with others who understand the complex grief a parent of suicide endures.
Going to the store has been a tricky proposition for twenty-three months. There are a few things which online shopping cannot effectively deliver. Sometimes I want a dessert or impromptu ingredient which cannot wait. The problem lies in the weird scenarios which occur while there. Some people I know will actively avoid contact, which is all right, but it is noticeable and weird. Some people who barely know me from years past will run up and give condolences. I have a tough time with emotional encounters in the middle of a store when I barely recognize or know who is tackling me.
My immediate coworkers stepped up and took on parts of my job. I am lucky to have this support. Many grieving parents do not have adequate support at work and suffer for it. However, I still had to change my work arrangements and rescheduling so I could see my doctors, help my daughter see her counselor, and deal with the strange changes to daily life.
I have the hardest time understanding parents who struggle to be with their children. I would give so much to have more time. It is difficult sometimes. Some days they push you to the edge, the child is jumping on your nerves, and you want a break. These days are like doing a workout on leg day and leaving nothing in reserve to walk out of the gym. Even though you are exhausted, you are better for it. I’ve heard parents say it is not their job to teach their child math. Oh, yes, it is! I think it is acceptable to place some aspects of your child’s life into someone else’s care for brief periods, but the responsibility is all on the parents to ensure it gets done. I have heard parents gripe about having to entertain their child for a few hours. I never had regular baby-sitting care for my children until recently. Other than about twenty days in the first twenty-three years, we had no way to plan regular date nights or have alone time. If Caleb was ill, then one of us missed work. If school was out, then he went to work with one of us. I recall holding important meetings at work with Caleb in-tow at five years old. Yes, I had to keep him entertained. His mind constantly absorbed information. I pushed myself to ensure he had a steady supply of things to learn while playing and we played together a lot. Fortunately, I only require about five hours of sleep.
The virus-induced New Normal should end soon. I don’t know when, maybe in a few months or a year, but it will end. My changes will not return to the normal I once enjoyed. Survivors of a suicide loss often share these same changes in community dynamics. Most call it their “New Normal”. I refuse to accept the changes as anything resembling normal. I call it my “New Abnormal”.