“We can have a full life even when we haven’t got everything we want.”
─ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor and theologian
I didn’t even understand the dimensions of grief when I met her. I was 38 years old, teaching a workshop about grief for Stephen Ministries.
She approached me during a break time.
“I’m asking myself, What is the new normal for me?” she told me. Then, she went on to tell me about losing her husband, how lost she felt, and how she was working hard to figure out what life would now be like.
I listened as she talked, smiled and nodded at the appropriate times, maintained eye contact with her. But at the time, I didn’t really understand what she was saying.
Fast forward about 10 years. Two months since my husband Gene passed away.
I’m sitting in my favorite chair in my living room after rearranging the furniture to where I like it. My favorite music by Enya is playing on the stereo. I’m cooking my favorite vegetarian chili in a little while.
I’m there. Where she was. I’m defining the new normal for my life. It looks a little like the old single life, somewhat like married life, and a whole lot like what life is now. That’s okay. That’s good.
An entry from my journal: “I sought the things that had not changed. Night after night, I stroked the small ridge of fur on my Dachshund’s chest with my index finger. Day after day, the sun came up. Beyond that, everything kept changing. Placing the pieces of your life on the table like letters on a Scrabble board and trying to make words out of them. But they form a language you don’t know – and don’t want to know.”
As painful and difficult as it is, that’s every widow’s assignment. From here to your dying day. There may be a lot of other characters who enter and leave your story. But you keep defining normal for your life.
Some may say there is no normal, especially when you’re a widow. But every day that I am able to get up, function like a human being and child of God, and go to bed tired and happy is normal.
Maybe you’re like me. You lived so long in the abnormal of illness, stress, tragedy, disappointment, heartache that you’ve forgotten to look for normal.
It’s time to look for normal again.
As one of my friends wrote to me about six months after her husband passed away: “I have reached the point where I realize that life goes on, and I have to make a new one. After sharing 71 years with my husband, it is difficult to think of change. I am trying to fill the void.”
Normal includes remembering the good things from the past and planning for the future. Enjoying today and looking forward to tomorrow. Appreciating what I have and letting go of what I no longer need. Saying thank you to God for each blessing and asking for God’s help in each challenge. Seeking peace and dealing with challenges.
That’s the new normal for me. How about you?
Jesus said: “Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:32-34).
Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2016 by Laura Warfel