BW 027: Grief and the New NormalMar 28, 2023
You can watch the video here or on YouTube. The full transcript is below.
Today’s episode covers why grief and the new normal is so tough. We know it’s hard, living this new life without our person, but we don’t always think about all the little things that feed into that.
Grief is about embracing the concept of AND not OR.
You now live a life with an evident and strange duality…
The past two weeks have been incredibly challenging for me. I’ve experienced some real highs and lows, which painfully remind me how much grief changes every little thing about our lives.
As we experience grief, we no longer are naive to the fragility of life. That everything can be snatched away from us and changed in an instant. Our hopes, our dreams, our plans… all gone.
We value the little things more, may be less easily offended or annoyed, and focus on the bigger picture of things.
Challenges with grief and the new normal examples:
- Secondary grief
- Another death of a loved one/significant loss
- Happy and sad
- Happy during positive events and milestone moments while sad
- Kids band concert on Tuesday
- Accomplished a major life goal - obituary for mom
- Weekend Dallas trip
- Be strong and minimize expectations
- Trip to the Emergency Department
- Spring break reschedules
- Losing water/flooded in- asking to use someone’s shower
- Driving back from Dallas and car overheats
- Loving one person and being able to love someone else
- People think you’ve forgotten that person
- Think you can’t love both
- Feeling ill most of the day
- Learned my mother had died unexpectedly
- Her death was similar to Nathan's, bringing up a lot of mixed emotions
- Felt better physically, just out of it
- A busy day with errands
- Band concert performed by the kids at school (yay)
- Sad Nathan wasn't there
- The loss of my mom was in the back of my mind
- Accomplished a major life goal
- Sad Nathan wasn't there - it felt strange
- Wrote the obituary for my mom
- Took the kids on a road trip to watch Hamilton (cried)
- Got home at 1 am and was exhausted
- Downtime (finally)
- Rested most of the day
- Picked up groceries and made dinner
- Helped my son pick up some furniture and set it up
- Packed for a weekend trip (already planned)
- Drove 5 hours with my daughter to Dallas
- Had the best dream/conversation I've had with Nathan to date
- Activities with my daughter
- Stopped by a few stores in Dallas
- Drove 4 hours home
- Car engine overheated and had to leave it at a repair shop an hour away
- Son picked us up and brought us home
- Trip to the Emergency Department
- Had to reschedule kids’ activities for Thursday/Friday
- Gentle, fun day with the kids
- Thunderstorms and torrential rain all day
- Flooded in
- Lost running water after 5 pm
- Without water for 3 days
Hey, hey. Welcome to episode number 27 of The Brave Widow Show. Today I'm gonna talk to you about grief and living the new normal. Grief and significant loss really changes how we live life, and yet we don't really take a lot of time to think about it. We don't think about all the little things that now make life different and how challenging it is to balance this new duality and embracing this concept of grief equaling and not or.
So today I'm gonna share with you four main things to think about as you are looking at life through the lens of this new normal where we're focused on and instead of, or the first one being, having a secondary loss or death in your family. Having to embrace the concept of being both happy and sad, simultaneously,
needing to be strong and minimize expectations for yourself. And lastly, loving one person and having the room to love someone else.
These past two weeks for me personally, have been some of the most trying, difficult, frustrating weeks that I've had in quite a while. And this theme of grief being and, and the multitude of emotions and mindsets and things that we have to incorporate in our new life, just kept
coming to the surface for me, and I really felt compelled to disrupt the podcast schedule so that I could record some specific things for you that have really stood out for me over these past couple of weeks. Themes that just kept repeating themselves over and over.
We know that after we've experienced a grief, our whole perspective of life changes we're no longer naive to the fragility of life to the frivolous things that we used to spend our time and energy on to the importance of the small moments in creating memories and appreciating other people. And in fact, it may make us more patient and less easily annoyed by the people that we love and
really focused on the bigger picture of creating memories, of sharing experiences with others, and less focused on more materialistic things or things that in the end don't really matter anyway.
I've heard other people share that they feel like going through grief really has pushed you almost into another dimension or into some sort of new reality where you view life now through a completely different lens than you did prior, and that you could even imagine being prior, which can create this sense of loneliness and misunderstanding, and
feeling of not being connected with other people in a way that you were prior. We also have these challenges of having to experience all of these and emotions. I can be happy and sad at the same time. I can honor the past and look forward to the future without loving my person any less. , I wanna share with you specifically some things that have happened, and all of this has happened in the last two weeks, which has felt crazy to me.
And this isn't for me to ask for sympathy or attention or anything, but to call to the surface that as you experience these things or as you experience moments in your life where you feel like you know, what else now, what else could possibly happen? Don't ask that question, by the way. There's always more, but as you go through those moments of feeling like, how could one more thing possibly happen right now and how can I be expected to survive this?
Number one, that you're not alone, and number two, that there will come another season in life. We, I believe, very much in seasons and moments of life, and there are moments where life is just hard or we've experienced things that are so painful that it makes other things in life that we normally could get through pretty easily and we could just tough it out, makes it just excruciatingly hard.
So I wanna share this with you , so that you can feel like you're not alone. And you can know that even though on Instagram or on podcasts and videos, people's life can look like they have it all together. I hear that a lot. Oh, you just have everything together. And it's difficult because I wanna share some of the challenges and things that I go through without coming across like a victim or coming across like I don't enjoy and appreciate and.
I have at least some of my things together because I do. So let me just dive into some of these for you. In the show notes, actually, on this video and on the audio podcast, I'm gonna post a timeline of what has happened over the last two weeks, because I think it's just a great example of what life can sometimes look like when we go through those rough patches.
And I just wanna memorialize it for myself so that I can look back and say, okay, if I can get through that, there are a lot of other things that I can definitely get through because that was such a difficult time in my life. So on March 13th that was a Monday, two weeks ago, I was not feeling well that day.
I just woke up and it was. Just kind of a yuck day, which is pretty rare for me. I normally don't have those days Too often I wasn't feeling very well and I ended up learning on later that afternoon that my mother was gonna be unexpectedly placed into hospice that she had she had C O V I D, which had morphed into pneumonia.
They thought she was brain dead, and so they were gonna be placing her in hospice and starting to take her off of some of the life support functions now. She had been admitted to the hospital only on Friday, and I'm not really, haven't been close with my mother for probably a good 20 years or so. So I wasn't even aware that she'd been admitted into the hospital or that she was that ill.
And I learned she was being placed in hospice that afternoon and then by that evening she had passed. And so even though I didn't have a really close relationship with my mom, You know, she's not a bad person. I'm not a bad person. We just had a strained relationship. It was still difficult to process because at the end of the day, that person still played a significant role in your life.
Like, that's my mom. No one else is gonna be able to replace that role in who brought me into this earth and. , she had four kids, so I have three siblings, and they have varying levels of their own grief that they process in ways that they wanna handle things. And so it was just a very strange moment for me having lost my mom.
It was also very strange in that Nathan died in a similar way, so he also had COVID pneumonia and then ultimately was pronounced brain dead. And so while he was in the hospital for a much longer period of time, it just brought back a lot of those feelings and memories and My traumas of things that happened during that time.
He also had helped me with my relationship with my mom and just processing my expectations and of myself and for her and our relationship, and really just working through some of those things so that I could. Have peace and res resolution in that relationship. So that was another layer of difficulty was that he wasn't here to help me work through some of those things and emotions that I was feeling there.
So two weeks ago, my week started off on Monday with trying to process and think about these things and dealing with the grief that occurred there
so that's number one. Having a secondary grief or loss. is that duality of living life and being in your normalized grief state if there can be a normalized state, and also trying to process a secondary grief or loss is very difficult and creates a new challenge of how you're processing that. The second area of this duality of grief and living the new normal is there were
so many peaks and valleys throughout these past two weeks where I was both happy and sad. So for example, I accomplished
and I know that that's just part of living with grief and the loss of your loved one is you're gonna have these big milestones and you're gonna have these happy times where. You are happy and you're joyful about them, but there's also this piece of you that is sad or maybe more somber because you wish that that person that you love so much could be there with you.
And I always think about this. For example, the kids had a band concert on Tuesday, so Monday lost my mother Tuesday. The kids have this band concert Tuesday night. I didn't learn about her death until Monday night, so I'm, trying to work through all that Monday night. And then Tuesday, of course, was already previous scheduled with a bunch of errands and activities and getting kids where they need to go.
Then they have a band concert and I'm so happy and proud just sitting in the audience, watching them, and at the same time, Trying to hold it together, , so that I'm not that person just bawling in the audience because I'm overwhelmed with emotions and wishing Nathan could be there, and I'm trying to process things that are happening with my mom.
And in fact, we had some family friends that came with us to watch the kids concert event, and they made a comment of, wow, I don't know how you're just doing so well. And I just said, well, I've been, I crying all day. I can't be crying right now, . I didn't know what else to say. I was like, I'm not really holding it together.
I'm glad it looks like that. I feel like I look like I've just been hit by a truck. But yeah. That's, that's good. I guess that it looks like I'm, . Okay. And I will be okay. It's just, gonna take some time and work there. But it's a great illustration of how on one hand you can be very happy and proud of your kids and in the moment, and on the other hand, there's this ugh, you know, I wish that their dad was in the audience and he could see them and they could see him watching them.
That would be really great. On Wednesday, yes. Of the same. , I accomplished a major life goal my entire life . I have always wanted to live out in the country in a place where it's set up for cows and horses and I can have a farm. And while I do live out in the country now, it's very wooded. We have a lot of hills.
It really is not an ideal setup for having a little hobby farm or having, you know, Cows and horses and all of those things that I've always wanted. And so earlier this year actually on Nathan's birthday, I made the decision that I wanted to find a place where, I could have this type of setup.
I was ready to do that. I was ready to find my next place where I wanted to live with the kids, and I wanted to be closer to their school and closer to my in-laws and the stores and just make my life a little bit easier than it is now. And I identified about 40 acres and decided to build a house.
And it was just all of these exciting things that have happened over the last couple of months, and Wednesday was the day I was scheduled to close. So in my mind, this big, what should have been this big, culminating event of. Excitement and happiness and wow, I'm actually getting to fulfill this big milestone and move in a direction of something I've always dreamed about now is almost tainted, right?
So I just lost my mom two days before I was going to be writing her obituary that afternoon. Nathan wasn't there with me. It was again, everything I could do not to have tears streaming as I'm sitting there with the realtor and the seller and the title company and we're signing all of the final documents, and it's just an unfortunate reality of what we have to go through as we live with this new life and this new normal.
Wednesday. That morning, I'm signing all the paperwork to close on this property, which was supposed to be a big, exciting event. I learned that there was no planned obituary for my mother, so Wednesday afternoon I took time writing the obituary, sending it to different family members, getting their input, and then getting that off to the funeral home so that could be published, and then on Wednesday night
of course, I had already months ago, purchased tickets to go see a live show with the kids. It was a three hour show and it was two hours away. So that afternoon, as soon as they got outta school, we drove over to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We watched a show. We got back at 1:00 AM Thursday morning, and I was just utterly exhausted.
I did take some time on Thursday just to rest and regroup, which was great. But as you know, with three kids, three teenagers, I'll say there's not a ton of rest that you're getting in the afternoon whenever they get home. But fortunately, I did have time, especially that morning, just to. Recalibrate to a certain extent there.
But again, excited about seeing the show, something we've looked forward to for months. I did cry at the end of the show. I didn't even care at that point. It was already like 10, almost 11 o'clock at night, , so I'm just crying like an idiot there on the second row of the show and I didn't even care. It was excellent.
It was great. So Friday, of course, I had already paid and arranged for my daughter and I to take a weekend trip to Dallas. We went to a convention she was wanting to go to. We also had some shopping planned and going out to eat at restaurants. So we had a nice time in. Dallas and had built some happy memories there. And it was actually during this weekend trip that I had the first really nice dream and conversation with Nathan that I've had in this whole experience.
A lot of people have dreams about their person, about their spouse, and it's, varying from. Wonderful conversations to feeling shamed or arguing with their person, and some people read a lot into that. Other people say it's just. your emotions and your thoughts that are driving that. But for me, I really haven't had that many dreams about Nathan, which I think is strange.
And the ones I have had have not been good ones, and I would rather not remember that they were there. But this weekend happened to be like a high it was a wonderful dream and conversation. And although I just remember a few pieces of it, it was just a really. Experience on this crazy weekend. Now Dallas is about four and a half to five hours from where I live, and as my daughter and I are driving back in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, in these very winding curvy hills, I start getting alert on my car that is overheating and I have engine issues which.
When you are a widow with a teenage girl in the middle of nowhere, is pretty much the last alert that you wanna get on your vehicle is that basically you need to stop driving and pull over to the side of the road and figure out what the next steps are. So, I make a couple of phone calls, you know, listen to advice about letting the engine cool, deciding what I'm gonna do next.
In the meantime, hoping and praying that no one pulls over and asks if they can help. No one pulls over and wants to do anything malicious that just people keep driving by and fortunately on a wing and a prayer, many prayers. We slowly made our way into a city in Oklahoma to a car shop where, Fortunately, yes, I was able to leave it there and they fixed it the next day.
Unfortunately, that meant my son had to take about an hour and a half to two hour trip out of his way to come get me and my daughter to take us to our house, and then for him to go back home and then to go pick up my vehicle again the next day, just created all of these inconveniences. And it was that point I was just thinking, can I catch a break
please. We are trying to deal with all the things that have happened so far there this week, and I just am tired of so many happy memories of things that we've been looking forward to now being intertangled with all of these memories of bad things that are happening. And so I. Caught myself started to really focus on all of the negative things that were happening and just being frustrated and fatigued from all that.
All right, so area number three of living this new normal with grief and the duality of and is that you have to be strong. and minimize expectations of yourself. Whether that's resting more, whether that's saying no to more things, whether it's admitting that you need help, but you have to balance or you often find yourself balancing these two thoughts that.
People that haven't gone through grief typically think is one or the other. I have always been a whatever it takes kind of person, like I will burn myself into the ground to make sure things get done, whether it was at work or home or someone that needed help or an event or a deadline that needed to be met.
I would do anything and everything I could, and I almost always. Put myself last instead of putting other people first. And I'm not saying that in life there aren't times where you need to put other people first. There aren't times when you need to work hard. There aren't times when you need to make personal sacrifice because you do.
There are those times in life, but as with anything, it has to come with moderation or you risk placing yourself in a mindset and a mentality of burnout and resentment and bitterness. And I saw it maybe more clearly when Nathan would go through those. Things where he did a ton of volunteer work of doing things for other people, and he would make all of these commitments and then start resenting the fact that he had committed to those things.
But for some reason, I didn't really see that within myself until I went through grief and loss and started really sharpening what my priorities were and what my commitments were gonna be, because I just didn't have the capacity. or the desire to wanna fulfill some of those same things. So I'm not gonna take you through the timeline of the second week, but I feel like I should be an infomercial saying, but wait, there's more.
After that crazy week, there was a whole nother week of things that just continued to cause frustration and difficulties where you feel. Okay. That was kind of a crazy week. It was full of highs and lows. This next week should be nice, right? The kids were on spring break the second week. We were gonna have lots of fun.
We were gonna play games, we were gonna go up to Northwest Arkansas. We were gonna do all kinds of things. So that should have been the easy week. But this week included things like taking an unexpected trip to the emergency department, having to reschedule multiple activities and days worth of activities we had planned.
I also experienced being flooded in where my. Is we have to cross a bridge. This is gonna sound very country I know, but , we live by a lake and a creek, and you have to cross this bridge, which unfortunately, if there's just torrential flooding, the bridge will flood. And unless you literally take a kayak or a canoe or some sort of boat across this water, you are not getting out from where we live.
So let's just say the second week was full of taking an expected trip to the emergency department being flooded in, and because of the surge of the storm that we had losing running water for three days. Now, fortunately, I. Was able to have a place at my in-laws where I could take a shower and do the necessities of life that you need with running water, but just the sheer amount of frustration and difficulty and having to reschedule and then feeling like you can't even function as a normal human being because you don't have running water.
which by the way, we really take for granted, . Anytime I lose power or running water, I realize how much we take for granted here in America. But needless to say, it is comprised of all of these feelings of having to be strong and get through this issue and tough it out while also minimizing expectations and being willing to ask for help.
I hate asking for help. I've always hated asking for help. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's a pride thing. Maybe it's a independent thing, but maybe it's more of a, I hate to put the other person out sort of thing, but I wanna be the person helping other people. I don't like asking. For other people to help me.
And so these past couple of weeks I've really had to ask for help, whether it was with the kids or picking me up for my car or letting me use my in-laws. Of course, my in-laws were like, stay with us all weekend. It's fine, but. You know, going over there and taking showers and coming back home and just really having to rely on other people.
It's a very humbling experience, and also just continues to remind me how much of a personal issue I have with asking for help and even accepting help. But you have to in this new life. Live with this balance of I'm being strong, I'm gonna get through this, gonna be fine. And also being able to say, I really need help.
I can't do this on my own. I don't wanna do this on my own. I need someone to help me. Monday just. At the end of my wonderful two weeks here as I needed help getting our water working back, I called the plumbers in, I found an emergency service. After multiple calls, they came in, they thought everything was fine.
They couldn't fix it. They said, I needed an electrician. The electrician comes in, he can't figure out what's going on. Tries to do a couple different things. I finally, we figure it out with flipping different breakers and probably just an act of God at that point because I was, felt so low , so low and frustrated, and had even told my neighbor.
We're gonna have a summit called, turning Emily's water back on. And I'm just gonna invite all of these people and we're gonna brainstorm what does it take to get this water going again? We joked about that, but by the grace of God, I'm sure. We got the running water back on and I finally felt this sense of relief, but I hated being in this position where I was helpless, I was YouTubing, everything.
People were trying to help me. Nothing was working. I was calling in these experts. It still wasn't working and just feeling like, okay, be strong, we are gonna get through this, but for the love of everything, holy can someone please just help me out. Like I don't wanna keep trying to do this. It isn't working.
again I feel for you in these moments where you're having to balance those other things and the last area of. This duality of and with grief that I really just wanna talk about briefly is being able to love the person that you were with and that you were married to and committed to, and being able to open yourself up to love someone else.
Most people that have not gone through loss have they cannot wrap their minds around how that is possible. It's an either or. Either you love the person that you were with and that you are married to, or you're gonna love this other person. And the best analogy there's two that I've come across that seem to make the most sense to me, is that when you have your first child, if you have multiple children, when you have your first child, you think,
I love this person so much like with my whole heart, and there's no way possible I could ever love another child the same way. And as much as I love this first child, like we don't even need to have more kids like this one is, they have all my love. I have no idea how I'd be able to love anyone else. You think that until you have your second child, and then your mind is opened and you go, your heart is bigger and you go, wow, I really do love the second, or in my case, third and fourth child, as much as I do the first one, it may look a little different.
Our bond and our relationship looks different, but I can still. all of my children and I can love them an equal amount. I didn't stop loving the first one before. I could accept the second one or say I can only now give you 25% because the others each get 25%. Your heart just grows. The second analogy that I've heard in how people explain this is let's say you have a house and your house is your family and the bonds that you've created there.
When you're ready to add another person to that, it's like adding a room onto that house. You don't go into the house and just demolish one of the rooms and say, that's closed off. That's gone. It's no longer there. You add this other dimension and this other person into your family and into your life, and you love them, and you still also love that other person.
Now, I haven't done really a lot of dating since I lost Nathan. I did date early on, and I know people have a really, really hard time getting that, and I get it. I couldn't have imagined it either. I couldn't fathom how can you love someone and be married to them for 20 years and then feel like less than a year later you wanna date someone?
In fact, when I lost Nathan within the first couple of weeks, this lady had randomly reached out to me on Facebook and she asked me out to lunch and she was just, sharing that she was sorry for my loss. Her brother had actually lost his wife just a couple months earlier and she was really, really tore up about the fact that he has started dating.
Three months after his wife died and she just kept saying, I just don't get it. I just like, how can you love someone? And you've been married to them all these years, and then you're ready to just start dating again. Like, how can you just stop loving that person? And I remember then this was, this had to be within two weeks of me losing Nathan, looking at her across the table with, tears in my eyes and saying, I don't know.
I don't know how it's possible to feel that way. Cause I didn't feel that way in that moment. I said, but here's what I will tell you, that the loss of my husband has created a such a deep, deep feeling of loneliness, of isolation of loss, of companionship that I can understand. Wanting to have that person in your life because the role that that person played was everything.
They were truly half of you as a person, like you've lost half of your limbs and you want that person and that role of that person back into your life because it's lonely. It's lonely when you go for 20 years of having that person that cares about every little thing in your life that nobody else cares about.
You share videos, you do things together. You care about the activities of the day and what's going on this weekend, and all of those little intimate things that you really take for granted when you are married to that person, all of that's ripped away from you. And so it's not about saying, That person's gone and I'm over it.
I'm ready to just move on. And that life is in the past. This is a new chapter for me in the future, but it is about saying, I liked who I was as a married person, and there are a lot of challenges and difficulties. in maintaining a good marriage and a good relationship. It's, it's hard, obviously, with the divorce rate, you can see this is not an easy thing to be committed to, but we were both committed for all of those years.
And so I wanna have a relationship again like that in the future. And I don't wanna wait until I'm 70 or 80, to find someone else, or maybe I don't wanna sit at home alone. as I age and get to be 60, 70, 80, whatever that looks like in the future. And so while I. Maybe have gotten my feet wet in that regard.
After speaking with so many widows after just hearing story after story, after story and seeing their experience. It is the strange duality again of, I love my person, I honor them. I wanna cherish the memories we had, and I wanna be able to make space and love someone else again in my future. . It's hard to understand.
It's hard to process. I don't know that I would be able to date someone who's been widowed it would it that would be tough in itself. I have a lot of admiration and respect for someone who could date and then marry someone who's lost a spouse that has played such a significant role in their life and that person.
Still grieves the person that they were married to, like to be able to love someone and to have a good relationship and still honor that and allow them to process that without feeling jealous or without feeling less than, or feeling like you can't. Compete with that. Even though we know it's not a competition, it's just that takes a very special, unique person to be able to do that.
And so I applaud the people who have done it and are doing it because that's amazing and intimidating.
I could go on probably for hours about the ways that we have to focus on the, and with grief and this new normal, and we talked about the secondary grief. , I talked about being happy and sad about being strong and minimizing expectations about loving and honoring the person that you lost and wanting to create a life with someone else.
It's hard, it's challenging, it's frustrating. It's, can also be rewarding and fulfilling, and, Interesting as we navigate what this new normal looks like. I could come up with probably hundreds or thousands of more examples or ways in which we experience this new life. But I really wanna end with, again, number one, encouraging you that you're not alone, you're not going crazy.
These kinds of things and experiences and mixed emotions and mindsets happen to. Most everyone, if not everyone that's going through this. And I just wanna encourage you when you're going through those really tough seasons of life where it just feels like life just keeps smacking you in the face and you can't fathom like what else is gonna go wrong?
What else? You know what? Why can't I just catch a break? That this may just be a really tough season for you in life. It is gonna pass and you can move into a different season. So don't give. Keep going. Lean on other people and other resources. Ask for help. Work with a coach or a therapist or someone where you need to get some of that counseling or coaching, or have that listening ear.
Join a community. We have the Brave Widow Membership community, and I would love to see you be part of that if you're not. We have a great group of folks that truly enjoy sharing in each other's successes. Celebrating the wins sharing and the struggles and the frustrations, and it's just really important that you have a community of people that you can rely on who in their own way get it.
Who don't judge you, who create a safe space for you to share, your thoughts and your feelings and frustrations and get all of that out there. It's just really an invaluable place to be. And lastly, I'm gonna have a shameless plug if this podcast show. Has been helpful for you or helpful for anyone else, or you've seen any value from it.
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