79: A New Normal

79: A New Normal

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

A New Normal

The best way to predict your future is to create it.

~Peter Drucker

On October 31, 1997 we celebrated our first Halloween with our son Aaron. We all dressed up as clowns and had our picture taken on our front porch. The picture became our holiday card. Year after year, as our family grew to include our daughter Macey, we continued to take a Halloween picture and use it as the basis of our holiday greeting card.

Family and friends came to look forward to each year’s card. The four of us enjoyed the tradition we’d established.

In 2005 my father passed away unexpectedly on November 1st. Even though he lived in Florida and I lived in Ohio, we were very close. We spoke and e-mailed daily. Everything I know about sales and business I learned from my father. He was always there to bounce ideas off and to share events and stories. He adored my children and they him. To say I experienced a great loss would be an understatement. That year we didn’t send a holiday card.

There is a fog that ensues after the death of a loved one. That fog enveloped me for several months. I am blessed with loving siblings, a caring husband and remarkable children. They helped me navigate the process but a void still existed. The loss of someone close to you creates a hole that cannot be filled easily or quickly.

As we approached Halloween 2006, I found myself unsettled. I could not imagine sitting on my front porch with a smile on my face during the anniversary of my father’s passing. However, my children were still young and I felt pulled between a desire to keep some normalcy for them and no interest in posing for the traditional family photo. I wanted to keep Halloween a fun, happy holiday for my kids. I believed it was unfair to burden them with the unhappy memories I had. Childhood should not be about major loss and grieving. My job as their mother is to maintain as much normalcy as possible. There will, unfortunately, be plenty of time for sadness. I knew my father would not want to bring my children any more sadness than he already had.

In early September 2006 I was sharing my dilemma with a friend of mine, Jim. Jim told me a story about a loss he had experienced and shared some insight with me that has proven invaluable. He explained that when you experience tragedy you have to create a “New Normal.” You keep what is comfortable and comforting from the past, discard what is uncomfortable, and establish new traditions. I felt a wave of relief come over me. I felt released from the obligation of the photo. I gave away the dilemma and moved forward. I no longer worried about what I would do about a holiday card. If we didn’t have one, so be it.

A couple of weeks later I arrived home to find my dog Sparky dressed up in what looked like a house coat. All flowery, it was attached with Velcro. It looked like something an older woman would wear. There she sat, perfectly still on the kitchen floor, as if asking, “How do you like my new look?”

It immediately brought a smile to my face and a laugh to my lips. And this—this I knew was our new holiday greeting card photo.

Each year the perfect photo presents itself as the foundation of our greeting. I have embraced this new tradition. I look forward to discovering that photo opportunity and creating the card that matches it. My children and husband have joined me in this adventure. As always, my family and friends look forward to our holiday greeting.

New? Yes. Normal? Absolutely. This is our New Normal. And it suits us just fine!

~Diane Helbig

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