When I say to someone living in loss, “It’s one of those days,” they know. They know what “those days” means when it feels like I’m running in water and everything is sluggish. They know what it means when I say I’m a little down. And those that know me know how down that can go.

Benjamin Normal sluggishI’m not that far down today. For all intents and purposes, I’m just a little off kilter.

I was making coffee this morning. I like to warm my milk on the stove. I got side tracked and the milk boiled over the edge of the pan. As I was cleaning up my mess I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with me?”

I smiled as I wiped up the stove. No use crying over spilled milk – literally.

I was amused by my initial reaction and I went into the question deeper. What if there is nothing wrong with me? What if this is normal?

Through the unfolding of my life in the midst of loss I have had to redefine normal. The life that was isn’t. I no longer have the energy or the propensity to do certain things. Sometimes that includes getting out of bed or dealing with spilled milk.

Today it’s not that bad. I’m not immobilized like I was in the beginning. It’s more like an emotional low-grade fever than a raging spike in my temperature. Nevertheless, it’s not “normal,” or what normal used to be.

Still, as the milk boiled over I automatically went to this simply question – what is wrong with me?

There is nothing wrong with me. I’m down. Someone I love just died four days ago. It has dropped me into a place where my Afterloss has led me before and it’s just called grief. This is normal.

Benjamin Sunday SluggishWho defines normalcy? By what standard, by who’s standard, do I measure both my capacity and incapacity? The world says to do this. Loss says this is all I can do. I prefer to listen to loss. My sorrow knows me better than anyone outside my loss. This is my normal for today.

Does normal change? By the world’s definition normal is consistent. It is an invisible societal measuring stick. There is the unspoken, underlying “opinion” of what normal is and isn’t. Normal doesn’t change the world tells me. The world says that I have changed. It is I who does not measure up to their normal.

In my world of the Afterloss, normal changes. What I can do on some days cannot be done on others. I have chosen to embrace a new normal. It is a measuring of me by me for me. It is an honoring of my path and my healing.

I heard the term “a normal response to an abnormal situation” a long time ago. Living with the excruciating deterioration and demise of my family one by one over a thirteen year period was an abnormal situation. This phrase of a normal response to an abnormal situation liberated me to redefine normal.

Whatever a person’s response to loss is, is normal to me. I don’t care what it is or how long it is. Loss and the unfolding of sorrow that seeks healing is shaped by the one who grieves in what is now an abnormal situation.

Benjamin Unfolding of lifeYes, death is inevitable. Yes, grief is normal. But we are creatures hotwired for life. Death is the antithesis of life in the world’s standard and we were told this fairytale that ends “and they lived happily ever after.” We bought the lie. But I refuse to buy anyone’s definition of what is normal for me.

So why did I have this knee jerk reaction to the spilled milk? Why did I instinctively ask my myself, “What is wrong with me?”

Society’s standards are so ingrained in me. I have to consciously not let something even as simple as that thought slip by. Every thought has an origin in the recesses of my experience. It is a constant sorting out of what’s mine and what’s theirs. I do not let a thought that is not of mine enslave me in someone else’s world.

There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with being sluggish today. There was nothing wrong with the days I was completely incapacitated. And I’m not just talking about when they died many years ago. I’m talking about last year, last month, a week ago, how about day before yesterday?

The world says my time is up. It’s not normal to grieve for so long. I say I don’t live in your normal. I live in mine. I live to lean into life and loss. I live to feel what comes. I live to heal. What is normal for you is no longer normal for me. I define my life by my standards now.

I am having a down day today; and it feels good. The good part is not that I’m down. The good part is that I can feel what I want when I want and for however long it wants. It feels good to be normal. My normal and nobody else’s.

Benjamin Who defines normalcySo, if anyone asks me today how I’m feeling, I will say I’m having just another normal day. To those living in the other world they would probably nod and say, “That’s nice.” But to those that know the depths of loss, they will know I’m having just one of “those” days. And they, too, will say, “That’s nice.” But they will know. They will know what a relief it is just to be normal.


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