Normal is someone you don't know very well." ~Anonymous
When my husband Mike transitioned, my new normal is something completely different from anything I have known before. I am different than I was before. Our lives are different than they were before. "Normal" seems like something far, far away. Unfortunately, this is the new normal. Losing someone you love dearly, who was an integral part of your life, is an intense and incredibly difficult experience, and an irreplaceable loss. Often, bereaved people find that their grief can be misunderstood by others who have not experienced the same kind of loss or who have not yet faced the death of someone they love deeply or who was an integral part of their lives. Sometimes in grief, it can seem nearly impossible to understand yourself, much less find others who can understand. If this is the first time you are experiencing the loss of a loved one, or if you are having difficulty understanding the intensity of your grief in this loss, you may feel completely alone, confused and possibly afraid. You may be experiencing thoughts, feelings, and unusual phenomena you never have experienced before. You should know that in light of what has happened, the things you are experiencing are normal. The pain and symptoms of grief impact every area of your life. Your body, mind, thoughts, feelings, and spirit. The journey of grief is difficult, but it can bring some comfort to know that you are not alone. Information about the normal ways that grief can affect us can be very helpful. Sadly, though nearly all of us will experience the death of someone we love, and the pain that follows, very rarely does anyone tell us what to expect.
Grief affects us physically. It can feel like a weight on our bodies. Grieving people frequently experience changes in appetite, either eating more or less than usual. Along with appetite changes, weight gain or loss may occur. Your eyes may feel tired, irritated, dry or itchy. You may cry daily, several times a day, or you may not cry at all. You may feel unable to cry. Crying a lot, not at all, or somewhere in between, are all normal. You may notice changes in your skin including pale or sallow color, dehydration and dryness. You may feel as though you are having difficulty breathing. You may notice that you are holding your breath at various times throughout the day. Your energy level may change drastically. Usually grieving people experience a decrease in energy; getting out of bed can seem like a huge task, but occasionally, energy levels can be extremely high with restlessness and a need to be engaged in activity. You may want to pace or have a hard time settling down. You may feel the need to discharge excess energy, or you may experience extreme tiredness or fatigue after only a small bit of physical activity. You may experience headaches or other pain in various parts of your body, including pain in the chest. Some grieving people report feeling pain in their heart area, as if their heart is literally broken. You may notice changes in your sleeping patterns, including inability to sleep, frequent waking, or sleeping more than is usual for you. Some grieving people report having increased sensitivity to loud noises or light. All of these physical changes are common during grief and can sometimes be very difficult to understand.
Grief affects us spiritually and philosophically on very deep levels. No matter what a person's religion or spiritual belief system, the death of someone we love deeply changes us fundamentally. The death can cause all sorts of questions to play over and over in our hearts and minds. Why did this happen? Why did God let him or her die? Why him? Why her? Why me? Why is God punishing me? What did I do to deserve this? Is there a God? Where is my loved one now? Can they see me or feel me? Life is Unfair. What is the meaning of life?
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