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It was less than 3 months since my friend’s wife had died when he asked me this question: “How long will it take for things to get back to normal?” It was less than three years since my wife died when I first attempted to answer his question.

“There is no such thing as ‘normal’ for the likes of us anymore. Life is now being experienced with a different cast of characters. Unless we can come to terms with this reality, we are destined for a life of frustration because, in all probability, we will be wanting to recreate the life we had when our now deceased partners were at the centre of our lives. The search for that life is understandable. It is also relationally dangerous.

To look for a substitute relationship with another person is to place expectations upon him/her that can never be met simply because each of us experiences life in different ways.

I’m not saying that there can be no possibility of a new relationship emerging with the passing of time. However, we must ensure that we are responding to this new relationship so we can once again be “normal”.

To make the dynamics of the former relationship the basis on which we will build this new relationship is to set up the stage for a very painful drama. It is vital that we understand that what we considered “normal” has gone forever. To ignore this fact is to create a set of unhealthy comparisons, competing agendas and the real possibility of missing the benefits of a “new normal”.

My wife and I shared our lives together for 51 years. That is a long time. Neither of us would want to claim that we had a perfect marriage. There is no such thing. The word we came up with is “fulfilling”.  We often agreed that our marriage was a source of fulfilment for us both.

With her death less than 3 years ago came the end of what had been, for us, a “normal marriage”. I can now close the book on that (rather large) chapter. Life is very different. Some of what I would once have called “normal” is no longer part of my life.

Of course, there are many precious memories of shared joy, painful grief and rich intimacy. These memories will linger even if I attempted to erase them. Some of them may even become part of the new normality

My friend who asked the question in the first place (“How long will it take for things to get back to normal?” has yet to recognise the necessity of the new normality. That’s OK.

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