Figuring Out the New Normal in the Valley of Suck

It feels a bit odd not writing as I had been over previous weeks.  I was surprised by how healing the process of writing was during the weeks leading to Heather’s death and the weeks after.  There was so much happening and so many emotions and experiences I needed to put down.  I was humbled by the response and the affirmations and for that, I say thank you!  

What seemed so evident (and has continued to feel that way) is there are so many people walking through the “Valley of Suck” that is caregiving and it goes largely unnoticed.  And, in these weeks after, the reality of loneliness and pain experienced by those caregivers, especially widows, and widowers.

It seems rather odd how my very public writings turned quickly toward the interior life in the past few weeks.  It seems a natural transition really.  Unfortunately, it does add to the alienation for many, intended or not.  For me, I made some intentional decisions and these have been, I think, very important with each passing day.  Some are spiritual but others just practical.

1.  Take Time To Discern.  While I’m not writing here as much, I am still writing, and listening, and praying, and reading, get the idea.  When I wrote I would be doing a period of discernment, I wasn’t kidding.  The practices of fasting and prayer have really provided a grounding for me, especially combining weekly breath prayers with the times of fasting.  I think fasting may be getting way off course in over-spiritualizing fasting.  In my experience and reading, fasting comes down to this: obeying God - denying self.  You then are coming to pray doing precisely what God said to do.  God longs for disciples who will trust and obey (I think there is an old hymn by that title as a matter of fact).  God has not failed to show up.

2. Decide to Follow Your Gut.  After a conversation, I made a promise to do things that I needed to do because it was the right time for me.  Getting help going through Heather’s closet was important and it is done.  Putting away certain items or rearranging things for our “new normal” are all important steps.  It isn’t something the kids and I are rushing, but when we feel it is “time,” we do it.  Right then.  When I have done this, I have felt a sense of peace.

3.  Grieve Your Way.  Hear me say this slowly and carefully…


Nobody has the same timetable.  You have no idea how attentive I or anyone else has been to grief and the process.  I don’t mean to be rude...well...maybe a little...but YOU don’t get a say in what I need unless I ask for your opinion.  I have my support system and it has layers.  Not everyone is or can be close enough to have that kind of say.  The same is true for others.  I grieve my way.

4.  Get Help.  I have never backed away from talking about my struggles with clinical depression.  There is a difference between grieving and being depressed.  I can say I am nowhere close to depression.  I got help early and often in coping with Heather’s illness.  Not only did I need it, I knew I would have to be a single parent and I needed to do my grieving well for not just me, but for my kids.  I found a counselor.  If you need it, do it.  Get help.

5. Listen for God.  This is the other part of discernment I thought I better throw in to bookend this short list.  Discernment can become navel-gazing and have more to do with our own needs than anything else.  Listening for God means you have to be intentional about listening to God’s voice.  This is NOT easy work.  A spiritual friend or spiritual director is a valuable part of this time.  This is especially difficult to do if you’ve not heard God’s voice before.  I encourage you to look back at my blog regarding the practice of discernment I’m using.  They work.  There are others mind you, but I chose what might work best for me and I was right.  God has been speaking.  That DOES NOT mean I like what God says but God is talking.

To do this, you are going to have to make some life changes too.  You may not even realize what they might be yet!  I can tell you what things I have changed to make the time possible:
  1. Little to no TV...that includes Netflix and Crackle.  
  2. Dropping back on Facebook...I love FB but it is only on my laptop. No phone or tablet app.
  3. Diet...Learned to eat healthy for my body.  Feels great.
  4. Exercise...again, learned what works for my body and really changed me.
  5. Sleep...when I need it, where I need it.

One final note I’ve learned too, keep God’s voice close to your heart.  Only entrust those messages with your inner circle and ONLY if you think they’ll get what you’re saying.  God is not going to contradict the words of Scripture so DO keep it close.  You gotta remember, though, there is a lot of things we like to ignore that God says.  If you’re listening for God, I can promise, you will hear precisely what you need but likely not what your selfish self wants.

Much love from the valley of suck my friends!

Image used with permission:


Anonymous said...

thank you Ken I needed this today

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