You’ve probably heard people describe life after a trauma as “the new normal.” Is there really such a thing?
The answer is yes, there can be such a thing as a “new normal” following an event that has significantly changed your life.
But what comes before your “new normal” is definitely new, but anything but normal.
I was talking with a friend whose partner died over a year ago, and she related a troubling story to me. She said that a well-intentioned friend met with her after her partner died, when she was still in a state of some emotional shock and imparted the words to her: “This is your new normal.”
She said that with the amount of grief, confusion, and inability to function that she was experiencing at the time, she had the thought that “If this is my new normal, I will never make it and I’m not sure I want to.”
It’s been close to 18 months since the loss and she is finally at what she would say is her new normal. She can feel happiness again, is functioning well, still missing her partner and always will. But life has sweetness again, she can eat again, she wants to get up in the morning again, she wants to be involved with people and things going on again.
The time in between…the time from the day of the loss to now…was not normal for her. She describes it as “lost time.”
Traumatic loss changes our world and our identity in overwhelming ways. What you are experiencing right after a traumatic loss is NOT your new normal. It is the adjustment period you have to go through to get to something that will feel normal again.
But it will be a “different normal” than before the loss or the trauma.
The new normal following a trauma actually has the potential to be better in some ways than the old normal, for many people. This is the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG), as opposed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Researchers of Post-Traumatic Growth posit that you can grow while you are suffering, become more compassionate, more appreciative of many things in your life, and that you can become healthier and more resilient after a trauma than you were before…the psychological silver lining in the dark storm cloud.
It’s simply important for everyone to remember, those who are dealing with a traumatic loss and those who care for them, that it takes a significant amount of time to get from a trauma to a new normal.
Read more about Post-Traumatic Growth:
Post-Traumatic Growth Institute:
What is Post-Traumatic Growth?
Also my answer on Quora to: