What is normal?

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Robbie is one of our new meet up hosts, and will soon be hosting in Brighton. In this blog, Robbie describes his experience of losing his mum and the search for a sense of normality after a sudden loss. If you’d like to join one of the meet up groups, find out more here.

Questioning your feelings

A candle burns there, it’s light flickering in the darkened room, providing warmth against a backdrop of utter silence.

The death of someone close, someone you truly love, someone you would do anything to bring back, never leaves you completely. Whatever the situation in which you lose them, grief will likely hit you in numerous forms.

At times you will ask yourself. Is this normal, am I ok?

Whatever feelings you have, let grief take you on that ride. Don’t resist or push yourself away from it. Instead, see it as waves on the shoreline which will come and go as does the tide.


I had just come back from holiday with my parents in the late summer of 2013. Everything seemed well and my last year of college was just around the corner. And then it happened… the diagnosis; my mother’s cancer had returned.

Six weeks later she was gone, with me sitting by her bedside at home, asking how had this happened? The woman I adored more than anything in the world, suddenly disappearing from my life altogether.

To this day, the immediacy of the event is something that I still find difficult to comprehend. The sheer pain of it all, the beautiful person that I loved so much, gone just as with her last breath, then silence.

I think at the start your mind and body don’t really know what is going on. It’s as if you’re spaced out slightly, unsure which direction you will be taken in next. As the funeral passed the days, weeks, and months rolled on by, each a different story and set of emotions, almost walking through a fog, a daze even.

A new normal

The constant question hammered away, will my life ever be normal again? The answer to this one is tricky.

Things will be different now, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean happiness, joy, and love can’t still flourish. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts, the stark realisation of things never being the same again. But trust me, once that first step is taken in accepting your new reality things do become that tiny bit easier.

While no one can ever take the love, memories, and experiences you had with that person away from you, in your heart you know that they would want to see you carrying on with life. Of course, it’s crucial to allow moments of sadness, pain, anger, and the tears the space they deserve; it’s part of a gradual journey. But don’t let them consume you, as life still has so much to offer.

Grief is an unpredictable rollercoaster, one that can’t be rushed or bypassed. Nothing is right or wrong and there are no set answers or rules.

Re-doing the jigsaw of life

The compassionate thing is to allow yourself to be taken on this ride with no resistance against grief. From what I have learned, loss is a puzzling emotion at times, one which I choose to flow with. Like a jigsaw puzzle, slowly but surely pieces start to be put back into place, albeit now in a slightly different arrangement than before.

One should never feel that they must move on and bury this painful experience; instead I try to view it as moving forward with my life. With family and friends there to support me, I am able to negotiate the difficult times and the brighter ones too.

As of late I can almost picture my mum pushing me forward, her proudness and love clear to me. Although I still have many moments of tears, I can say I feel stronger from this experience.

Grief can make no sense at times and then it can also glow with absolute clarity. One thing is for sure, your love with that person can never fade and this loss will never extinguish what you had. I can blow out that candle, but it can always be relit whenever I choose.

Loss can be confusing, but it’s your experience, you create an individual journey from now.

Robbie McCallum

Got a story to share? Talking about loss is a powerful, brave thing and helps us all feel less alone in our grief. If you want to tell your story, email us at blog@letstalkaboutloss.org.