The New Normal: How to deal with death

Death doesn’t touch any two people in the same way. Sometimes, we hear about it and while we might send condolences, we don’t actually feel emotionally saddened about it — and that’s not a bad thing. Death doesn’t strike everyone equally.

For the past two days, I’ve been reading about death more than I have in a while in the wake of the OSU homecoming parade tragedy and the death of NBA coach Flip Saunders.

No one saw either coming. Each affects a larger body of people. Both really got to me.

What got to me most, though, wasn’t the deaths themselves but the reactions of those that were affected by them. A campus that’s had more than its fair share of tragedy or a league full of individuals who work or used to work with a highly-successful basketball coach.

One day, you see someone on campus or at the practice facility. The next, they’re gone. It’s instantaneous. Even when it’s a battle with cancer, months, years of fighting can be erased in a moment’s notice.

So, what do you do?

No one has that answer for you. We all have coping mechanisms. I have my own. Some turn to a friend, a family member, a bottle. Either way, when death strikes, we’re left naked and afraid, not quite sure what to do next.

When my car flipped three times three years ago, killing one of my best friends, I was in a place that all of us have been before. What comes next?


There is no tomorrow. It’s not the same. Tomorrow is a different day — not one that we had planned for.

Here’s what there is.

The “new normal.” There’s everything that happened before the tragedy and everything that’s happened since.

It’s how I naturally compartmentalize things and from what I’ve heard, how a lot of us mentally sort things when we endure tragedy.

That’s just how we’re going to have to get by. We can’t pretend that these moments don’t define us — they do. They change us and we’re naturally inclined to live differently because of these moments.

Oklahoma State’s homecoming traditions will never be the same — the Minnesota Timberwolves players and fans won’t ever be able to embrace a coach the same way. It’s just what happens.

I would hope that if you’re reading this, you aren’t looking for me to give you any kind of answers, but just to validate your feelings. To families who lost someone Saturday in Stillwater, this will define your life and you have to know that the best way to move on from losing someone is letting that loss motivate you. Cherish the memories, think about them, pray about them, live a life they would be proud of.

To the Timberwolves players who just three days before the start of the 2015–16 NBA season lost their beloved coach, you aren’t going to hear the same voice call out plays or come talk to you in the locker room after practice. You’re going to have to reset your memory bank and realize that from here on out, you do it for Flip. You play hard because that’s what he would expect from you.

After all, death is the one thing that unites us and once you’ve felt it, you join a fraternity that is massive in number and equally connected in sorrow.

Whenever you lose something you cannot replace, you’re going to cry. But then, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to smile.

And you’re going to start on the path that is the “new normal.”