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We are living in a new normal—very little remains of what we used to take for granted, with the exception of spring. And in Ontario, she’s showing her lovely face on every corner.

When I reflect on my life, I find myself thinking of the before-and-after theme. There have been weight-loss statements, songs, movies, books and yes, life experiences such as we’re living now with that theme. You will have your before-and-after thoughts. Some will cause you to grieve, and others will help you pause to plan, while there will always be those efforts that leave you helpless. Sometimes, acknowledging this helps to cope.

An essential line of thinking about how life changes before our eyes might be around divorce, death in the family, loss of significant finances, friendship, or consistency in your life. Heartbreak and overwhelming emotional responses can cause turmoil for many around during this time. Many people have had loved ones die over the past months and they were not allowed to draw near to them in their last hours. And then the usual gathering of family friends that generously showers support and care on the family would not have been allowed.  So many situations saturated with grief soaks up more of the same.

Consider this chart and add your own words. This is not an exhaustive list, by any stretch of the imagination. It can serve as an example and you can take it from there. You might not have encountered some of the words under ‘before’ or as you read the ‘after’ list, you might think they don’t fit. Do what you can with the chart. It’s yours. Some words may not count, while others might fall right into your everyday life. For some people, it helps to name the situation, even if changes out of their reach.

While walking hand-in-hand with sorrow, perhaps it is the time to welcome a pleasant surprise to help you realize that caring thoughts can make a difference in someone else’s life as well as yours. I’ve read some phrases recently and they have been life changers. In an obituary, “You do not know me, but I . . . I just wanted you all to know that even strangers can feel your pain.”

An author received a surprise note of appreciation for her book. Often the gratitude that we don’t expect or hadn’t requested gives a tremendous word of encouragement. I received this card in the mailbox when I recently gave a much used and loved garden-wagon to a friend.

Try some different and interesting words in the chart. Try for happy thoughts on the ‘after’ side. Look at helpful ways to cope with grief, disappointment, challenge . . . as well as blessings.