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For the people of Newtown, the past three months have meant grasping for an elusive "new normal."
It's not unusual anymore, Rob Sibley says, to see someone burst into tears at a gas station, or for a Dunkin' Donuts customer to pay for everyone else in line. At his home, dirty dishes routinely wait now because playing the board game Candy Land with their three young children has become a higher priority for him and his wife.
For many, the quest for a new equilibrium means purging ingrained habits that suddenly feel shallow or selfish, Neimeyer says. Some will need to reinvent who they are, sometimes by embracing moral values anew. Against the backdrop of violent death, he adds, hostility and other self-centered traits can suddenly seem shamefully inappropriate. Shame can inspire repentance, a theme of the Lenten season that began Feb. 13.
"Many people are involved in the process of asking: 'Who am I now in light of this loss? Who are we now collectively? What now matters?,' " Neimeyer says. "Out of the pieces of the old life, we are challenged to quilt another one."
For the people of Newtown United Methodist, the tragedy and its aftermath have kindled a dialogue with the deepest chords of their faith tradition. They've returned to familiar hymns and Scriptures, only to find it all sounds different, as if rendered in a new language that they're just now learning to speak.
"When you're talking on Christmas Eve about Christ coming again in our future, and people are weeping, that says there is something much more profound here than a 'Merry Christmas,' " Kawakami says. "People are feeling [the Christmas story] on much different levels than they may have before."