I keep thinking I should have something profound to say, something to share which will give meaning to … well death. In reality, I’m so busy right now I am not sure most of the time if I’m coming or going. I’m dealing with the latest cluster of tasks for mom.
|G Walter, Grace, Bud,
Eunice, Joan & Harley
First it was oh no she’s going to the doctor / ER / hospital in Madison! My cluster of tasks included getting time off work and trying to keep up with the most vital tasks. I needed to make sure there was food, gas, and other things. Sitting with her, giving her time to rest while still making sure she knew I was there.
I hate hospitals – I hate them. The smell, the sounds, the people. I hate them. Shoot me in the head before you take me to one to die.
The next cluster of tasks had to do with – mom’s dead. Now we need to notify… everyone who ever knew her. We had to make the choices for the funeral and arrangements for people to get there. No one tells you the million and one decisions you have to make when in reality your mind is still busy trying to process … everything.
|Joan holding Aimee|
Going back to work was a relief – a hint of normal in an otherwise chaotic time. I knew what was on my desk – mostly. I knew what was expected. I really spent more time being supported by the people there – did I need anything?
With a small break, the next cluster of activities was post funeral – what to do with the pictures, the flowers, the cards, the money… Let me tell you – if you love someone – plan your damn funeral down to the minutest detail so they don’t have to think about it but only have to follow directions. Tell them the songs you want, the words you want said – whether religious or irreverent.
|Joan & Virginia|
Post all of this crap – I’m still not slowing down. I had a writing event to go to. It was a good experience in that I met a lot of interesting people. It was a crappy event in that the organizer had no clue on how to organize.
Now I’m dealing with will / finances cluster of tasks… life insurance, closing bank accounts, retirement, sorting out her things. It’s never ending – but reality is life goes on. I want to have that moment – where tears fall and I feel all the sorrow but all I feel is numb and a need to organize and get the most recent cluster of tasks done.
This weekend is pay weekend so I’ll be working on budget, errands, and cleanup from last weekend which will involve working on a newsletter. Next weekend is going to my sister’s house to organize mom’s things. This will lead to the next cluster of tasks – dispersing those things according to her will and her wishes.
I tell people I’m fine or that I’m hyper irritable (to which a good friend asked how would we tell). In reality – I don’t know what I feel – I’m too busy taking care of the different cluster of tasks. Like it has in the past – it will likely be something ridiculous which sets off my tears.
It’s a pay week so lots of errands and chores to do in the house. About half of them are done. Now I’m turning my attention to other tasks. I have a lot of writing tasks to do as well as start with going through my mother’s photos. Plus I’m going to a reader event next weekend so all of the prep for it has to be this weekend.
In reality, all I really want to do is curl up and sleep. For the last three weeks sleep has been sporadic. As well as dealing with my own grief, I’ve been helping others cope with their grief. I find myself wrung out and exhausted. I know this means I need to take some me time and everyone has their own idea of what that should be.
For me, it means clearing things off my to do list. It comforts me and helps me feel like I’m productive. For instance, the photos are all cluttering up my office. In reality my mother loved to take photos but as she got older and less steady, the quality of her pictures declines. She also took a ton of nature pictures which no one really wants. They really only meant anything to her. If I work on the photo albums I have, will it make me feel better? I don’t know. It sure won’t hurt and I could maybe clear out some stuff from my office.
All sorts of people have been telling me how I should grieve. I know they mean well but in general what works for other people doesn’t really work for me. I figure my own way of doing things.
Part of my grieving is to write – posts like this one and the last one. I express myself well (generally) in words. Sometimes to just put it on paper helps. It’s out of my head and I can move forward.
Today and tomorrow are going to be about doing what I need to do for me. I’m not sure what those things will be but I’ll figure it out as my mood evolves.
I’ve told people I’m hyper-irritable. Mostly I think I’ve reach the stage where I need quiet. I’ve been surrounded by family and people for a lot of days. At some point, I always need quiet and alone. There’s something about being quiet and alone which helps me. I can hear my own thoughts and feel my own feelings without having to support anyone but me.
I’m sad my mother is dead but I KNOW she’s at peace and with my dad. This doesn’t make me sad, it’s a relief. It’s a relief to not worry the moment I see the assisted living facility on my phone – to wonder – is this another fall or another problem? The worry is gone. At the same time, I find myself thinking – oh mom would like … and about the time I get that far, I realize mom’s gone. The moment hits me hard. At the same time, I know it’s okay. It’s supposed to hurt and it’s supposed to be sad and it’s supposed to be a relief.
I don’t expect anyone to grieve the way I do – though I’m sure there are similarities. This is a process and I’ve taken the first step through this jungle of emotions and responsibilities and tasks. The first wave of it has rolled over me. I’m looking within now to assess where I’m at and how I feel.
Working on my to do list distracts me but at the same time helps me. This weekend will be about working through some of those items.
About mid-week I realized the school semester was wrapping up and there were definitely some tasks around the office I wanted done before I lost all my student workers. More than the tasks though, I realized one of my student workers wouldn’t be coming back. Now I’ve known for a while she was graduating. It was one of those moments though where I really took stock.
On one hand I’ll miss this person. She’s a bright spot in my day. At the same time, I’m very happy for her as she has gotten into the grad program she wants to be in, gotten a job which will work around her program, and will be moving on with her life. She’s taking the next steps in her life.
My job is to let her go, to help her get to a place where she could move from this place in her life, to the next one. While I won’t see her daily and our relationship will change, I’m still going to be available if she needs anything.
It’s the same with my own life. There are things I need to let go of in order to move from where I am to where I want to be. With Wayfarer Expansion, I had a hard time letting it go, putting it out to be published. I questioned everything. It took a solid reminder from a friend to get me to let go.
Letting go isn’t easy. It involves trusting that what comes next will be what is needed and a step in the right direction. Letting go isn’t always fun. Often it involves grief for who or what we were but it also involves a step into the unknown.
This can be difficult. We have to have faith the unknown isn’t the monster we imagine but a gift and a pleasure. Instead of looking at the fearful side, we should be looking at the hopeful side. No we don’t know what’s coming but there is always hope it will be better and brighter than what we currently have.
We may be closing a door on what we know but we could be opening the door on something more positive and beneficial to our path and life. Endings are hard, usually they involve grief of some sort. Beginnings can be hard but almost always they involve the hope we all need in our lives. Hope to be in a better place, hope to be happier, healthier, or whatever you are seeking.
In the last year and quarter, I’ve gone to six memorial services or funerals. Lately, I’ve felt that’s all that is left to us. We live, we love, we die.
If we’re lucky, if we’re very lucky, we have people in our lives who will grieve for us when we are gone. My great aunt passed away on Christmas Eve. I didn’t know her. This in itself is so sad because I would have liked to know her stories, heard them, grown up with them. My grandfather didn’t speak with his siblings (most of them) for whatever reasons. So the cousins on that side of the family, I didn’t know.
Right now I have two friends who are coping with the loss of their partners. Men who were dear to them. This morning I read an email from one of these friends and it broke my heart to hear how callously she was treated after her husband’s death. Officials were rude, inconsiderate, and obnoxious. She’s grieving and struggling to draw breath. She has no energy to deal with snotty officials who can’t summon a shred of common decency.
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t coping with death. My grandparents started dying when I was five. I don’t have a lot of memories of them other than funerals and stories others tell. As I read my friend’s email about her experiences, I couldn’t help but feel her grief and her sorrow.
My great aunt has 22 descendents who seemed to spend her visitation celebrating her life rather than grieving her loss. In my mind, this is how a memorial should go. It should honor the person who has passed with their stories – good, bad, and indifferent.
My friend who sent the email – we are email friends. We started on a writer’s group and spun off to exchange regular emails – often daily. I’ve never met her. I never met her husband. Yet in all the funerals and memorials I’ve attended in the last year. This is the one that moved me, touched me so deeply I was compelled to write.
For all the people in my life and in the world who are dealing with grief. I don’t know if this will help but I hope it expresses an empathy for what you feel:
Life is what happens when you’re planning your life, right? Unexpectedly, we got to see Virginia this weekend. It was wonderful to see her but unfortunately, she came home for a funeral of a friend’s mother.
I spent my weekend running around, visiting with people, and accomplishing nothing useful. I did get some editing done while Virginia was off with her friend.
Funerals are always difficult. This time of year is a little rough for me as it is the anniversary of my father’s death. I was pregnant with Vicki at the time. He was a good man, strong, loving, stubborn, accepting of who I was. I have to say I’ve rarely felt as accepted as I did when dad was still here.
Fall is about endings and most endings I handle just fine. The ending of my father’s life marked me and changed me. Up until his death, I had experienced death of my grandparents, uncle, cousins, but none of those deaths affected me as much as his. I miss those people but I miss my dad more.
Letting go is one of the hardest things we have to do in life. It is a matter of trusting that when we let go of what we are clinging to that things will be better or we will have a better understanding of whatever we are hanging on to.
This fall I guess I’m letting go a little more of the grief (yes I still grieve 30 years later) and embracing the memories I have of my father. I can list off a dozen words to describe him but it doesn’t get to the core of how much he loved and cherished his family. No matter what he accepted and helped us handle what needed to be handled.
I’m sure he had flaws. I know he was stubborn and proud. For me, he listened. He listened when I felt no one heard. He hugged when I needed it and he was firm when I needed that too. I hope he’s proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. I know he’d love his granddaughters and be excited for their accomplishments.
Grief is hard, has a hard edge to it and usually eases over time. There are times when we lose people in our lives who are so dear and precious that the grief never stops but we have to learn to cope with it. One way I cope is by honoring the person who has passed.