Nov 29, 2020
I have been away from my home in Colorado for almost 3 weeks. During that time, stress has often been my companion.
I drove to SLC as soon as my brother called to tell me that Mom’s condition was quickly declining. That was November 11th. I was able to care for her and be with her when she passed away on November 15th.
Phone calls to friends and Funeral plans began immediately. We decided on November 21st for the funeral, but learned that the cemetery didn’t have an opening for her burial until December 1st for three reasons: COVID-19, Thanksgiving, and a wind storm that downed about 100 trees at the cemetery. Basically, they had a waiting list. I noticed the stress wash over me.
My husband is in London on business for several more weeks. When I left on the 11th, I had to call on one of my older daughters to come stay with my teenagers at home. She maintained my household for a week and then brought her 2 sisters to Salt Lake for the funeral. They are here with me until the burial.
The day after Thanksgiving we did our Black Friday shopping amongst our parents belongings. All of my siblings gathered to divide things up and take them to their own homes. I designated areas around the house for each sibling; Stan’s things would go on the rattan furniture, Mark’s on the guest bed. My things on and under the card table and so on. It was very reminiscent of how our gifts were organized on Christmas morning, but it didn’t feel like Christmas
By the end of it there were gaping empty spots where artwork and furniture had once been – for decades. My brain began to protest; “This is SO different!” Late that night I was emotional and overwhelmed with exhaustion.
As the person “in charge” of organizing this, I had been laser-focused on getting as much cleared out as possible in order for my brother and sister-in-law to be able to move their things in. They moved in over a year ago and then recently purchased my parents home, but their things have remained in boxes in the basement. I was also motivated to make a lot of progress because I didn’t want to come back and take care of it later. I’m here until December 1st anyway, so I want to make good use of that time.
But looking around at those empty places where long-loved items had once been, had an effect on my laser-focus. “This is SO different” kept playing through my head. On Saturday morning my focus was more like a flashlight with dying batteries.
And our job was not done. We had an appointment Saturday afternoon at 4:30 to drop off unclaimed items at a local second-hand store. So we began boxing things up and loading them in my truck. As 4:30 approached I found myself adding more of their things to my pile around the card table, scrambling to hold on to what was left of my parents.
Here’s another strong thought that filled my mind: “My mother hasn’t even been buried and the majority of her and Dad’s lives have been claimed and distributed or now, donated.”
As if to tell me that I’m doing it wrong.
Gratefully I know what is happening in my brain and I have been patient with it. You see, our primitive brain likes things to be predictable. Change is hard for our brains to accept because predictability feels safe and doesn’t require extra energy to process. My parents lived in this home for 41 years. Coming home held lots of memories and predictability, even if wall or carpet colors changed. Our brains also love to conserve energy – and this was taking all the energy I had.
I’m on to my brains’ thoughts about how different things are and getting rid of everything so soon; Observing my thoughts as if I was a scientist receiving data instead of a judge delivering a sentence. I’m choosing to accept them and recognize the emotions they create: sadness.
Since July both of my parents have passed away. That’s sad. Taking care of all the details that come with losing a loved one is stressful. What I’m thinking and feeling is entirely appropriate for what I’m experiencing. Being aware of my thoughts greatly reduces self-judgement and the temptation to believe that something has gone wrong.
I have work yet to do to process all of this. Tears yet to cry. Boxes of treasures and furniture to place in my own home. This IS so different. It will in fact never be the same.
Slowly, I’m accepting that.
P.S. When we experience something painful, like the death of a Loved One, we may not recognize that we’re fighting against the pain. We may suppress appropriate emotions and then explode with painful ones. This adds to the stress of the situation. In a Discovery Call, you will learn ways to Stress-Less as a Caregiver. Follow this link to schedule your free session https://meredithgcoaching.as.me/