The Part of Life Nobody Warns You About

We were just rocking along, enjoying our empty nest. Travelling. Working. Loving our first grandchild. And then our world turned upside down. In February of 2015 our beautiful Mom went to heaven after a very difficult health battle and then in July of 2016 our Daddy took his last breath, and slipped peacefully away. He grieved her loss every single day after she left. From the moment I got the first phone call that she was sick, through the months that Dad has passed, I’ve had to deal with things that I was completely unprepared for. Stress. Worry. Grief. Care-taking. Sitters. Home Health. Hospice. More Grief. Estates. Insurance. More Grief. And this is what I’ve said over and over again:

“This is the part of life nobody warned me about.”

So I am giving you a heads up. It’s tough.

One day, your parents will pass away. And it will shock the living mess out of you. If you’re fortunate enough to have them for as many years as I was, that should come as a no brainer. But for some reason, that child like part of you still thinks they’re going to be here with you forever.

Your parents may develop dementia, cancer, Alzheimer disease or any other number of maladies that will propel you into action. (By the way, UTIs are no joke in the elderly) You will have to hit the ground running to insure that they are properly cared for. You will battle doctors. You will battle Medicare. You will have to enlist Home Health. You might have to use a nursing home. You will have to make decisions. You’ll feel guilty and terrified. And all the while your heart will be breaking. My best advice is don’t do it alone. Turn to your family, your friends and your church for support and help.

You will live in a fog when they’re sick and after they pass. Craziest thing. There is so much I absolutely do not remember doing after Mom passed away. I had to immediately turn from caring for her and taking care of her needs, to taking care of Dad and his medical needs as his heart condition became more advanced. I had been promoted into a new position at work and was so busy during the day, and then had to spend the other hours caring for Dad. You live day by day, and moment by moment. I have a few vivid, sweet memories of moments we spent together, but honestly, it’s a fog.

Grief is a gut punch and it makes you a crazy person. It lingers. It ebbs and flows. It strikes when you least expect it. I grieved Mom so hard. I spoke to her at night, as if I was praying to her, desperately hoping that she could hear me. When things got so bad with Dad, I’d beg her for advice. When Dad died, I was suddenly struck with the fact that I had lost both of them, and that emotion was all mixed in with just losing him. I was a mess. But you’d never know it during the day. I was the same old sunshiny person at work. But inside I was not okay. The other night at a presentation someone stated that they were still “Daddy’s girl” as her Dad beamed at her from the audience. I almost lost it. I was so jealous of her, and the fact that she still had her Dad, and mine is gone. Like I said, crazy person.

The best advice I have is what a dear friend told me, “It’s okay to not be okay.”

You will count days that first year.  I’ve been counting the days without him since he left. The first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday, the first Father’s Day without him. I did the same thing with Mom. I spoke with a co-worker the other day who lost her Mom last year. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. She said it always hits her on Sundays and Mondays. Because that’s when her Mom was struck. She replays the memories of those two days in her mind.

It will get better. You will get through it. You won’t ever get over it. Every day that passes, the pain eases. You can focus on the memories of your parents as they were before they got sick. I think that’s why God has fogged up my memory a bit. So I can just remember Mom and Dad as Mom and Dad. Not as the patients I had to care for. Funny thing when both parents are gone. You realize that the two people who loved you absolutely, unconditionally are gone. That safety net is no longer there. A friend described it as an un-tethering. I’m no longer a daughter. That identity is gone. But life goes on. I’m getting through the pain of grief, but I’ll never be over their loss.

You will learn things YOU need to do in order to save your kids pain. Get rid of stuff! Ask what they might want. Let them know it’s okay to get rid of what they don’t. It’s just stuff. It’s not going to heaven with you. Have your funeral plots and plans made. Have a will. Do all of that for them. So they won’t have to do it after you’re gone. Seriously. We’re working on this. Slowly, but surely. And most importantly. Love on your people. Lavish them with everything good. Spend every moment LIVING.

And as a perfect little God-wink, yesterday, one year after we watched Daddy slip away, our son and his sweet wife revealed that they are having a baby boy. His middle name will be Daddy’s middle name.

Somewhere, they’re both giggling and holding hands and laughing. I just know it.

I miss them both…

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Thanks for taking the time and reading my blog. I appreciate your support. Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Andy

34 thoughts on “The Part of Life Nobody Warns You About

  1. I feel like I’ve gone through your grief with you, from a distance, as I’ve read your words about losing your parents over the past year. I lost my dad 20 years ago and I still think of him all the time. I wish he could have met my husband, known his adult grandkids and great grandkids, watched our family grow. I still have my mom, and she and I are not close. But because of your experiences over the past few years, I have made more of an effort to spend time with her, forgive her for the past, and love her. That is 100% because of you. I thank you for that, truly. Much love sweet friend.Steffanie

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  2. Beautifully said, and you are absolutely right. Parents are so precious. Jana (Punk’s daughter) she so adored and loved your mom and dad.

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  3. Love this. The photo of your parents is just so beautiful. I’ve been going though a lot of grief in the past year with personal health issues and the loss of 2 special people in my life, although I can’t even imagine losing my parents whom I love so dearly. This is an important topic to write about, so thank you for your insight and strength.

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  4. I’m so sorry for your losses! It’s so difficult to lose those we love. But I really appreciated your openness and honesty – yes those are all things that we’ll go through. And your post is really helpful in trying to be supportive of someone who is dealing with those things.

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  5. Well written, losing a parent is a process nearly all of will go through. I lost my father when I was 17. During his illness his mother came to visit many times. Once during this time I drover her down to catch the bus and she said something about how many bad things had happened to her during her life. At the time I was angry: I was losing my father at age 17 and she wanted my sympathy. Years later I realized it is out of the natural order of thing to lose one’s own child and she had buried 2 of her children. Like you at work, I was strong at school. School was my escape from the craziness of my home life. Funny how we all rise to the occasion and find the strength to do what we need to do for our parents.

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  6. Such a sweet picture of your parents. My mother in law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it’s been so hard to watch her decline. You are right, you’re never prepared for it. You know your parents will die or get ill but you always think it’s somewhere off in the future.

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  7. I know exactly how you feel! My dad died when I was 2, so I don’t have the first memory of him, what so ever. My mom died in 2014 with several illnesses, from Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s disease, dementia, etc…nothing crushes your heart more, when you call your mom like you normally did, and ask if she knew who this was, and for her to say, casually, nope, nope I sure don’t. I cried the rest of the day. Everything you’ve said is completely true.
    Lovely ppst.

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  8. I completely identify with your post. I lost my dad last year after a long horrible cancer. You’re right – nothing prepares you. We will learn to live with it, but we won’t ever completely come to terms with it.
    Love your blog!

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  9. I wish I had found your blog for tonight. I lost my dad May 3rd 2016 at my mother-in-law eight weeks to the hour later on June 28th. We had just put dad in a facility because mom was going to start going downhill trying to care for him at home alone. Alan’s mom had been in a facility for about 3 years. Both had dementia at my dad also had Parkinson’s. Dad fell and broke his leg and never recovered from surgery and anesthesia and died a week and a half later. Alan’s mom was in a good mood and ate better than she had in a long time and they found her dead about an hour later. Alan’s dad has now been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is living with his brother. So far my mom is doing well and the biggest problem we have right now is trying to get her out of Florida before Irma hits! Thank you so much for writing what you did. It is hard to think I won’t be a daughter in a few years. We are planning another reunion 40 years and I hope you can make it to that one. I was hoping to see you last year. If you ever get to Indiana please look me up.

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  10. I lost my late husband to brain cancer in (Nov) 2008, my mother in law in (Oct) 2012 to breast cancer and my mom in (Oct) 2013 to lung cancer. I lost my father when I was around 20 years old; I’m now 48.

    Just when I thought I’d dealt with the grief of my late husband, I was hit with the death of my mom. It’s been 4 years since her death and it’s still hard to believe that she is gone. One minute I find myself laughing at something silly she’s done or that we’ve done together. Then I find myself crying in public (sometimes) due to some type of trigger such as her favorite place to shop.

    I just have to believe that theyre up there in Heaven and no longer suffering. I can only pray that I’ll see them again when it’s my time to leave this earth.

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