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