As I write today, I am getting ready to go to a funeral for a loved one’s Mom. He’s never gone through this before, and the process is painful to watch. I have friends with their Mom near the end of life or with an illness that prevents them from bouncing back. Others that are overwhelmed with the paperwork of the estate of their loved one while grappling with tears. None of these are simple passages, and so many memories have been touched for me by these experiences.
Decisions that we make during our caregiving days and after are ones that are important to make peace with. Making them can often be almost paralyzing. Health care decisions, in-home care vs. care facilities, what if they ultimately are the wrong ones?
I’ll never forget the days after my Mom passed. The day I had to pick up her ashes, alone. The surreal state of mind I was in as I placed her box in the passenger seat beside me attaching the seat belt around her. “Ma, I need to get you home safely.” The state of shock, the memories that flooded as I stared down at her box wrapped in velvet, was a feeling that I cannot put into words. I was in such a daze (even though I knew her death was imminent) that days went by like minutes.
I remember going through her closet and taking things to donate the day after she died. Harsh? No. Going through her clothes would be one of the toughest things that I would have to do so I acted upon it while I was still in a full blur. It seemed to dull the pain of it a bit. Putting together an estate sale was pure insanity, but it was important for me to tend to my parent's belongings with care. As they had done for them for so many years before.
This thing called life is an interesting adventure, it didn’t come with an instruction manual for emotions. You find yourself in the throws of grief before you start reaching out for help and even if you had been ’informed’ on what it would be like you can’t possibly really know until you’re there.
Be kind, be gentle, be patient with yourself as you go through whatever stage you are at. Journaling can be a great support system, the family caregiving journal on the Breathing Spaces website can help you track details while journaling both your thoughts and your loved ones. That can be a priceless gift in itself.
Wherever you are on your caregiving journey, take time to stop and allow the simple moments to become the big moments in your life. Remember to breathe and to reach out for help when you need it.