When your world stops, everyone else's keeps spinning. It's hard to jump back on.
Eventually we all are faced with the question, "What do I do now?"
This is another DIY project – one I'd rather not do. But alas, there is no one else. So deal with it, I must.
1. Prepare yourself and those around you.
2. Make decisions ahead of time so when you are in crisis, you are ready.
3. Enlist the help of others.
If you wait until a crisis comes to garner support, you've waitied too long. Start now gathering your tribe. Reach out, watch, listen, learn, help, support. Develop a support system for you and your family now before you need one. At any given time I have a dozen people I can call for any reason all over the country – actually, more like "dozens." This didn't happen by accident. It takes work, but it's totally worth all the effort you have to put into it. Of course, for others to be able to help you, you must communicate your need or at least let people get to know you well enough that they will know when and what to offer. This starts with getting to know THEM first! Listen more than you talk. Ask questions. Meet needs. Spend time. Be open. Love. Then while you are in crisis…
4. Ask a lot of questions – a lot!
I asked questions before surgery, during surgery, after surgery, during recovery, during rehab, after the stroke, during hospice, after hospice of anyone who was available, who knew anything, or had personal experience. I learned as we went along. In the end it didn't save my mother's life, but I am at peace and know I did everything I could to help her make it. I was able to uphold my mother's wishes and make her as comfortable as possible in her last days by asking questions before making decisions and making plans. I am able to say "I have no regrets," when the doubts and fears fly in the middle of the night. And yes, they will fly even when you've prepared and carried everything through correctly. Doing #1 – #4 will help you have no regrets when the doubts and accusations sneak into your room in the dark of night to attack. Plan on it – they will come.
5. Give yourself time to process after your loss.
This is something I learned after making a couple of too quick decisions. When in the midst of emotional turmoil, your thinking process is skewed. I agreed to things too quickly and regretted the decision days later. Fortunately I learned the lesson quickly and didn't make any big mistakes that will come back to haunt me. When you are at a heightened emotional state, take time to think things over. Adopt the canned answer, "Let me think on it a while," when asked.
I also would like to caution those who are involved in the crisis with the decision maker. I've been fortunate enough to have huge support from my family and friends. Though most looked to me for the answers, they were kind enough to give me time to answer. The hospital and hospice people were also respectful of my position and never pushed, giving me time to come to a proper decision. I spent a lot of time running my thoughts by those who I trusted and had a vested interest in my mother's health.
My family and friends have taken a step back and allowed me to take the lead – giving me time to decide how and when. I will forever appreciate that gracious support and understanding – especially in regard to sharing Mom's things with the family. This is a tough place to find myself. Honestly, I don't want to give anything to anyone, though I know I must.
Sorting Through All Her "Stuff"
- I will box up the things Mom wanted to go to each of her children. Those things will go to my siblings, with discretion given to each to decide what items we want give to our kids, her grandchildren. If a certain thing was earmarked beause of past promises by Mom, that will be made clear on each item with a sticky note.
- For the items she didn't tell me what to do with, I will look through and take pictures of the things I think my siblings might like to have and text them to find out if they want it – the things they choose will go in their box. It gets a bit tricky when your siblings live in different states. But since we plan to get together at a family reunion honoring Mom in July, this will give me time to get it all together.
- My sister and I will divide up Mom's jewelry. I will get items appraised before giving anything to the grandkids. Years ago my sister and I decided who would get her wedding ring and who would get her engagement ring. Those along with Dad's wedding ring went into our safe as soon as she passed. Some things are innately precious.
- My eldest daughter and I will go through her other personal items. Those will go in boxes for my siblings to go through first when we get together in July. We will try to find an older lady that could use her clothes. I would like to be a blessing to some sweet lady. Mom would like that.
- For those grandkids and great grandkids who lived nearby and/or had a close relationship with G'ma/Meemaw, I will choose some items that mean something special to them. They are the ones who feel a keen loss. Example: Jillian, my youngest daughter spent hours in my mom's sewing room making banquet dresses during her highschool year. She took home G'ma's wooden thread caddy that hung on the wall for many years.
A true story:
Oh Mom, life will be so boring without you around!
I leave you with this one thought:
Life is not always easy or fair, but with the proper perspective it can be a joy. When my mom got older and her health was failing this past year and a half, it felt like she was sucking the life out of me. I was busy every moment with not only my stuff but also caring for her needs. Some days I didn't know if I was coming or going. BUT, it was OK. She was my mom and I would do whatever it took to make sure she was OK. This is a decision I made a long time ago and do not look back with regret. Those people in your life who are important to you must be our priority. Accept it. Rejoice in it.
Just do it.
Now, go give your mom a hug.
If you've not done so yet, please read more about this story – I'd like to encourage you:
I LINK TO THESE GREAT PARTIES