Content Warning: Parental death.
Seriously, it’s okay if you want to skip this one.
February has been particularly difficult this year. On Friday, February 3rd, my step-father had his second stroke in as many weeks and this one he didn’t come back from. It was a sudden death, but not an entirely unexpected one. Over the past several years, he’d been diagnosed with multiple health conditions that were scary enough on their own, but particularly difficult in combination.
Now, my family has never been particularly good at grieving. I always feel weird when I tell people that we don’t do funerals – I have a small family, and we all prefer to do our mourning in private. None of us are religious, or even particularly spiritual. I have no idea if there’s anything after death; many of the belief systems sound as plausible to me as any other. What I do know is that our grief is our own – that people get caught up in their loss, and I firmly believe that I don’t have to share that with anyone unless I want to.
This – by itself – is a lot.
But what makes things infinitely more complicated is that my parents have been running a small business, almost completely alone, for the last 10 or so years. Prior to that, they worked alongside my grandparents, and I have known for a long time that someday, one way or another, it would be mine to deal with as an only child. So, in place of a more traditional form of mourning, my mother and I have thrown ourselves into figuring out how to streamline, organize and simplify the business. It is a process that was vastly overdue to be tackled, but it’s always been so easy to put it off.
While I think that having A Project to focus on has been a boon to my mental health, it’s taken quite a toll on me physically. I have a tendency to downplay the severity of my disabilities, and I’ve been able to do so precisely because I’ve built my entire life around accommodating them. My new responsibilities have interfered with my oh-so-carefully constructed routines and processes to the point where I made myself sick enough that I thought I was going to end up in the hospital myself.
The last couple weeks have been a struggle to recalibrate my energy, and of learning to leave the less important tasks unfinished. We’ve ordered entirely too much take out. I’ve spent a lot of my down time in bed, because I’ve overspent my energy long before the day is over. I’ve had to re-evaluate my definition of the bare minimum.
It’s hard, staring my limitations in the face. I’ve been hiding from them for a long time now.
But I also know it will get easier. This is much like the process of learning (and leaving behind) that happened when I first got sick. I’ll work out new routines. I’ll do my best to meet my body halfway – I know it’ll give me more if I give back in the form of extra rest, even when I’d rather be doing something.
Not everything gets better with time, but most things get easier with repetition.
One thought on “Self-Reflection Sunday – On Grief and Adjustment”
We did do a funeral for my step-father, but I can’t remember having one for any of my grandparents and we didn’t have one for my father or mother. They’ve always felt awkward and phony to me. I sat with my brother and his wife at the step-father’s funeral and when we got to the car my brother commented on what was said about the man, saying “I thought we were in the wrong funeral” and I have to admit I didn’t recognize the individual that was being described, either.
To me funerals feel like just another way for the system to squeeze us. I appreciate and applaud your choice to grieve in a way that works for you. Though I do hope the physical challenge of the task you’ve taken on becomes more manageable soon.
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