Sunday, August 26, 2012
One of my favorite musicians has lyrics that say "changes in latitude, changes in attitude". Change is inevitable. We can't avoid it, circumnavigate it, ignore it, it's going to happen whether you want it to or not. The 20th of July marked major changes in many people's lives. The obvious first two were the death of my husband, and the realization for me that nothing that was will stay the same. For him, it meant the end of horrible and chronic pain, the indignity of being kept alive by medications, feeding schedules, and endless lists of things he couldn't do. Physical limitations frustrated him the most. He was reduced to sleeping his days away or watching television. For him, death was swift, and merciful. For those he left behind, there were feelings of helplessness, loss, even anger.
The most difficult task was notifying his children, and believe me there was no easy way to do that. His sister lives about 20 minutes from here, so she arrived before the chaos in my living room subsided. Yes, Dennis was here at home, in his own room, when I found him. As the shock waves reached cousins and friends across the country, I discovered my role had changed, from that of "grieving widow" to "comforter". It was left to me to "say the right thing", find a way to soften the blow, help those grieving people to find a way to accept this thing that had happened in their lives.
As for me, as the dust settles, I find myself in uncharted territory. Nothing I have experienced in my lifetime has prepared me for the changes that continue to occur. When my father died, I had Dennis to lean on. But in the past six years, I've dealt with the deaths of four people who played major roles in my day to day existence. This time, I'm "winging it".
Change isn't the worst thing that can happen to you. Complacence would be. Since I am a "planner", I've rehearsed in my mind many times what I would do if I found myself alone. I'd even planned what dishes I'd use. As I put into place the things I'd imagined doing, I find a bit of comfort. I'm not standing there in the kitchen, deer-in-the-headlight-ish, I have a plan.
I think what I want to say to you is to think ahead, be able to embrace change without a sense of sheer panic. Every day changes most of us can take in stride. But are you really prepared for the catastrophic ones? Have you thought ahead in situations that would cause major changes (good or bad)? While no one is ever prepared for the loss of a loved one, or a family member, having rehearsed in your mind what you'd do, what you would need to do, if that occurred can be the difference between coping or not. I was able to calmly make phone calls to Social Security, Veterans' Affairs, etc. Don't get me wrong, I had my melt down, and I'm sure as the months progress there will be other melt downs ...
My challenge, then, for you is to think ahead, think outside the comfortable box you live in, and imagine what you would do "if". Do you have a central location for important documents, and does someone else know where that is? Do you have an idea what you or a loved one would want done if death occurred? Do others know what you would want?