The Loss of a Family Member Can Be Devastating, Especially When It’s Not Their Time
To my Boomer following, this blog will most likely be one of the shortest I’ve written over the past year. I just lost my father, who was 92, and a resident for the past three years in a skilled nursing facility here in southern California, along with my mother who is 90 and is in the same nursing home. Both were diagnosed with COVID-19 in early December while they were in protective quarantine. Subsequently, they were both placed in isolation then eventually returned to their normal room about a week ago. My father suffered greatly and eventually passed this past Tuesday due to a series of complications with COVID.
This is real for many of us Boomers, so the sorrow in my heart goes out to each and every one who may be going through a similar experience. In my case, the pain of losing my father was further intensified because I was unable to be with him since all nursing homes have been in lock-down, not allowing outside family visitation. Thus, my only form of communication with either parent was an occasional phone call when the nursing staff would have had an available minute to pass along one of their cell phones. Short of that, I was only able to get updates on their respective conditions when I could catch one of the caregivers taking a break.
A truly, truly difficult time for me and for all family members dealing with similar situations, and now I find myself hanging on everyday not knowing the outcome of my mother’s recovery. She is 90 and very frail and her condition is compounded with macular degeneration causing her to lose her sight. Imagine the horror of learning about this virus and not being able to touch a loved one as you go through the agony of losing your husband of 70 years and not knowing what your own future holds.
I just read where the hospitals in California are being required to apportion care. That means medical practitioners are having to decide who gets care and who doesn’t because there simply are not enough beds, nursing staff and other healthcare professionals.
We’re used to being in control of our destiny and that certainly is not the case any longer. Our new normal is evolving every day; it’s not enough to say tomorrow will be like today, because most likely that will not be what happens. So much is out of our hands that it puts us in despair and wanting for answers, when none are forthcoming.
“When you reach a dead end, look for a hidden side road. The right path isn’t always the most direct one. Your road won’t always be smooth, and some stretches may not even be paved, so that may slow you down. What important is that you keep moving forward, no matter how many detours you have to take. Your journey will be worth it.”
So here I sit questioning life and remembering my father, knowing it wasn’t his time but COVID intervened. I could easily go down the path of anger, retaliation and depression, but as I’ve learned in life there are many alternate paths one can take when you are confronted with sorrow and desperation. Yes, of course, I’m going to grieve, don’t even think about taking that away from me, after all I have a broken heart. As you would, I will also shed many tears over the coming days and weeks and all the therapy that goes along with that will help heal and mend that broken heart. But rather than fall into the deep pit of despondency, I’ve chosen to take the path of positivity and wellness, not just for my own well-being but also for all the other people who are in my life.
I wanted to give you something to think about. Here are several helpful tips on what I’m doing to get through the day and the coming weeks. Feel free to add to them to help bolster your individual situation.
THERAPY. I don’t spend money on therapy but if you choose to do so please seek the help you might need. My therapy is the same as my father’s, get busy with hard work. Go out in the garden and get dirty, jump on a new project, reach out to friends and family and share stories of wonderful times.
CAREGIVERS. As I’ve said countless times, there are not enough thoughtful words one can share with these people who put their lives on the line every day, whether it be in a nursing home, long term care facility or hospital environment. They are the remarkable ones, and when you have the chance, thank them and ask “how are you doing.” Please be kind and patient because they are doing the best they can under these horrible circumstances. I have actually set a special place for them in our family, because that’s where they belong for all the love they had for my father, and all the love and caring they continue to show my mother.
PHOTOGRAPHS. Pull out the old and new photos and laugh and cry. Don’t them away, keep them out and refer to them often. It will be therapeutic I can assure you.
PASSION. What was your loved one’s passion. My father loved to garden and was truly superb at it. He grew every type of vegetable known to man and gave much of it away to local restaurants and bistros. When I see a garden or go the grocery, I reflect on fond memories of helping to till the soil, plant the seeds, water the crops, and harvest the fruits of our labor. It doesn’t get much better than that.
KINDNESS. I’m not going around with a chip on my shoulder. I’ve dedicated myself to being nice to everyone. Let your kindness show through.
“In your darkest moments, try to be another’s light. It will brighten your day too.”
FAMILY. At a time like this, there is little more comforting than reaching out to family members. You may not see eye to eye with all of them, but share your love nonetheless, and I bet you will get that same heart-warming love thrown back in your direction which will do wonders to help you through the day. Keep in mind, they’re suffering also.
EXERCISE, DIET AND SLEEP. Be good to yourself and maintain a healthy approach to all three. Keep up your stamina, don’t bog down with fast foods or alcohol, and try to get plenty of rest even if it means taking one or two naps during the day—that’s what us Boomers do.
TRIBUTE. Set aside the time to create words that will form your tribute to your loved one. Those words will undoubtedly help to cast aside the heavy burden you’re carrying—it happens when you think about positive things.
So, let me practice what I preach. Here is my tribute to my father:
While his name was Robert, everyone close to him including family members called him Bobby. He was truly a fine husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend to many over the years. He would have given the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it. He was a good person and a good man. I was proud to have him as my father and my friend. May you rest in peace and no longer have the demons of dementia travelling with you. Goodbye “Daddo” as I called him. Your loving daughter.
Your BoomerGal is signing off.