- Taking time to reflect on grief
Keeping up with a very busy life along with having lupus is always a huge challenge, and takes planning, consideration and careful management to prevent becoming spread out too thin. Always mindful of sudden flares, and cautiously navigating within ever-changing boundaries is part of the lupus journey and adventure.
My life is usually very full just managing family, career, lupus, music performances and my writing. Before my dad passed away, at least four other major things were also in the mix: participating in a local Lupus walk planning committee, some ongoing major home renovations, a couple of highly stressful and unusually challenging work projects, and participating in a Benlysta clinical trial of weekly self-injections.
These extra things meant plugging in plenty of extra goals and activities. Honestly, I thought I could handle it all. Adding the clinical trial recently meant more doctor appointments and follow ups, and planning my weekly injections and filling out the simple patient log. A year ago I had signed on with my Lupus Foundation contacts to build a walk team and contact a group of local professional contacts to promote the upcoming walk.
Our home renovations have been slowly moving along, but the stress of a household in flux that adds some psychological chaos and stress to the mix. Then, just when the heaviest portion of the major work projects was in full swing, my dad died on Friday, July 4th.
When eternity knocks, life stands still.
Plant from coworkers
After dealing with mandatory arrangements in the first few hours after he passed away, I had no choice but to call in to work out for a “time out.” It really didn’t matter what other work responsibilities I had, nor even how important any of it was.
First things first, my life ground to a halt. It was time to erect a temporary protective perimeter so I could stop, slow down and start to cope with grief. Without apologies, I called my office to start there and speak with my boss about taking bereavement leave the following week. My major work project was immediately put on hold until I got back to work. This was horribly untimely for work commitments, but I was so grateful for the support I received at my office for my need to deal with my loss.
Returning to the office
A week later when I returned to my office, one of the most difficult emotional and mental tasks I have ever undertaken was to focus through my grief and complete my professional writing responsibilities. I still had to finish a complex and heavily analytical major report.
There was no way I was anywhere near over my grief after only the first week had gone by, but I had to exercise extreme discipline and force myself to work through it and complete the huge project. There were major legal issues involved, and the project was not something that could wait more than the week’s postponement or be delegated to someone else.
I had regained barely enough objectivity to be able to do the writing task, but it took twice as long as it would have if I had not been in the middle of the extreme emotional distractions of grief. In all honesty, I really just wanted to check out of all my responsibilities for the next few weeks and go sit by a pool somewhere with my thoughts and drink lemonade! Consequently, every half hour or so, I had to throw up my hands in emotional surrender and stand up and walk away from my desk. Each time I took a mental break and allow my heart and mind to reset I was able to sit down again in a few minutes and focus for another session.
It felt like my efforts on the writing project were actually unwelcome thirty-minute recesses from processing my grief. I am not sure how, but it got done, and we finally completed the difficult drawn out project.
My highest priorities have sorted out and family, conversations with siblings and people in my inner support circle, and dealing with dad’s financial and legal affairs have taken obvious precedence. Life stood still for a few days during a week of bereavement leave, and then after the big push to complete “the project,” many mornings in the following few weeks were borrowed from my normal work schedule to slow down, deal with emotions, take care of family things, meet with bankers, lawyers, government agencies, funeral directors and handle other urgent family business.
Hired a probate lawyer
Quickly, without any hesitation, a lawyer was hired to handle the probate of dad’s estate. Although I started out my career as a paralegal and worked in probate for three years, I wouldn’t think about doing the legal stuff myself. Even with my lawyer handling all the court paperwork, I have many duties as executor of his estate.
Wow! These details are consuming!
Although I have drafted hundreds of wills, trusts, probate court documents and deeds of distribution in my career, I have never seen an executor’s side of the process. I already knew what my attorney had to handle, but my side of all this probate business is a new experience.
Taking time to pray
I have found there just isn’t time for some of the things I had set out to do before my dad died. I am making a point to take time to think about what I am going through, and to talk to God about my feelings and grief.
I often remember the last day and the hours I spent at my dad’s bedside reading the Bible to him, and Psalm 23 was one of the last things I read to him. The words spoken to him hover in the backdrop of my memories, and that last conversation and prayer as I sat beside him.
Writing, Lupus Foundation activities and even little personal things like taking time to go get a manicure and pedicure have been brushed aside without a moment to consider how to do them! I am finding it hard to sleep, and have been sleeping in too long in the mornings after I don’t sleep well.
Today, I finally made it to the hairdresser for a color (I should say “cover”) and cut. One by one, my habits and routines are being re-established. Grief and loss are still there, but the wounds of grief heal slowly.