Self care in time of crisis

My apologies in advance.  Anyone who is living a fun, care-free life right now: I hate you.  Do you call yourself an “International Playgirl” or something along those lines? I hate you. Are you anyone other than me, whose life feels like it is grinding to an interminable, soul-sucking halt? No? Well then, I probably hate you all.

My grandfather passed away last week.  We had just gotten the hospice bed set up so that he could pass his remaining time in a  familiar place, and the medical equipment fellow had just left, after explaining the ups and downs and ins and outs of how to operate the thing. The oxygen machine was running in the corner, a steady hum that I suspected I would get used to over the next few days.

My phone rang again, and I answered, expecting that it was the medical transport folks informing me that they were bringing him home; that they were on their way. Instead it was hospice phoning to tell me he was gone.

He was a 97 year old man.  This shouldn’t have surprised me…and yet it did.  I paced between rooms wondering how on earth was I going to share this heartbreaking news with my grandmother, who had been so happy earlier that her husband of 72 years was finally coming home. I could still hear the slow hiss from the oxygen tank, and the realization that he never even had a chance to use it sadly dawned on me.

His presence lingers in the house, his imprint still on everything.  A pair of shorts, a worn leather belt still looped through, hangs from a hook on the back of the bathroom door.  His glasses sit on a table next to his chair, which none of us can bring ourselves to sit in again.  A magnifying glass on the kitchen table, a WWII aircraft poster in the garage, a stack of bills in the office which had not yet been paid.

It is this last bit, and all items related to it, that make the grieving process difficult, if not impossible for me right now.  Despite how heart-wrenching it is that my neither my grandmother nor I nor my sisters had a chance to say a proper goodbye to a man who was everything to us, I cannot even bring myself to stifle a sob. There is nothing there.

I suspect that this is because I am utterly consumed with the care of the person who is left behind.  Who is, for all intents and purposes quite helpless, and her finances, her property, her health and well-being, it has all been entrusted to me. I know that I am not alone in this, as I have my two sisters – but as I am the only one local, most of these concerns fall squarely on my lap.  I know they do what they can, and I know I have their full support and it’s no one’s fault really, that I am here and they are there – but none of this makes it much easier for me, to be perfectly honest.

And it’s not like I don’t have a job, although granted, my job makes it a little bit easier than someone else in my situation might have it – I both have a very understanding employer, and I work from home – but 99.9% of my usual stress in life in job related and now with missing as much work as I have been missing, gosh. My anxiety is through the roof.

At the end of the day, after taking into account my grandmother’s schedule and appointments and issues, on top of doing the same thing for my job – I just can’t do any more.  I’m not exercising, I am not eating right (that’s an understatement, I have probably gained 10 lbs in three weeks but I don’t even want to think about that), bills are probably going unpaid, the house is a mess and I .  just.  don’.t  care.

I’m probably pretty depressed.  I’m sitting in front of my computer screen, I can’t even look at the things I like to look at, art blogs, new music blogs, recipe sites.  This might seem like a small thing, but I think it’s telling.  I’m not the sort of person where you’d notice a dramatic change in my personality… because I think I am too repressed to sink into a profoundly spectacular depression. Instead, it’s that loss of interest or enjoyment in things one usually might take pleasure in, a feeling of hopelessness.  Resignation. This is never going to end. This is what it’s going to be like forever and ever. And then I realize of course that is not the case, my grandmother is 94 years old and she’s not going to be around forever and I should cherish the time I have with her and what the hell is wrong with me? What kind of monster am I? Wash, rinse, repeat.

I try to go through life with a  “chin up!” sort of attitude, I really do.  But I just can’t even fake it right now.  And you many people who have reached out to me with condolences and concern and thoughtful gifts and kind words – I cannot thank you enough.  For as much as I want to curl up into a ball and disappear at the moment, it’s things like this, that someone cares enough to reach out in some way… I might not think I want these things, but you know, I desperately need them.  And I thank you for realizing that and acting on it.

And I don’t hate any of you, don’t pay attention to what I said several paragraphs ago.  I am just feeling bitter and resentful of people who don’t have these worries and who may never have them.

In the meantime, I have got to get it together on a personal level.  My bank account probably can’t handle this level of grief shopping that I have been putting it through, so I am going to have to find different, healthier ways to cope. More on that later.  Though…if new stuff and things can’t cheer me up then perhaps all is truly lost.

Friends and folks who have been through something similar – how did you pull through?  How did you not totally wreck your life while trying to take care of someone else’s? Your thoughts, suggestions and insights are, as always, deeply appreciated.

6 Comments on Self care in time of crisis

  1. Jenny
    June 2, 2015 at 5:28 pm (3 years ago)

    Okay so first no need for apologies. You say you hate all the things-in the little time I have known your blog you are full of lots of love and positivity…and right now your heart hurts and you can express it. I think everyone, especially your loved ones know, it’s simply the sadness trying to expel itself from your body.
    When I was grieving over my grandparents I did a lot of walking and falling into fantasy books. Whenever I am heart hurting, I watch Korean dramas because for 25 episodes I can forget everything and in the end rediscover some form of beauty.
    This blog and your art should be what you go as a way to relieve your stress and find beauty. You may also need to set aside two days for yourself–one is the organizing day where all the errands that are separate from caring for your grandmother can get done. The second day is for you. Do what you need to breathe easy. Yoga, write, sleep, just go out. These two days you’ll need to look to your community and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because you family and friends want to help/care for you.
    I don’t know if this will help but my aunts when caring for my grandmother helped one another and they did there best to give each other a day off. Even if it’s a friend that will watch wheel of fortune with your grandmother could help you, no?

    Please don’t forget yourself. Take out time to say I’m important. Because you are and you are doing a beautiful thing. But to continue to do so, you need to keep yourself healthy emotionally and physically.
    I’ll be sending you positive vibes.

  2. Megan
    June 2, 2015 at 6:07 pm (3 years ago)

    I usually stress shop then come to a complete halt and go in the extreme opposite direction of super-frugal-penny-pinching mode. I also isolate myself. Totally not healthy, but it is the only way I’ve ever gotten through anything. And one day it gets better (or easier to manage anyway) and I slowly emerge anew. I’m sorry this probably is no help at all. But I just wanted you to know I’ve been there. And you are not alone. And do what Jenny suggested in the comment above or you shall surely go insane. Gosh I suck at this. Really, I’m so sorry for the weight of what has been put on you. Hugs!

  3. Anton
    June 2, 2015 at 7:17 pm (3 years ago)

    I sort of understand this. When my father died two summers ago, it all fell on me. It was fucked up and hard.

    Tell other people – I need you to do this. Be exceedingly specific. Get people to do things, even if it is little stuff. But don’t make yourself do all of it alone.

    Would it help to make yourself a schedule? Something that gives you hours for work, hours for grandma and hours for yourself?

    I would say carve out the time to go exercise somehow – whatever that is for you. But that time can just be you and no one else. For me, the physical act of movement is very helpful for quieting the merry-go-round in my brain. The hour I spend running is completely outside of everything else. Maybe exercise isn’t what works for you – find something that does, even if it is private happy hour cocktails or reading in the tub or anything. Give yourself that.

    I’m so sorry you’re in the black place.

  4. lau
    June 4, 2015 at 4:16 pm (3 years ago)

    all the love in the world to you. i can’t truly understand what you’re going through and how you are feeling because no one can, but i know what it’s like to lose someone so dear and important (my father) and to feel the guilt of needing to take care of someone very, very sick (my mother). i wish you all the strength in the world, because i know you’re going to need it.

    & i’m here for you, as small of a gesture as that feels right now, always. <3

  5. Chuck Gibbs, RN
    June 10, 2015 at 6:27 am (3 years ago)

    Greetings Mlle. Ghoul, Hope things are getting sorted out now. Enjoy your blog and have just got out of hospital for cancer surgery. People always get jammed-up when I recommend re-framing their grief into a celebration. Mainly because they miss the loved one so much. As blessed as they/we are to have them in our lives, for them to have measured the days and decades on Earth which was their life. Overwhelmingly positive without being terribly upbeat. Makes one think, doesn’t it? Now is your time. Money, fame, and everyday falderal will still be waiting in whichever direction you choose. 40 is a great time to get wound up and go-see-do like a house on fire. Starter’s pistol fired. The race has already started. And thanks for sharing and letting a few of us be supportive for a change.

    • S. Elizabeth
      June 10, 2015 at 7:24 am (3 years ago)

      Chuck, thanks so much for sharing, and that’s wonderful that you’re out of the hospital. I hope you’re in the clear? I actually love the idea of re-framing one’s grief into a celebration. My grandfather probably wouldn’t want us moping around, anyhow. As a matter of fact, I collected his remains from the funeral home and he’s been at the kitchen table eating dinner with us every night this past week! Well, I don’t know if that’s celebratory or just plain weird, but it somehow feels right. I know if he were there he’d be asking for the ketchup – he used to douse everything in the stuff, including his gravy.


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