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as long as it takes

A moment to reflect

In 2010, and through the mist of Niagara Falls, I took a glacially-paced walk with my Mom. It would be our last walk together. The following eleven years tore apart our family as her health steadily declined. She was in denial, we were fighting, and my parents’ elder care attorney got rich. 

I was at her bedside when she passed three years ago last Friday. As her breath labored, she grasped tightly to her stuffed duck (the spirit animal of P.B.R.), and I whispered to her that she could let go. It was time. The hospice nurses said that she was waiting for me before she passed.

On Friday, I was back in Rochester to support my Dad with a few things, and I went for a short bike ride on the gravel trail that hugs the Erie Canal. Others were rowing, cycling, walking, and running, and creatures from beavers to blue herons and even a few ducks were waking up a new day.

As I pedaled through the morning haze, I felt grateful that my Mom worked nights to be home with us during the day, angry for all the unnecessary drama we endured, which I was complicit in and sad for everything we never experienced together.

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As I finished my ride and wondered how long my grieving process would last, I came upon a kindness rock garden. There were rocks with messages like, ‘You Rock!’ and ‘Take the Next Step.’ Then I saw one that said, “It takes as long as it takes.”

Today’s rapid-fire, ‘time to move on’ way misses the truth that the grieving process is different for everyone. Who is to say how long it should last? We grieve for as long as needed, even if that takes a lifetime. Of course, it is wise to seek professional guidance if we are overwhelmed or in an endless grieving loop.

I see much of today’s denial, pain, mental anguish, and anger as grief about how we thought life was going to unfold. The idea that life will be like this, but in reality, it’s much different, is a form of loss, and we need support and time before we find acceptance. 

We grieve in our bodies, hearts, and minds. It’s a process where we learn how to be in the world without the person or situation that is no longer here. It can get better over time when we sit and listen to each other and avoid the temptation to make it better right now, which is an urge that may be more about us being uncomfortable when we see others in discomfort than helping. 

Loss is something we all share, and most of us will face the challenge of parenting our parents in the future. If grieving is a learning process, here are a few things I’ve discovered, and I hope that one or more of these may help you someday. If you have tips, please share them; I will include them in a future post.

Take Care: Taking care of yourself is essential to being at your best and helping your parents. No matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Seek support: Reach out to support groups and know, as I would say, “Who’s in Your Peloton?” to assist your parents like friends, family, and professionals.

Know, Organize, and Plan: Become informed about the services Medicare and Medicaid provide. Learn the differences between residential communities, your parents’ care providers, and medications. Get organized and plan for the best and the unexpected.

Get to Know Them: Unfortunately, I didn’t do this with my Mom, but I’m trying to do this with my Dad – get to know them as people rather than just your parents. It may help you understand them differently and how they see things. Plus, you might learn a little about yourself as you do.

Laugh and Celebrate: Try to keep your sense of humor because being overwhelmed will make you cry if you don’t laugh now and then. This lesson is one of the biggest I’ve learned from my Dad. Celebrate your small victories and accomplishments along the way.

Pause, Breathe, Reflect: Use a contemplative process like Pause, Breathe, Reflect, journaling, movement, prayer, and yoga to help you manage your stress.

Above all, give yourself grace.

Until next week, have fun storming the castle!


Also, Next Sunday, my Pause Breathe Reflect Merch Store closes and becomes a chrysalis for a couple of months. So, now is your moment to grab your favorite design before everything is gone.

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