I am struggling right now to reconcile deep grief with great joy.
In this struggle, I don’t know how to feel. Often, I just feel numb.
In the last six weeks, I’ve been to four wakes and two funerals. It started with the death of my uncle, Dad’s brother, who lived in Florida. He was ill so it wasn’t a complete surprise. Nevertheless, no one in the family was able to make it to his memorial service.
The second uncle who died was my father’s brother as well. This was a surprise. Although he had been ill, he was doing much better and we were thankful for his recovery. Like so many of our elders, though, a fall sent him down a path from which he was unable to recover.
A week later, I was at two wakes in one day; one for the relative of a dear friend and the other, my mom’s neighbor. The next weekend, it was the wake and funeral for my cousin. I’m still reeling.
During these same six weeks, I’ve had some of the most satisfying moments of my career. I published my book and helped to bring an educational, fun and successful caregiving conference to New Jersey. I’m proud of these accomplishments. But it is hard to be in a place of joy with all the losses. The mix of emotions I feel are hard to process and reconcile. It’s exhausting to live a ‘normal’ life amidst all the turmoil.
Here is the perfect example of what I mean.
We knew the end was coming for our beloved cousin on hospice. I felt like such a horrible person, thinking “Please don’t die and make me have to choose between the funeral and attending the conference I helped bring to NJ.” But the struggle was real. Neither decision – to go to the services or to attend the conference – was a good one. As so often happens in caregiving, I felt forced to make a choice between two crappy options. No matter what I decided it wasn’t going to feel good and I would have to live with it.
Then we get the call he has died. For eight hours I was working under the assumption that the funeral would be the day of the conference. When I reached out to a dear friend, one of my caregiving support peeps, she offered to take Mom to the funeral on Saturday. I burst into tears. When I called Mom and told her he had died and what the plans were, the first words out of her mouth were, “You can’t go, you have to be at the conference.” I burst into tears.
In the end, the services did not conflict with my other commitments. I am grateful I was able to do both and even more grateful I didn’t have to make a choice. But the range of emotions in that eight-hour stretch got me thinking. How often in our caregiving journey we are faced with a decision where both choices seem awful? How often are we faced with feelings of sorrow and joy at the same time on this journey?
I do know that what helped at my uncle’s wake was hearing that we will have a new baby in the family in the Spring. I know that the unconditional support of my friend and my mom is one that will live with me forever. I am grateful that being at my cousin’s wake with family was healing for all of us.
I don’t have an answer for how to process everything that has gone on in the last six weeks. I’m still working on it. I don’t have an answer for how to reconcile the sorrow we feel with the joy we still find in our lives. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.