Letting go is a process that begins long before someone passes.
So often when we talk of someone “letting go” we are talking about their dying. But there are many stages that our seniors and family caregivers go through before this final one.
It takes courage on the part of your elder and yourself to be honest about when it is time to change a life plan. It is hard and painful to face the reality of physical health changes, both yours and theirs. It is difficult to admit when the mind is willing, but the body is not able to keep up with life as we know it.
I can see mom is exhausted with not feeling 100% and unable to see like she used to, so we have started to talk about the when and how of moving her out of her home of 64 years. I hate that we must have these conversations. I feel guilty that she will not leave her home “feet first” as she always intended. But we both know it is the right time to start planning and I am grateful that she is willing to be a part of the process with me.
As you know, I believe that honest, intentional conversations that give control to your elder are the key to a healthy relationship. When I shared that my health was declining with the stress of keeping her at home while trying to manage my home and work, she immediately said, “Your health is not worth it.” I am so grateful for her understanding, but I also know even though the reason for coming up with a new life plan is a valid one, this is hard on her.
What I did not expect was the window which opened for us to discuss topics she had been unwilling to talk about before. It comes about while we are making new plans and happens organically. During our planning a door opens allowing me to ask a simple question like, “Do you want a funeral mass?” The gift is that I now have a clear idea of how she wants to be remembered.
As we go through treasured items in the house, I am getting the story behind them. Some are fun, like how her “good” china came to us. It turns out she and a neighbor went to the local movie house every Wednesday for the matinee and received a full place setting. I often wondered why we have such a large set of dishes that only came out for Thanksgiving for 30 people! It turned into a fun conversation about the movies they had seen and the neighbor who has long since passed. Others have wonderful memories of mom and dad’s 25th and 50th anniversary celebrations.
The gift in going through her treasures is that she has agreed to give away things now and not wait until she passes. A beloved niece is going to take the gorgeous Lennox nativity set that we have not displayed since dad died. Unknown to us, this niece collects nativity creches and “was honored” to have mom bequeath it to her. Another who is a tea drinker will get the teapot and cups that have sat proudly in mom’s china cabinet for years. In slowly going through the collections of her life, mom gets to process her legacy and I get to hear wonderful stories. When family and friends visit they get to hear the history of the pieces they bring home.
Letting go in life often happens in bits and pieces, but sometimes it happens on a larger scale in ways we did not anticipate. Either way, it takes courage. I am proud of mom and proud to help her navigate this latest transition.
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.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.” This book explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems. Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.