Yes, I know I was stark in describing my initial anniversary reactions concerning my father’s transition. I believe you have come to anticipate that from me.
Along with my unbridled support, you have my unfettered permission to speak YOUR truth – at minimum to yourself when you read my words and at its best toward others.
For, I truly hope you have some people around you to provide an empathetic ear to yourRAW parental accounts. The unvarnished version (like mine) is not easy to hear. I know.
Bottom-line, you need places where you can honor what’s right by YOU in safety, trust and personal integrity. You absolutely require – and deserve – this!!
We’re not at the end of the story.
It’s a matter of sequence.
Remember the earlier tenet of “Be, Do, Have”? This one was about embodying your Highest & Best qualities so you can do what’s right by your aging elders and thus experience amongst everyone concerned the kind of parental passage that completes a lifetime.
We’re talking a similar phenomenon at this juncture in the transitional journey.
NOT until you have allowed in ALL your feelings comfortable and uncomfortable – the supposedly “good”, “bad” and “ugly” – can you REALLY arrive at a point of acknowledging the positives you received from that now-gone mother and/or father.
10 Major Lessons
So much has happened between August 26, 2012 and 2013. So much has also been learned across those intervening 365 days it’s astounding.
As a corporate Facilitator for 30-plus years, I’m well familiar with change management theories like those of the amazing William Bridges who offered us in Managing Transitions a 3-part model of Endings, Neutral Zone and New Beginnings. I apply it to this day.
Anyone who studies in the realms of death and dying will have been schooled in the seminal work of Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross. Her name is synonymous with the stages of grieving.
All good stuff!
Naturally, I need to enact this anniversary date in my unique way. If you haven’t already noticed via this Blog, I don’t do much in keeping with society’s strictures!
So, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve compiled a “Carol-Ann’s Top 10 List” based on what I’ve observed and experienced across the past twelve months. In service, here it is:
- It’s OK to feel relief over the passing of an excruciating parent. This one builds on Part 1 of The Anniversary: Memories. If you’re the bona fide child of recalcitrant elders, you won’t necessarily feel sorrow over their “loss” but instead great lament over what “could have been” during your growing-up and adult years.
- “It ain’t over till it’s over.” How simplistic is society. Disbelieving, “they” cannot imagine what’s taking you so “long”!!! Get on with it, man (or woman). What is your problem?? “They” expect to accord you a very-brief mourning period in keeping with limiting belief systems. After that, you should be perfectly alright – no matter how racking your particular reality. I’m here to say, the processes of grieving, coming-to-terms and completion are so individualistic as to defy time-based categorization.
- Recovery is a piece-meal process. “They” actually believe that once the horrid elder is buried, it’s over. Not! Certainly, by the time you put up their house for sale that should be the beginning of the end. Not! Once you come to the last day of the year in which your mother or father died, that should be a real marker of completion. Not! “They” insist that once the parental homestead is sold, all trials should be over. Not! The point is, like parenting itself, you remain “the child” as it regards your elders until death do you part. Is that not so? Of course! There’s no one magical end point to the trauma, much as judgmental others would have it so.
- Healing is akin to the freeze-unfreeze-refreeze model of change management. If I may be permitted some adaptation, one “freezes” in a state of survival to cope with un-cope-able parental disasters. When the trauma appears over, one slowly comes out of an almost-hibernation that we will call “unfreezing”. WELL before one even considers “re-freezing” into a new state, there’s a painful process of confronting all those stored emotions. They didn’t go anywhere; they’re waiting for you to face them when ready. That purely takes time.
- Expect “anniversary reactions”. Concerning this point, I have only to think back to my therapy days, over 30 years ago. I love that one of Jack’s main themes was that we should prepare for all manner of feelings on significant occasions, dramatic and otherwise. The scenario might be positive or negative. It doesn’t matter. What we “should” brace for is a range of emotions. As we inched our way to August 26th, I can certainly attest to experiencing that mixture. It is perfectly natural.
- Joy arrives in small increments at unexpected moments. One of my female friends planted that seed months ago. At the time, I didn’t internalize it. Now, I GET it. There I was, enjoying a leisurely dinner at the Rockefeller Center, NYC on July 24th. All of a sudden, a profound sense of AWE washed over me. It was enough to have me stop mid-fork and snap a photo! In the vein of, “did I just say that out loud?” I burst out internally: “Yes, life is MOST certainly different for you today, Carol-Ann, than it was a year ago.” In 2012, I was meeting the “extreme cleaners” owner for the first time and discussing my father’s condition with his angel-doctor. This year, I was looking forward to meeting with my cherished business mentor as well as my “tribe” to craft the balance of this last five months of 2013. In JOY.
- Always remember who was THERE and not there during that final chapter. I first noticed this phenomenon in corporate Canada, while resigning from only a few workplaces across a 25-year period. During that quarter-century, I clearly identified four categories of people: 1) Those you expect to be present and they are; 2) Those you expect to be present and they are not; 3) Those you project to not be present and they are not; 4) Those you would never think would come forward and they do. Categories 2 and 4 are the most intriguing, given that categories 1 and 3 are predictable. The second is shocking; you’re being given valuable information about whom to include in your inner circles going forward. The fourth encompasses gifts from others, of which I have more to come in a soon-to-be-published Blog.
- Give yourself permission to experience kindness and understanding. If EVER there was a life-chapter when you “should” allow yourself 100% berth to experience extreme self-care (remember that earlier topic?), this is IT. You’re going to be contending with all manner of feelings. No one else around you may “allow” free rein to your sentiments. Who cares?? You need to grant this to yourself. On August 26th, I gave over to my fragility and permitted myself a very-retreated 24 hours so as to get past the date. I suggest you do the same.
- How you comport yourself during the final parental chapter speaks volumes about Who You Really Are. Many in my circles face maternal or paternal transitions. Such is the lot of Baby Boomers whose early or late-World War II parents are leaving this dimension. I notice that some handle the process with aplomb. Others lack dignity; they fully show their narcissism. The latter is unbecoming to the hilt. Either way, the tale will be told upon the son or daughter who does not find the Courage, Strength and Grace to enact those final hours with Dignity.
- You never know when a Miracle will reveal itself out of the blue. Fully believing as I did that all “discoveries” had long ago been unearthed by August 2012 within closets or other recesses, picture my thrilled state when the extreme-team uncovered a treasure trove of unknown photos in April 2013 during the final clean-out. Unbelievable! Those images filled in the blanks of my parents’ courtship plus early married months before my welcome arrival. I had NO idea! In one fell swoop, I “completed” a whole chapter of my history. For, I’d been permitted a rare glimpse into the “ordinary” couple they were.
My comments for now are…
I reiterate it is ESSENTIAL to your ultimate healing to express your reality out loud.
Gosh knows, few in society offer such liberation. Their unhelpful injunctions can be recognized via typical judgments like: “How dare you…” or “You shouldn’t speak of your parents like that…” or “Grow up! It can’t be that bad…” Even a raised eyebrow is enough to give away the distaste of individuals by whom you don’t deserve to be surrounded!
Do NOT internalize their displeasure!! Instead, do as I do. Accord yourself the honor of recognizing what’s right by YOU.