I would well understand if you imagined my father’s passing on August 26, 2012 also marked the completion of my own transitions process. Unfortunately, the answer is by no means.
For certain, the desire to rush through the next phase in William Bridges’ Transitions Model is typically North American. In our fervent (almost hyper) quest to get on with it, we want nothing more than to avoid the “squishiness” of the Neutral Zone.
Yet, as poet Robert Frost famously remarked: “The best way out is through”. Nowhere is his sentiment more pertinent than the navigation of the uncomfortable middle ground of eldercare.
Once again, let’s examine this second stage from two perspectives.
The Caregiver Neutral Zone
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop in the throes of the eldercare marathon. I believe I “see” a lot of hands in the air. Only too well do I recall the growing numbers of calls at all hours (morning, noon and night) at the height of my despair. My father was manifesting crisis after crisis. He was not yet hospitalized but the “end” was rapidly arriving. The constancy of bracing for the next emergency was taking its toll.
The Parental Neutral Zone
At the time, I didn’t realize what was happening from my Dad’s viewpoint. Today, I do. Whereas I used to take his belligerent behaviors very personally, I now realize the unknown was beckoning. Within, he was secretly aware of his increasing incapacity. I’m sure he deeply resented and feared it. Bottom line, he was afraid of dying. On the other hand, he was kind of waiting to rejoin my mother in another dimension. He was between worlds.
Three Questions to Ask Yourself
From Bridges’ book Managing Transitions here are three introspective questions to promote your progress through the Neutral Zone. What temporary structures or routines can you put in place? What short-term goals can you achieve? Much feels uncontrollable at present… How will you honor yourself? You know how easy it would be to beat up on yourself for all you’re supposedly not doing for your Un-cope-able Parents.
My Story Continued
Yes, the Neutral Zone can be extremely trying. Some aspects have definitely concluded. Flickers of a New Beginning reveal themselves. However, they don’t stay long.
William Bridges aptly compares this second stage to a swamp – dank and murky on the surface but teaming with life underneath. If we can tolerate the ambiguity, much potential for creativity exists here. I echo his sentiments.
For, it was during this limbo-land that I generated some of my most out-of-the-box solutions to thorny parental issues. To read about them, stay tuned for my upcoming book Coping with Un-cope-able Systems: ADVOCACY for Eldercare.
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