"You need to keep busy." I hear this a lot. It might be totally appropriate for elderly people who are totally alone and have few interests. As for me, I am overwhelmed with busy.
To start off with, I am operating at about 25% capacity (a generous estimate.) My energy resources are at an all time low. When I can sleep, it is not restful. I feel completely overwhelmed by the routine, not to mention all the non-routine that accompanies death of a spouse. I am drained and exhausted - both emotionally and physically. Plus there is so much extra "stuff" that comes with losing a spouse.
The first week was all about notifying people and planning the services. I had company for the entire first month, as family stayed with me. They didn't want me to be alone and were a tremendous help. Fortunately, neighbors and friends did ALL the cooking that entire time.
After that it was mop up. Plus doing all my daily chores and Doug's. Trying to figure out where Doug put things. Trying to find things I lost in my distraction. Fixing broken stuff (some of which I broke while Doing a Doug). Caring for the animals. Mowing the lawn. Taking out the trash. Etc etc etc.
Trying to help figure out what happened to Doug. Contacting doctors and sources of health records. Gathering all the medical background information for the Medical Examiner conducting the autopsy so she can draw an informed conclusion.
Trying to find time to go to the doctor myself to deal with the things associated with the stress I'm under - a retina that I thought was detaching (from crying and rubbing my eyes so much), a weird rash that showed up that I thought was shingles, etc.
Meeting with the lawyer. Accountant. Trying to sort out my changed financial circumstances and what I can cut. Paying bills. Probate court - filing, getting a fidicuary letter of trust, pulling together a list of all our assets and liabilities. Forms and paperwork. Getting death certificates. Filing claims for death benefits. Changing beneficiary forms. Canceling his van pool. Trying to figure out what to do with Doug's stuff.
Reading the amazing cards, letters and emails. Getting back to people who have taken the time to offer sympathy and support and who ask how I am doing. Following up with people. Phone calls. Visits. It's been 6 weeks and I have only written one set of thank you notes so far. (Feeling guilty about that, which saps my strength even more.)
The Zflix film festival. Helping to organize it, select the films, introduce them, get the word out. (This was one thing that was actually fun and a nice, positive distraction.)
Volunteer work. I volunteer for eight different organizations. I needed to end the weekly newspaper column I wrote for years. It is just not a priority now. I'm doing this website instead as I process everything.
The website involves putting up photos, videos and info for others in the midst of grieving now, including family, friends and colleagues. Doing a blog that answers the "how are you" question. Posting info to sort through my own thoughts and maybe even help others going through something similar. Working with LifeChoice to write an article about Doug's gift of life (tissue donation.) I don't HAVE to do this. It is something I want and NEED to do - a healing ritual.
Work work. I work part-time for a non-profit research and development organization out in Washington State. My obligations there are backing up. We own five rental properties - two houses and five condos. Two of them were turned over to new tenants in the first few weeks so there were repairs and cleanup. Family pitched in whole-heartedly with that. I do website design and maintenance for non-profits and small businesses on the side, and can't leave my customers in the lurch.
Trying to hire people to do all the things Doug used to do. Trying to get contractors to call me back. Trying to get the back room Doug was working on off of jacks and onto sills and buttoned up (a great success, thanks for family and friends.) Figuring out how to keep This Old House.
Other stuff associated with life going on around me.
In the midst of all that, I am mourning. Missing Doug almost every minute of every day. Trying to figure out how to go on. The effort that goes into trying to keep from crying in public places and trying to hide how awful I look and how crazy my thoughts are.
I am busier than I can handle right now. I need HELP with all this "stuff." Even though my head is in a fog, I need to figure out how to SIMPLIFY my life so I am LESS busy. So I can do more of the things that HELP - like getting my life back into manageable shape and going for a walk.
I am living in overwhelm.
I THINK what people really mean when they say "You need to keep busy" is this:
A wise person told me that "Be sure to rest when you can. Sometimes it’s stillness that can restore our strength to pick up and go on for yet one more day."
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