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Posts tagged ‘loss of parent’

Finding Treasure In Inherited Books

I bet you inherited books. Maybe a Bible. Or a series of recipe books. Or maybe like me, you inherited enough books to fill a small library, too many to ever read during your busy life.

What are you to do with them all? I suggest you examine them closely before deciding to haul them to a donation center or library because inside their pages lay buried, priceless treasure.

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Among the books my parents left me was a set of science encyclopedias.

And just like treasure, we must “dig” to collect it.

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When Death Shakes Our Identity

What am I supposed to be? At different times in our lives we may ask this question or versions of it. Our sense of purpose – what am I to be? – is wrapped up in our identity – who am I?

Nothing shakes identity’s foundation more violently than death. We were spouses, but now our mates are gone. We were friends, and then our lifelong BFF dies. Sisters, now without a sis.2018-04-10 00.39.18

Or we were daughters, but now our mommies and daddies are dead, leaving us with a crisis of identity. Or perhaps the feeling that we are orphans. Adult orphans. Lost. Belonging to no one.

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The Only Key We Need

Death strips us all possessions. So it isn’t surprising that, yes, my parents left behind all their keys – a mass of keys that I combed through on the anniversary of Dad’s passing last week.

Door keys. Car keys. Keys to the post office box I still rent. Keys to who knows what. They didn’t take a one with them. They left them to me to sort through and dispose of.parentkeys.jpg

I remember as a child sitting in the back seat of my parents Chevy, playing with a set of their keys. That’s before we had smart phones and television reception to entertain children in cars.

“What’s this one to?” I asked, dangling one key between my thumb and index finger. My mother craned her head to the left, between the seats.

“I don’t know,” she said. My father didn’t know, either.

I thought for sure they’d already approached senility. How could one not know what a key unlocks? I didn’t know then that you can amass so many possessions and so many keys that you lose track of what goes to what. Earlier this summer, my husband and I got out our keys.

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When Anniversaries Attack

I expected a grand attack of grief upon the 10th anniversary of my father’s death, but it passed with a poised emotional response at the cemetery and a handful of flowers.

Not so this time. Next month marks the 12th anniversary of Dad’s death. And the ninth anniversary of Mom’s. And the 1st anniversary I’ll spend without their home, my grieving space.ToniProfilePic

How we respond as each anniversary approaches depends in part on the year, month or week that precedes it. Because grief has a way of meeting us where we are.

Right now, I’m in a season of embarking on new things. Excited, yes. But uncertain, too. We tend to run to anchors during uncertain times. After my widowed mother died, one anchor was her home, the place I grew up. Surrounded by their things, I felt as if my parents were there.

That was comforting. Each death anniversary I’d go to their home and go through their things. As the years passed, I finished the job of cleaning out their home. I sold the house in May.

I’ve got an anchor in God, but I also find myself reaching out for my parents during this uncertainty and change. Their loss is on the front row again. And while I’m not exploding in tears, I feel a sort of ache. The loss of the house has awoken the loss of them.

As we approach death anniversaries, we have four possible singular or combinations paths to take.

We may distract ourselves from grief. We may take on a project or go on a shopping spree or spend time with friends. A certain amount of distraction may be healthy, but we should not allow life to press us so far that we don’t deal with our grief.

We may dedicate time to memorialize our loved one. That’s what I did by going to my parents’ home each anniversary. This year, I need to make a new plan. I think I’ll go to the cemetery, but I’d like to do more to acknowledge the loss. Something meaningful. Honoring.

We may dive in or immerse our day in memory and tears. Setting aside time to grieve is an important part of healing. The only way to get to the other side of grief is to grieve. That may look different each year as our grief evolves and as different seasons of our lives unfold.

We may deny our grief or pretend we’re over the loss. That’s the unhealthy way to handle grief. It will emerge in other ways if we deny it a place in our consciousness. Again, the only way to minimize grief is to fully embrace it first.

So even though it’s been 12 years, I’ll bend to grief again in this new season of my life. I won’t deny it or say, “It’s been a dozen years already. Enough!” I’ll be compassionate with myself. And through that compassion I’ll find new ways to journey through grief.

What do you do when anniversaries attack? What’s your go-to plan? What helps most?

 

Copyright © 2018 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. http://www.tonilepeska.com

 

 

 

Daddy: He’s Everywhere I Go

I was a Daddy’s Girl. I didn’t know it until after he died. A boyfriend told me. You’re a Daddy’s Girl. I guess that means I was close to my dad. So is it any wonder I still feel him near?

This Father’s Day will mark the 12th one without Dad. I don’t expect it to be a happy day, but I expect it to be at least a tolerable one. I love and miss my dad every day, but the edge is off my grief. Most days. But sometimes I again feel the knife turn in my belly. And the tears flow.

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I give a kiss to my dad through the fence.

I think it helps to know he isn’t gone. He’s away. But not gone. He didn’t leave me willingly. And I’ll see him again. It’s like he’s on a trip overseas or to a distant – very distant – star.

I find pieces of my dad like crumbs along a trail. I come along the crumbs accidentally. Last week, I parked my bicycle in the shade to rest, looked up and discovered I was under an elm. Dad loved elms. A crumb may be a song he loved that plays in a store. Or a place I pass.

More recently, I perused a booklet that came with a fancy paint-by-number kit. My mother-in-law purchased the kits for our neighbors, ages 9 and 10, for Christmas. Unable to coordinate my mother-in-law and the kids being over at the house simultaneously, we decided it was time that they opened the gifts. Yes, in June, nearly six months after Christmas.

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When We Wonder, “What’s Next?”

I feel like a cook tasked with making a stew of two dozen ingredients from a recipe I’ve never seen, and I’m a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with a new task? Do you ever wonder where to start? Which direction to go? Where to put your energy first?

“What’s next?” may be a question we ask repeatedly during our grief journey. We probably ask it after the funeral. We may ask it later, after our grief has changed us,  but we’re still recreating ourselves. Or we may ask it after we’re finished sorting through the belongings of our loved one.

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Where to next? Don’t we wish our pathway was laid out as clearly as this trail?

After selling my parents’ home three weeks ago and saying my goodbyes, I was enthused by the idea of paring down belongings at my own home and devoting more time to writing projects. But I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’m bogged down. So much to do. So little me.

I should feel excited. I want to be excited. Instead, I am trying to peel carrots, sear chunks of beef, unwrap bouillon cubes and answer a ringing phone. I’m trying to make something deliciously wonderful out of a lot of moving parts. Where do I start?

I’m going to unpack four suggestions here. What might yours be?

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Resilience: Growing Beyond the Barb

I hiked up the hill of the pasture with a destination in mind. Nearly two decades earlier, I had taken the same route after losing the man I loved. He’d abandoned me for another woman.

For as long as I remember, my parents’ pasture has been my go-to place when grieved or troubled. It was a refuge. A place to find peace, even before I became acquainted with God.Barb1

Losing Our Safe Place

What is your go-to space? A city rooftop? A quiet room? A park bench by a lake? Or maybe it is a person. Grandmother. Sister. Or the warm arms of your husband. What if that place is lost? Where do you go to find strength, encouragement and love after that?

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Inheritance: How to Stem Conflicts

No two people could be as different as my brother and me, but even if siblings share a lot of similarities, the death of their parents and dividing of an estate can be a wedge between them.

I’ve heard numerous stories about money and possessions segregating families into warring factions. Accusations fly like nuclear missiles, and the devastation lasts a lifetime.ToniProfilePic

At the end of this post, I’ll provide tips to help others grease the task of dispersing an inheritance, but first allow me to share my story. I learned a little from being the executrix of my parents’ estate, but the two primary reasons it was mostly hassle-free weren’t things I put in place. You could say my brother made it easy for me.

He lacked an attachment to the family and to the household property. And he was a resident in a Florida prison.

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The Biggest Factor to Heal Grief

What is the single biggest component of finding healing within grief, besides expressing it?

Embracing the new.

Inviting what’s next into our lives.

Believing we can love and laugh again.

Today is the first day of spring. I hadn’t noticed until I received a life-changing phone text this afternoon, and then I realized the irony.

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The daffodils outside my parents’ home have bloomed every year since my family bought the property in 1973.

A real estate agent sent me a text about my parents’ home:

“Just sent full price offer in.”

The house where both my parents died, the house I’ve spent eight years cleaning out, has been listed for sale only four days.

It’s a mobile home enclosed by conventional roof and walls, and it sits on a beautiful treed 13-acre lot. The floors sag. The ceiling sag. The cellar fills with water.

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The Grief of the Other Mother

I wonder if my mother was beautiful. I wonder if we shared the same hair color. If her eyes were blue. If she grinned when she held me. If she held me. I wonder if she thinks of me.

Surely she must think of me. At least on my birthday.MomWithBaby

These are things normal daughters don’t have to wonder. But I’ve wondered these things all my life. Now I wonder if my mother is dead.

I was adopted. I don’t go around thinking about it a lot, but recently USA Today published an article by Betsy Brenner on its front page. She was adopted in the 1950s, a decade before me. She was 14 when her adoptive mother died and a new, emotionally-distant stepmother was insufficient to fill the void within her. Eventually, she sought out a meeting with her biological mother through an intermediary but was denied. By the time her state’s adoption records were open later, Brenner’s biological mother was dead.

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