Monday, February 8, 2021

In Grief: Bombarded with Disasters

[Reviewed and updated August 28, 2022]

You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.   ~ Timber Hawkeye

A reader writes: My only sister, who was 3 years older than me, died two months ago. She was alone in her home at the time, and was not found until three days later. My brother and I live in another state. We had not heard from our sister for a few days and called the police. They went to her home and found her in the hallway. She apparently died from a heart attack. She was 60 years old. We flew to her home town and buried her a week later.

She was in the rental business and had 19 rental homes plus her own. Now I must liquidate all her properties. But it's such a mess. She owes a lot of money and I think the assets will be less than the liabilities. I had to hire an attorney to take over this mess. She also had 15 cats and 2 dogs, the humane society had to come into the house and remove them. She loved her animals, but there was no other solution.

It's like I'm dealing with two different people. The sister I love and a stranger. I could only stay there for 10 days and needed to return to take care of her personal home and belongings.

My personal life has many problems at the moment. Just before my sister's death, my husband and I sold our business, bought another house and had plans to move to another state for retirement. So now I must pack, sell this current house, move into the new home (800 miles away), close out the paper work on the business, take care of my sister's stuff and now next week I must have surgery on my hands for carpel tunnel. And let's not forget the heavy snow that led to a leak in our roof. We had minor damage, no one to fix it for 10 days, just another set of problems to solve.

Seems like every time I turn around more new problems are there to be solved before I can solve any of the other ones. I'm so overwhelmed with it all. I try and take one step at a time, but help.

My response: I’m so very sorry to learn of your sister’s untimely death, as well as the firestorm of difficulties you’ve encountered in the wake of this sudden and unexpected loss. You must feel like a lost ship at sea, battered by one devastating storm after another.

One of the most maddening things about grief, I think, is that real life keeps happening all around us, regardless of the fact that we are grieving. Couldn't the world just stop or slow down for a little while, so at least we could catch our breath?!

Your story reminded me of a wonderful piece by Marta Felber in her book Grief Expressed When a Mate Dies, entitled Help! I'm Being Bombarded! which I want to share with you and others who may be reading this:

Disasters Hit All at Once

The gas serviceman found a leak and said, “You’ll have to dig up the line from the tank to the house.” . . . My lawyer called and asked for two more documents, and I could not find either one . . . The painter was coming to stain the deck the next day and the loose boards had not been repaired . . . When I discovered the ceiling tile coming down in the kitchen, indicating a leak above, I heard myself screaming, “I can’t take it! It’s too much! I give up!” I sobbed and sobbed.

When Disasters Strike I Can

Cry until I feel the tension go.

Find a physical outlet: pound a pillow, slam the bathtub with a towel, or go for a brisk walk.

Call a good friend and unload.

Back up and handle (or choose not to handle) each thing in turn. Make a list of what needs to be done. This puts me back in control.

Contact a logical person for each problem for advice and / or action.

Get away, even if it is only for a few hours.

Keep on top of each thing that happens as soon as possible.

Put the local and world disasters next to mine, providing perspective.

Summary Statement: I can stockpile strength during the periods of calm. I will also use those times to do my “To Do” lists . . . Bad times will come again. But when they do, I will share/release my frustrations and get specific help as soon as possible. These feelings of powerlessness will not last forever.

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Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

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