The Flickering Light – Moving On
Again, in circumstances of the tragic loss of life and of young lives, this is a very different situation. When someone is old and sick and dies, it is not easy, but more acceptable to be OK with moving on. We all know the first year to 13 months is the most critical for the living. It is all about getting through the first birthday and holidays and seasons without the person. The second anniversaries are a little less painful, but will always retain some semblance of sadness and even regrets and frustrations.
For those caregivers who devoted their lives to the one who died, the suddenness of not having those same obligations and restrictions on their life will be shocking. One day things are as they progressively became and the next, none of that is needed any more. Care givers need the opportunity to decompress and reprogram their lives and energy and reclaim themselves. After months and years of watching and tending to someone who gradually dies before you, it would not be normal to not feel some sense of loss and abandonment and need for structure again.
A year after Fred died, we were still thinking we could hear him or caught ourselves getting ready to ask about him or to run check on him. This is fading over time and as my parents have now been able to go and do things freely they could not before, it has given them their lives back. Caring for him sure took a lot out of them, but now that he is gone, they have no regrets for doing the right thing in the right way. But, make no mistake about it they are relieved to no longer have that burden on them at their ages – and rightfully so.
For my mother-in-law, her resetting will take more time. She has cared for her husband for almost two decades and watched the slow decline and increased isolation that came with my father-in-law’s very steady yet gradual failing. Only when certain he was OK with me being there would she leave the house and take some time for herself. She, too, needs a life and deserves the joy of retirement and being a grandmother and still being a vibrant, engaging woman. This is what we will work to ensure she finds again and on her terms for her new life.