Hello friends,

 

I need some advice. My Mom has made/asked some puzzling comments/questions since my Dad died. I would like to know if any others feel or felt this way.

 

{{A little background: My Dad died May 7, 2011 from brain cancer. He was 69. He was diagnosed with this beast in September 2009. He had radiation and chemo treatments. His first 12 months he suffered the side effects of the chemo only. He survived his initial diagnosis many months longer than the doctors expected. His decline started in January of this year with the discovery of two additional areas of cancer. At the end of March, he suffered a major seizure resulting in a several day hospital stay. At the end of April his doctors referred him to hospice. Thirteen days later, he was gone. During the entire span of his fight, Mom (who is 71) was his sole caregiver. She rarely asked anyone to help out in anyway. Most times we (my brother or I) or close friends would have to show up and offer in person to help. Another fact: my parents had been married 52 years.}}

 

One of the behaviors that concerns me is her repeated requests about what to do with Dad's stuff. The evening after my Dad's life celebration, she asked if I thought she should get Dad's clothes out of the closet. I told her no - very strongly. I told her that she didn't have to anything with Dad's stuff if she so choose. I also stated that no matter who it was - me, my brother or anyone - it was her decision alone as to decide what and when to do whatever with Dad's stuff. Since then, she's made mention several times about not being able to remove his items, that it was just too hard for her to part with them. Each time I re-inforce my opinion that she has sole control of what she does with his items.

 

Yesterday she made the comment that she has a hard time looking at his items - clothes, recliner, dresser, etc. I understand to an extent that it would be hard for me to constantly see my husbands things if he were to die. I also feel this is an underlying reason to her many referrals as to what to do with his stuff. Another thought I've had is that maybe she is feeling pressure from 'society' to get rid of the past and move on with her life. No matter what she decides, I'll support her - and I tell her so - as long she is not endangering herself or others.

 

Most of her other behaviors seem to be inline with what I've read here or what I've researched. She gets irate or agitated at life then in the next breath feel inadequate to deal with her loss. I've tried to reassure her that she can cry anytime she wants or needs or that she can scream and yell if that's what she needs. Regardless of what 'society' says she should or shouldn't do, I try to empower her with the knowledge that her mourning is just that - her mourning. She tells me she knows that but I sense a war in her between her mind (knowing) and her heart (feeling).

I feel like I was rambling here but I hope I got my question across - is her preoccupation with my Dad's things 'normal'? Is there anything else I can say or do to help empower her?

 

Logistically I can't stop by in person to see her. I live a 4 hour drive from her and have a disabled child. My brother (an outside salesman) is a little closer, 3 hours. He and his wife have been going over a couple of times per week when their schedules allow.

 

I appreciate your reading this post. I look forward to reading your responses...

 

Pam

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Hi Pam,

First let me say how sorry I am about the loss of your father.  I know exactly what your mom is going through.  Every time I looked at my husband's things, it felt like a knife going through my heart all over again. He died on May 7, 2010 at the age of 59.  We had been together since I was 15 and he was 18. Within 2 months of the loss of my husband, I gave away most of his clothing and his sports memorabilia to family (his favorite was University of Michigan and Detroit Tiger stuff).  They were so delighted to have a part of him.

 

Do you think that maybe your mom wants you and your brother to do it for her because it is too painful for her? To take what you want and then give the rest to Good Will or Purple Heart?  That's what I did with the remainder of the clothing.  Give your mom my condolences...

Your Mom sounds like she is asking for help but can not bring herself to ask outright. I realize that you can not be there but perhaps you can talk to your siblings and have them ask Mom if she wants help dealing with your Dad's stuff. I know you know how bad she is hurting. She does not appear to want to make these decisions alone. She was used to having a partner and now making her own decisions hurts like nobody's business. Having you and your siblings help with the process may exactly be her decision even though she can not bring herself to say it outright.

Thank you for your kind words and responses.

 

In the back of my mind the thought did occur to me that Mom doesn't want to remove Dad's things on her own. I haven't asked her point blank on this but I will when the time is right.

 

Right now she is under the impression that she can't remove anything (hers or his) until she goes through probate. My parents had their wills created shortly after Dad's diagnosis. She has an appointment with 2 different attorneys for this week to get this clarified. We have been told that she does have to go through probate and we have been told that she doesn't as the estate isn't above a certain threshold. Both answers came from non-attorneys. Both answerers are non-attorneys but professionals in thier fields.

 

I tried to research this issue on the net - but my legalese is very limited. I did encourage her to keep both appointments with both attornys and compare what she is told. They live in a community property state. I don't know if that would have bearing on the probate issue or not.

 

In any case, she is still very vulnerable - emotionally - and I'm trying my best to keep this in my mind when I talk to her.

 

I'm very thankful that she is not a stranger to handling her finances. She did all the finances when my Dad was still working. He retired in 1999. She worked their monies well enough then to get them out of debt. She is also very good about asking for further explanation for anything she doesn't understand. She also seeks out more than one source to find her own truth - I'm very, very thankful of that.

 

Thank you all again for your help - I appreciate your time and advice.

My sincerest condolences to you in your time...

Pam

Pam,

I am so sorry for the loss of your dad. You are an amazing daughter for taking the time to search out help for your mom.

The one thing new widows/widowers are told is NOT to make any important decisions for the first year.  I believe these to be true words of wisdom.  We are not thinking clearly...we are living in a fog and our thoughts and emotions can change from minute to minute.  Seeing your father's things may be troubling one minute, but so much comfort the next.  If mom does feel the true need to have dad's things removed maybe it would be a good idea just to store them so that she may go through them at a later date when she is feeling stronger and has had a chance to adjust to her new life.  If she eliminates things now, she may regret it later, at least if everything is in storage she will have a chance to have a change of heart and not have any regrets. 

When you have spent more than half of your life with someone and all of a sudden they are gone it is so hard to get your bearings and figure out what your new life should be.  Please let mom know everything she is feeling is "normal" and she is not alone.  Have you offered her this site?  She may find comfort in reading and sharing with us because we all understand what she is going through.

Blessings to you and your family...wishing you all peace and comfort through this difficult time.

Pam,

you have to be a very nice person to be so concerned about your Mom.I am just beginning to realiize how much the death of your spouse changes you and your life.And this is after 10 months.I keep saying I should pack up my husbands things,but I can't do it.I asked my dauchter the other day if she would help me and she said "of course",but I think I will just put things in boxes and store them in the house as I can't give them away,Maybe a few shirts,Most every thing execpt clothing was ours together,so those I keep.

Your mom,I think is in a place of confusion and decissions don't come easilly.There are times I decide to do something,then just freeze and can't do it.I can't be at gatherings with people I don't know.Most days the safest place is my house,so I stay home.I'm not sure your Mom is ready for advise,but be there to listen and don't make assumptions or judgements.I can't tell you how many changes will occur,but some good advise I got was "don't make any major decissions for at leats a year".Let things settle oot and be there when she needs you.She is lucky to have such a caring person to be there for her.

Pam,

you have to be a very nice person to be so concerned about your Mom.I am just beginning to realiize how much the death of your spouse changes you and your life.And this is after 10 months.I keep saying I should pack up my husbands things,but I can't do it.I asked my dauchter the other day if she would help me and she said "of course",but I think I will just put things in boxes and store them in the house as I can't give them away,Maybe a few shirts,Most every thing execpt clothing was ours together,so those I keep.

Your mom,I think is in a place of confusion and decissions don't come easilly.There are times I decide to do something,then just freeze and can't do it.I can't be at gatherings with people I don't know.Most days the safest place is my house,so I stay home.I'm not sure your Mom is ready for advise,but be there to listen and don't make assumptions or judgements.I can't tell you how many changes will occur,but some good advise I got was "don't make any major decissions for at leats a year".Let things settle oot and be there when she needs you.She is lucky to have such a caring person to be there for her.

Pam,  what your Mother is going through is normal.  She (like me) is probably having trouble making decisions.  I have not gotten rid of my husbands' things.  Sometimes I just stand at the closet and look at his things. 

 

The one thing I did do was with his PJ's.  Neal never wore PJ's until he got sick.  Each of his Pj's had a meaning. I found a lady in Florida that makes Teddy Bears out of clothing.  So I sent 6 pairs of his PJ's to her and she has made me 6 Teddy Bears out of them.  One pair was UNC, so it goes to my youngest son (that is his favorite basketball team), one was AC/DC and it goes to my oldest son (that is his favorite band), one pair is hunting and goes to my oldest grandson (he was Neals hunting partner), one pair had games on it and goes to my middle grandson (he was always telling Neal jokes), one pair had punpkins on it and goes to my youngest grandson (he got them for him for Halloween) and the last pair said "I am nuts about you" and that is my bear.

 

Neals birthday is June 12th and I plan to give the Teddy Bears to them on his birthday. 

 

You can still help your Mother even though you live 4 hours away.  Just call her often and let her know she can talk with you about anything or nothing.  It is so good to have that.  I don't have anyone I can be completely myself with, so I come to this site which has been very good for me.

 

Make sure that your Mother sees an attorney to get the right answers to things so she does not have to redo anything that someone has told her wrong about.

 

I know I have rambled, but I hope this helps a little.  My thoughts will be with you and your family.

Dear Pam,

I just wanted to say that while I don't know how to advise you but for me, I am not going to give my husband's things away and all his clothes are staying right where they are for as long as I need them to be there.  Some may not realize this but unless they have lost a spouse themselves (I'm talking about my sis-in-law) they have no idea what it feels like and this person who I know and love has told me that she only kept 3 articles of clothing from her father.  A parent's death is not the same thing as a spouse losing the one they were with (for me) it was 39 years.  I am really impressed that you have such insight and understanding about what your Mother is going through.  You are doing and saying all the right things to her.  For me I want to keep everything that my husband owned, but there are times when I look at them and burst into tears because as you may know grief comes in waves, and each new day brings with it a myriad of emotions.   It's anger for one or more days and then no crying at all, and then confusion and for a while I think I'm making progress and then boom, back to memories that pop into my mind when Danny was well and I'm crying for hours at a time.  My husband passed away more than 16 months ago, so maybe this is what's happening with your Mother, maybe not.  I wish you and your Mom and family well.  I think you are doing the best you can for her.  I am so sorry for all you and your family are going through. 

God bless,

Suzanne

   Hi,you need to find out if your Mom needs physical help with your Dads belongings,or emotional help. Let her decide what will stay or go. My wifes things are in the same place they were 15 months ago,and I am not sure when or if I will give them away . My wifes Aunt passed away a few months ago and her children had to just about discard everthing she owned in a week since she lived in an apartment that had to be vacated by the end of the month. I know you  just lost a parent, I lost my Dad many years ago and my Mom 4 months ago,but I can tell you losing a spouse hits much harder. I was close to my Dad,worked with him,and  close with my Mom,but did nbot live with them since I was a kid. Being in the house alone is when it hits the hardest,but it is where  I want to be. If it makes her fell comfortable to wait for the will to be probated,let her wait. It will give her more time to make up her mind about what she wants to do with your Dads things. Regards,Jerry.

Pam, you are a special daughter to be so concerned about your mother.  Eight months after my husband died I moved close to one of my daughters.  That's when I finally had to do something with Jim's things.  I still was not ready to let them go.  So I packed them up, they moved with me and the boxes are neatly stacked in the basement. I didn't have any help and I cried the whole time I was packing them.  But now I know I can go and look at his shirts, jeans, all his special "things" whenever I want.  Since they are out of the way I'll probably never get rid of them.  When I did pack his things, I really wanted to be alone.  I don't like to cry in front of others. A few tears maybe but not bawling like I did then.  But still it was therapeutic and I still have everything.  Everyone does things at their own time and speed.  I also worried about when to get rid of Jim's things and kept asking people.  Some don't mind seeing them in the same place and others do.  It's not been that long since your father passed.  She's probably still in some sort of shock. Just give her time and let her know you'll be there to help her any time she's ready.

My heart goes out to you and your mother.  Joan

Thank you everyone for your replies, encouragement and advice. I so appreciate your time and concern. I have passed on as much information as I can to Mom. Sometimes I felt I needed to wait for her to open the door and that instinct proved the right path. She was more open to what I offered.

 

In addition to helping my Mom in any way I can, I'm also seeking help for me. I've connected with my local Hospice for counseling. I had my first session last week and today was Art Therapy day. We created a collage then talked about it with the group. It was so inspiring and uplifting. I feel strange saying that but this is what I got out of the experience.

 

From my son's early days, I learned really fast that those that had 'been there, done that' were the best source of practical advice in dealing and healing with life's chaotic presentation. I thank you for letting me vent and ask questions. You all have opened my eyes and my mind to the new 'reality' my Mom is having to face.

 

Sending prayers and hugs,

Pam

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