Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The Bubbles

The following is a post on what may become a series.  If you have been through a death of a parent, consider this what the young'uns call a 'trigger warning' as it deals with the raw emotions of an unexpected death which includes cursing and not holding back my feelings about my experience.  If you are new here and want to see the posts leading up to this one, you can start with posts on July 7th and go forward.


If you aren't well versed in illness whether acute, chronic or terminal, let me introduce you to the 'bubbles.'  Bubbles are what the Mr and I refer to as this suspended element of time you enter when someone is in the hospital, an illness or death has occurred.  You begin a myriad of emotions that, depending on why you're there, can range from hope, panic, relief, numbness, denial, happiness and every emotion in between.  You are putting on your game face for those around you and the person you're there for.  You're trying to be everything everyone else needs while potentially ignoring your own.  Time can speed or stretch seemingly endlessly in the bubble you're in depending on what's being thrown at you.  Your own life ceases to be your own because something stupid like dishes or cleaning are not remotely on your priority list.  You will need to still work but good luck, as your brain will likely check out.  I wouldn't be making any big decisions or would delegate anything needing intense concentration to someone else, if possible.

You spend your mornings/day doing your work, then go to the hospital if you're in the illness bubble.  You try to prepare yourself by doing research, preparing for what you may see only to have seemingly a million other things pop up for you to deal with, advocate for or process to see if you need to pivot plans.  After you spend potentially hours there (or at home if you have home health care) and you tuck the person into bed for the night, you make the drive home.  No one else knows except you and the people in that room.  I likened that drive home to unplugging the oil pan in your car and letting the day just drain out of you all over the place.  You're in this zombie survival mode and you decide you can either make dinner but likely not so you grab whatever is open whether it's 8-10pm or even midnight snarfing a pizza trying to numb the day away only to start the process all over the next day.

The only thing worse than that illness bubble that may have given you hope is when it turns to end of life bubble and you're clinging to every moment with the person.  That moment when the machines are no longer going to treat her and they turn them off for comfort care.  There is no more deafening silence in this world.  I cannot prepare you for that enough.  It takes your breath away.  You don't realize how much you depend on those sounds and alarms to give you hope.  When they're no longer monitoring a person because it's now end of life care, it feels like you gave up on them even if that's what the directives called for.  You question yourself.  You plead with the doctors "are you sure we've done everything?!"  You look for the adult in the room whether you're 25, 45 or 65 because isn't someone else supposed to handle this adult stuff?  No're the adult and it f*cking sucks and then you know your next step is the death bubble.

When the death happens and you say your final goodbyes before the funeral home gets ahold of them, you're in a walking coma.  There's just no better term for that.  There are calls to be made for their bills and finances, social security, retirement, etc.  The poor woman at the social security office who said "to verify this is for the death of so and so born X and died X" and I burst into tears and said "yes.  Sorry, it's the first time I've heard that."  It's not your job to stifle your emotions for other people's comfort and if you burst into tears or find yourself in hardened task mode or a mix of the approach is any better or worse than another.  When those calls are done, then it's time for the mass email/social media post/phone calls, etc which is draining on its own but at least you're done!  

Now you have the funeral bubble if you were unable to do a pre-need situation.  They want to get them in and out as quick as possible which means it's all on you (or the executor if that's not you) to give them a grand send off.  But your person just I have to plan this shindig and make sure that it both honors them, comforts others and includes enough people in pictures on memory boards and slideshows that people don't get hurt feelings!?  Yep!  Doesn't that sound like fun?  Nope.  Not at all.  You have to call the cemetery and buy the plot, make all of the arrangements, etc.  We took care of that before she passed but it still sucked and felt wrong.  Then planning the service at whatever funeral home.  Let me just tell you this...yes, shop around but don't go for the lowest priced one.  You'll regret it.  Hopefully they told you their wishes because if they didn't, now you have a seriously major choice to make and hope you don't get it wrong.  We were lucky that mom made her wishes known about a year ago and it was a completely different direction than she'd wanted most of her life.  Will you go with burial?  Embalming for an open casket followed by cremation later?  Cremation from the get go?  Then here...pick out the memory cards and what you want it to say (I chose the Afterglow poem which suited her perfectly), the flowers for the casket, and what urn we'd get.  All of which we got zero guidance on from the putz that was at the chosen funeral home.  So you'd better have your chit together before going in there and look for little extras hidden that they might not tell you about like being able to witness the cremation.  I thanked the Mr for seeing that and had him redo the paperwork to include it because I'll be damned if I wasn't sending her off without me there.  I don't know if it's being a bigger person and wanting to make sure your loved one is sent off with dignity or what but nope, she wasn't going to be a number or a job that day.  Get your pearls ready to be clutched when they tell you prices too.  For her urn to be interred with her mother in the ground with use of the chapel for a short ceremony and a bronze headstone with pictures (the most expensive one), was $7200.  I looked at the POA then looked at the cemetery dude and I said 'y'all know you're not getting a whole body, right???"  which broke the tension of the moment with a hearty laugh from all.  If you think that's bad, add on a 3 hour visitation with rental of the casket for it and then cremation a few days later.  for $6000.  So just over $13K to not even have a full body burial.  Don't forget that it'll take at least 6 months in most cases to get in the headstone so you may choose to do what I did and get a temporary grave marker that is more than just a blank spot of dirt or a stake with their name on it.

If you get through all of that and the interment ceremony and whatever follows then you go into the post death bubble.  The one that can be the hardest.  Its when the emails, texts and phone calls checking on you fade.  When people don't know what more to say than they've already said or don't want to bring up that tragedy in case you're having a good day.  When you might have things you moved out prior to their passing surrounding you or their estate to settle and have no idea how to do that.  When you're expected to just get back to life because we just soldier on because "that's what they would've wanted."  You are told by well intentioned people that "it gets better with time" and you're forced to check out on answering the phone for a while because you know you're going to go off on someone.  The death certificates arrive or bills come due or some other reminder is thrown in your face to remind you, "yep...this happened.  It's not a nightmare.  Good luck with the rest of your life."  You want to maybe plan a getaway for a change of scenery for all you've endured and have to deal with but it feels wrong.  They don't get to go anywhere, why should I?  The survivors guilt is real.  Reminders all over the house of things you neglected while going through your bubbles feel like a collapse of your world on top of you.  Doing something as simple as emptying the dishwasher or wiping down a counter feels like a Herculean task because you finally got to the point where you didn't have to stare at the microwave for 5-12 seconds to remember how to work it for the first time.  (True story.)   Even if you have siblings and spouses to lean on, we all deal with the bubbles differently.  Some pop them as soon as possible wanting to get back to life in an effort to forget.  Others float aimlessly around in them unsure about how to move forward.

These bubbles can stir up a lot of resentment toward people just doing nothing more than living their lives.  I remember when we found out the Mr's dad was dying.  We were 5000 miles away in Hawaii on a trip his dad absolutely insisted we take after trying to cancel three times.  When we got the call things had taken a turn, I remember that drive back from Volcano to Kona.  We were in pure silence for 90 minutes.  When we arrived in south Kona, I remember this bikini clad woman with her hair wet, a towel wrapped around her waist laughing as her boyfriend/husband loaded his surfboard on his car.  I wanted to jump out of the car and scream in her face "how are you laughing and having a good time!?  Don't you know what WE'RE going through!?!  His dad is about to die!"  While these visions may pop into your head, they aren't worth going to jail for.  You feel like the world has stopped for everyone and you resent how unaffected everyone is to your plight.  But isn't that how we go through every day?  All of us unaware of what the guy we just cut off in traffic is going through?  When grandma died, we had to run home to grab something the Mr's mom dropped off.  We were going straight and mom was turning right to go to the "after party."  (I friggin' hate the idea that after a funeral you're expected to put on a happy face and entertain while eating.  No thanks.)  Well, some jerk in front of her changed his mind and was hanging half in and half out of her lane.  She couldn't get around him and the light had just changed to red and it's a big intersection.  I wondered what she would do.  If she'd furiously honk at him after just coming from the funeral home in a bad mood after divvying the flowers.  Nope.  She just sat there for 3 1/2 minutes until he could move so she could go.  My heart broke for her.  That man had no idea he was making an already tough day a little bit tougher in its own way.  

We never know what the person in the car next to us is going through.  Whether an illness themselves or someone they love, after the death or funeral of a loved one, they've just been laid off, they're losing their house, their pet died, or whatever horror.  We are ALL on the brink and all in our own bubbles.  So be kind to the person on the road, in line or online.  As they say, we're all fighting battles no one else can see.  Be kind.  We're all in a bubble of circumstance or our own making.


If you or someone you know is going through a grief process, you may find these resources given to me by a friend helpful:

Crisis Text Line or text 741741

Books I'm currently reading:

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  1. It is hard to think about other people going through things like this when you're just going about your life. I think the world would be a better place if we considered this first before we assume that everyone is fine. I am just as guilty of not thinking about it until we're in a "bubble", but it makes me think it'd be worth it to try and consider this more often so that I give fellow humans the benefit of the doubt more when they piss me off out in the world.

  2. In the past five years or so I've become much less reactionary than I used to be and try to have the saying "extend grace" in my head whenever I find myself getting irritated with someone because of what's going on in my world. I tend to be pretty private about things and I have to remind myself that no one is out to get me and hurt me, and they have no idea what's going on with me (usually because they are a stranger), so extend grace to the snarky person with a chip on their shoulder who just eye-rolled me. Chances are they came by that chip honestly. I fail at this many times without question, but when I do I pray on it because I feel worse when I stink at being human. I used to constantly feel like I needed to prove that I was right, justified, or to have the last word, and good grief that was an exhausting way to live. Always looking for the battle. Blech. I've definitely mellowed a lot, but have much room to improve without a doubt. Thanks for the great post!


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