My mother-in-law passed away yesterday. Her passing was not a sudden surprise for she had been ill for some time and in a great deal of pain. But as most people know, expecting is not experiencing and there is no preparation for the loss of someone who is so integral to the fabric of the family.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was not close to her. Early on in my relationship with my husband, she and I forged an armistice that was adjusted and renewed when I married her son and over time had her grandchildren. But whether or not I considered her my “mother” , she was a wonderful grandmother to my children and a doting mother to my husband (thus the source of much of our conflict). And in our own way, we loved each other.
Her funeral will be held on the 7 year anniversary of my younger brother’s death. A passing that did come as a sudden surprise and one that I am still trying to figure out how to grieve even 7 years later. I mention this only because at this point in my life, I feel like managing loss is the name of the game.
As a young girl when I imagined family, I never considered raising adolescents or what happens afterward when they leave home and begin their own lives. I am in the midst of these changes on multiple levels and it also feels like loss.
My oldest daughter is about to begin her last semester of undergraduate work and will hopefully begin her career (anyone looking for an amazing chemical engineer?). She has warned that she does not expect to stay in Maine.
My son is beginning the semester that will represent half of his college career. Because he is attending a university within a half hour’s drive from home, he has been living here. He has told me he intends to move out this year and share a house with some of his schoolmates.
My youngest is still in high school. However, this year she achieved that highly coveted symbol of freedom: her driver’s license, and is rarely home.
Because I am working part-time as a nanny and an adjunct instructor at our local community college, my husband has been very busy taking on overtime. Our income took a huge hit when I left my full time job two years ago, reducing our income by half. I sometimes view my leaving a job that was not good for me on so many levels but paid the bills as a loss even though no one else in my house will agree.
So this morning, I’m up way too early, thinking about loss. The knot in my stomach reminds me it is very stressful and doesn’t feel good. But somewhere in the back of my brain a small voice is trying to get my attention. In my former life as a guidance counselor, I helped hundreds of kids and their parents manage change and their feelings around change. That side of me is starting to ramp up again, begging me to see my losses as change. Asking me to see this change as opportunity. Begging me to seize the opportunity and do something. The question I always come back to is where to begin?
So I ask you, dear reader, when you are faced with the loss/change/opportunity trifecta, where do you begin?