One of the givens in being a GenSandwicher is that whatever you’re dealing with now, it probably won’t get better and it probably won’t end well. I think that’s one of the most difficult parts of caring for aging parents and spouses. With our children we put up with diapers, spills and tantrums, knowing that in all likelihood, this too will pass. The child will grow, mature, and become someone we enjoy being with. Not so with eldercare. While we might experience briefs ups and downs, the general trajectory is toward a train wreck. The memory will fade more. The behavior will escalate. The sickness will progress. And then, our loved one will die. I'm not sure that as Americans we are prepared for such events. We often allow institutions to do much of our care giving because of distance, other commitments, or even a lack of willingness. No matter. At some point, we will be faced with the reality of death and disability. We will have decisions to make. And we will grieve.
It’s the grieving that many of us find difficult and confusing. Especially if our loved one lives far away or if our earlier relationship with the person wasn’t all that great. But the grief comes to each of us in our own way and time. Aftermath: Growing in Grace Through Grief by Margaret McSweeney is a book you might want to pick up when the time comes. The book is partially excerpts of an earlier book by her mother, Carolyn Rhea and partially Margaret’s processing of her own grief over the loss of her parents and brother—becoming an adult orphan. It sounds confusing. I wasn’t sure she could pull it off, but she did – and well.
Aftermath is a comforting excursion through her grief process, organized around the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She adds shock in the beginning. In each chapter, she shares excerpts of her mother’s journals as she dealt with the death of her husband. McSweeney weaves in her own experiences of the same loss. Then she offers comfort from the Scriptures and counsel from experts. Each chapter has room for journaling, making it ideal for a grief group or for your own personal processing.
Following these chapters, she offers other helpful suggestions for processing loss. Aftermath is a gentle book, one that will be an excellent companion as you face the inevitable in your care giving.