It has now been three weeks since my dad died. I feel like I navigated well through the first few days of the unexpectedness, through the family gatherings, the 800 miles of travel to and from the funeral. I feel less satisfied with the surreal and BIZARRE interactions with my Dad’s widow (I repeat like a mantra, “everyone grieves in their own way, everyone grieve in their own way”). And I must confess, I got straight out panicked when I heard that my corporate body offered me three days leave for bereavement.
Let me be fair; I was told that I could use my personal time and vacation leave if I needed to.
Three days, plus my vacation time to grieve death. Much death. Big death. I have had three deaths in September. A friend. An Ex-lover. My dad. Big Death, in that this is the loss of my remaining parent; my mother having died at age 56. And walking through all the cultural aspects of closure with this second parent triggers memories of the messiness of being the one who “doula-ed” my mother’s death, all those years ago… All very triggering and intense.
And I also noticed that I am in my third year of “intense life experiences” each Fall. In October of 2014, a family member was coming out of a long hospital stay and was about to enter six months of rehabilitation (done without social service support). In October of 2015, a family member was just coming out of a three month incarceration.
Now, I must grieve much death. In three days (plus vacation)?
That first week, my “workaholic/perfectionist in recovery self” got the message that I HAD to complete all my integration in the specified time allotted; that self foolishly tried to accommodate. My Totally Off Balance Self decided—four hours after hearing that my father was dead– that I could stretch the bereavement to six half days, and that MIGHT work.
No such luck. I had absolutely no focus for work. Nor even paperwork. I figured that part out, by day two.
Okay. I adjusted to the fact that I would be moving in the larger world in an ESG (“extreme state of GRIEF) and that I would be attempting to function “normally” in a culture that is pretty clueless about ongoing support for grief work. I understood that my thinking and feeling were going to be OFF. That this would likely continue “until it was done”. That I didn’t have any idea how long that might take.
I have never been more pleased to have WRAP and IPS tools in my wellness toolbox:
Each day, I keep my twice daily “prayer partner” check-in sessions with friends. I am using available resources, and checked into how my corporations Employee Assistance Program might offer more support. They do. Three counseling sessions (what’s with this magic number of three?).
More things that make you go “Hmmm…” When I was trained as a family doctor in short term crisis intervention therapy, we gave the patients SIX sessions. Oh well, such is the language and influence of a managed care environment.
So today I did my math. There are 80 days left in the year (then my vacation time/personal leave starts over again), and I have not one vacation or personal leave day left. I DO have 33 hours of sick leave.
That makes less than 30 minutes a day where I can “be sick with GRIEF” and still get the money I need at work to pay for my car/rent/food/ etc. etc. etc. But I can use that reference as background data; just to titrate where I am, relative to where my work environment expects me to be.
Yeah, I really meant it when I said that I cannot AFFORD to grieve.
But I am going to grieve anyway.
And it is only my own EGO that gets in the way; because the part of me that fears losing my job will be kept in check by my more rational self. And I will continue to be a Self Care Warrior Goddess Rock Star.