I don't get excited for the New Year as a holiday. There are no parties or resolutions. But this year I welcomed 2024 with some anticipation, albeit cautiously. 2022 was challenging. 2023 was a sh*t show. I’ll stick to the lowlights - my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and between September and November I lost three people who were important to me.
On September 1st, we learned that we lost a friend who had been a part of my family my whole life. Eleven days later my brother in law very suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at 43, leaving behind a wife and two children. At the end of October, my cousin, who was also one of my best friends, went into the hospital for surgery. She had been battling cancer for two years, but was expected to come home after surgery and recover. Instead she came home on hospice and died two weeks later. While she had been sick, no one was expecting for it to happen that quickly.
Every time I thought, “okay, we’re due for a break”, the universe said “hold my beer”. I’m not sharing this story because I feel sorry for myself, or to get anyone else to feel sorry for me. I have so much to be grateful for. I am writing this because I know that I’m not the only one who had a hard year, or who will, and if sharing my experience will help someone else get through a tough season, that’s important to me.
The things that helped me get through a tough year.
I survived, in large part, thanks to an amazing family and some really great friends. Cards, meals, so many offers of help; understanding clients who showed me grace when I had to reschedule. It’s amazing how far a weekly text asking “you okay?” goes. And I did have a few pity parties here and there, followed with a lot of perspective and grace for myself.
I had to shift my priorities.I know how fortunate I am to have the flexibility to choose when I work. But what that also means is that if I’m not working, I’m not making money, which my family depends on. I wouldn’t trade any amount of money for the time spent going to weekly chemo appointments with my husband, supporting my in-laws, or spending the last two weeks of my cousin’s life with her, but losing that income was still an added stressor.
You're probably expecting me to talk about how having an organized home helped reduce stress during these times, and that’s true. My house wasn't in great shape due to being in survival mode, but being organized helped. Things got messy, but when it got to be too much and was adding stress, I was able to quickly get things back in order enough to give me some relief.
I want to talk about a different type of organization. After seeing the varying degrees to which the people I lost were prepared for the end, I realized how unprepared we really are. I want to talk about getting organized for the event that no one wants to talk about. I already knew the importance of it after my father’s death in 2014. But this year was a grim reminder of how unprepared we are, and how that impacts those around us when we’re gone.
Why getting your life details organized is so important.
Being prepared is so much more than a Will. Yes, that’s a crucial part, no matter how much money or many assets you have. When your loved ones are grieving your loss the added responsibility of dealing with funeral arrangements, financial matters, and estate matters only make it harder. Who has your phone password? Who knows how to access your life insurance policies? Who’s going to take care of your cat? My husband’s diagnosis certainly made me consider what might happen if he didn’t have a good prognosis. Could I get into his email? What does he want his best friend to have?
Here’s some of what we were left with. A will that made one family member angry enough to contest it. Not knowing whether someone wanted to be cremated or buried. Searching through years of papers to figure out where bank and investment accounts were. Searching for car titles and keys. Finding a home for a beloved pet.
Hard Truth: We all die. No one wants to think about it. Preparing for it means thinking about it. BUT, what if we looked at it through a different lens. Making sure our wishes are known - being buried in your favorite jersey, having a Star Wars themed funeral, the hymn or bible verse you want to make sure is part of your service. Controlling the things we’re able to control. The ultimate act of preparedness and gift to your loved ones. Helping your loved ones make sure the details are taken care of leaves room for grieving your loss and celebrating your life.
Every person I’ve spoken to who has had to take care of the unfortunate “business” side of a loved one's loss would tell you that it only extends the grieving process. Some of it is unavoidable, but if we can make it as easy as possible, don’t you want to?
I know it’s hard, and I want to help. Stay tuned as I talk more about this topic in the coming months. If you’re ready to tackle this project, I'll make it easier by giving you a way to plan for all of these important details with care and positivity.