This isn’t something I think many millennials think about until the unthinkable happens. My stepdad died on December 16th, just a little over two weeks ago. He was supposed to turn 51 on December 18th.
At first it was the shock from the first phone call relayed to me by my brother letting me know he had received a frantic call from mom that 9-1-1 was called and he was heading to their house. I was at the doctor’s office getting a follow-up for my knee surgery I had two months prior. The next was the text I received from him as I walked out to my car that my stepdad was dead.
I sat in the car and cried for several minutes before calling my brother to ask him what he knew, which wasn’t much. I then called mom, who was hysterical. It didn’t feel real. None of it. I had texted my husband after the first phone call, and then called after I had talked to my mother. I cried more over the phone with him. He questioned whether or not I should be driving, but I had to get home and pack so we could leave town and start the drive to my parents home. I emailed my boss, telling him I was leaving town and wasn’t sure when I’d be back. Just a whirlwind of to-dos flying through my head.
The grief was overwhelming. Everything was overwhelming. Reality. Life. I had gone through death with a grandparent, an uncle, but no one this close. This was so personal. Every part of me hurt for myself, my mother, my brother, and my family. It left me with a tornado of emotions that would flip in a second leaving me working to escape to an empty dark room to cry alone.
As you’d expect, millennials like me are experience death differently that generations past. We communicate our grief digitally moreso than the other generations, but those generations are longing for that same support. I received many responses and messages of support through text and Facebook. My friends from afar texting me asking me how they can help, if I needed anyone to stop by the house while my husband and I were away. Even had some friends drive to visit us when they could. Some met us at home when I finally came back with a warm meal. Thankfully I didn’t have any friends that did or said nothing.
As the two weeks after the death dragged on, my brother and I were now forced to start to bring our mother back to reality and try to make some decisions about the future of our family. Our stepdad was the breadwinner, we needed a plan for our mother who doesn’t work. The planner in me had not stopped thinking about it since it happened. It was easier for me to focus on how to figure out the future, and fix this the best way I can, because that’s what I do professionally. I troubleshoot problems and create workarounds. This caused issues for mom in the beginning, and I had to be told to slow down by several family members. It was me trying to grieve and avoid the grief at the same time, by doing something.
At the end I made a checklist of things to do and set priorities for each and when I should have them done with my brother and mother. It was helpful. I took on the need to get all the bills in order for the month and get them paid for. Just this act alone helped me feel better about the situation more than anything. You do what you can.
My family is undoubtedly going to get through this, but I never realized how difficult a challenge it would be. When I FaceTimed with mom last night on New Year’s Eve (both of us staying in for the night), I could tell she was having a rough day. You could see it in her face, and hear it in her voice. I think the reminder of death of someone so close has changed me. My family has a long way to go to recover from this, but we will be stronger for it.
Happy New Year!