My dad died and I don't want to do anything
July 25, 2016 2:38 AM   Subscribe

My dad died. I have so much to do in the aftermath of his passing... but I just don't want to do anything. I've always been a procrastinator, but never to this degree. Please help me come up with a game plan.

My dad died last week after a 7 month battle with cancer. I moved back home to be with him and was there with him through 7 months of chemo, radiation, his final illness and his passing.

I'm actually ok - crying a few times a day, but overall feeling sort of blah - not happy, not sad, randomly forgetful and making lots of stupid mistakes. Dad's last few weeks were immensely hard and physically and emotionally exhausting for us as well as for him. Now that it's over, it's hard to believe I don't have to worry anymore or be constantly prepared for a crisis. I feel pretty empty, grateful dad isn't suffering anymore but also depressed that he isn't here for a hug or a joke or an in-depth discussion about Game of Thrones. I also feel intensely hungry and lazy.

I am finding the amount of stuff I have to do now that my dad has passed to be overwhelming. I need a game plan - how to get stuff done when I am clearly not functioning properly
. Has anyone else been in a similar situation and how did you manage to snap out of it and start being productive again?

Apart from the lesser admin, my main task is deciding what to do with dad's place and his stuff, and the thought of losing his home feels almost like losing him a second time. Financially, I can't really stay in it. I have to either sell it or rent it out. I have to decide what I'll do with all his things. Getting rid of his lovingly collected library feels like another betrayal, but I just don't know where I am going to keep his hundreds of books.

I also have to deal with inevitable family fallout as my dad's will has some instructions in it which are pissing certain members of my family off. I have come under a lot of pressure to revert those decisions or otherwise go against my dad's wishes. I will NOT, but I am extremely non-confrontational, AND I feel I am not firing on all cylinders since my dad left us, so it's very hard to deal with pushy relatives putting me under pressure. They seem to expect me to be fully functional and keep asking me about my plans and if I've done this yet or that yet - they don't seem to understand that while they've lost a distant relative that they saw once a year, I've lost my DAD.

My dad would be the first person to tell me to pull my finger out and get cracking. I know I need to DO stuff - deal with relatives, deal with the house - but I just find it so difficult. I don't want to do anything except sit in his armchair and noodle around on the internet.
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am telling you to pull your finger put and ... sit and noodle around for a while longer. This is a time to digest the changes in your life. I am so very sorry for your loss. I know how it feels. Please don't push yourself to make decisions right now. Another week or three won't hurt. You need more time to say goodbye. Give yourself a month if you can before finalising any plans or decisions. Tell the distant relatives you will get back to them in six weeks. Don't rush, please.
posted by Thella at 2:49 AM on July 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

My heartfelt sympathy.
This sounds incredibly hard and I feel for you. Is there anyone amongst the pushy relatives who can actually be helpful and who you can delegate certain tasks to? Is there one of them who you like and trust, who can give you some mental support and maybe help you make a planning and stick to it?

I agree that it's fine to tell the rest of them to back off for a while and give you a breather for now.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:50 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went through this with my mum and was her executrix. Oh, what a saga. Two things.

1) If it's in the will, it's not negotiable. The law will enforce that. That's your bullet proof vest. If your family insist, tell them to consult their lawyer as you're not prepared to go to jail over it and you cannot be pressured or bribed.

2) Storage. Put everything in storage till you can handle it. Don't make permanent decisions about things like books and jackets and sweaters that smell like him, until you're really ready. Storage costs, but it buys you psyche time.

Hugs. This is hard. But you will eventually go longer periods without the tears and the ache.... but there will forever be a hole... and that's ok. Scar tissue will grow over it, but it will be a dad shaped hole. I'm ok with my dad shaped hole scar. When it hurts from time to time, it feels to this complicated atheist, that he's not 100% gone. And I like that. I kinda like a little bit of that pain. I like to remember only the happy times, there were plenty of not happy times. But the pain, now, is only for the happy times lost. I sincerely hope you can get to that place too. Although it can take at least a year or two.

I'm so sorry for the loss of your dad. Cancer is just cruel.
posted by taff at 3:52 AM on July 25, 2016 [29 favorites]

My mother died four months ago; my father two years ago. Your feelings are familiar to me -- a kind of greying and hollowing-out of regular life.

You've just put in seven months of incredible labor caring for your father. And on top of that you are grieving. Plus, all the labor you need to put in now doesn't lead to some happy conclusion. Wrapping up an estate isn't like baking a cake. No wonder you are feeling unmotivated!

You need help from others. Who among your family and friends can you rely on? Who can you hire? For example, there are people who specialize in disposing of the personal belongings of the deceased. Also, a good lawyer may help you stay strong in the face of outside pressure from family members -- without needlessly inflaming ill will. All you need to say, perhaps repeatedly, is "I'm following my father's wishes."

You know all those people who said "let me know if there's anything I can do?" Take them at their word. Tell them explicitly what they can do. E.g.: "I really need help going through my father's clothes. Can you save his handkerchief collection, but bag up the rest and take it to a charity?" When you have trouble giving away replaceable objects -- books, for example, ask someone to take pictures. That way you can remember what your father had any time you want.

Also, take your time. Once you get past the funeral/memorial service, there's less immediate rush to get things done. Will you rent or sell your father's home? That's a decision you may be able to delay by a few months or longer. You'll still be grieving then (as I know), but you'll likely have more clarity and motivation then than now.

Take care.
posted by ferdydurke at 4:10 AM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Back in simpler times, the loss of a loved one would begin a full year of mourning. You would have to dye all of your clothes black. Everyone who saw you would know that you had suffered a loss and treat you as such. I don't know why we now live in a culture where something as important as mourning a loved one is treated with less care than a break up with someone you've only been dating for 4 months. It is ridiculous. Take time to go through mourning. Give yourself time. When the relatives hassle you, tell them that you are in mourning right now, and you are not up to dealing with them.

This is not the best time to make any decisions. You have the will to follow so do that. Talk to a lawyer, a financial planner, or a really smart friend about everything else. Stay in your dad's house as long as you want. Have a garage sale every weekend to support your staying, if it comes to that. Sell all the clutter that accumulates in one's life and keep the precious stuff. Try to find a small school or university that would take his collection in memory of him.

You will get through this but you have to give yourself time. Anyone not willing to accept that you are in mourning, which is a real condition that affects you mentally and physically, can be ignored. You owe them nothing.
posted by myselfasme at 4:19 AM on July 25, 2016 [19 favorites]

I am so very sorry for your loss.

Is there a good friend you can enlist to help you now? You are absolutely within your rights to just delegate everything to someone else - ferdydurke has it exactly right in terms of asking friends to help with the practical stuff, but I'd also add enlisting one person to be your "spokesperson", kind of like how the president doesn't aways make all his interviews himself, but sometimes has a press-relations person make all the announcements and deal with questions from the press and crap like that. Enlist a friend to be the one to answer the phone, screen your email, meet people at the door, etc. so they can turn people away if you just CAN'T DEAL, and can also espcially turn people away if they're family members who are being jerks. They can also be the ones to gently nudge you that "okay, this is the lawyer who has something they need to talk you about with the will, you really do kinda need to handle this one."

The president has a staff around him to handle the practical bullshit so he can concentrate on presidenting, and part of that involves time spent sitting around doing nothing, I'm sure. You need a staff yourself too right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whenever I have a major blocking problem for whatever reasons I use what I call my "5 by 10 strategy". I just try to do 5 things by 10 am. Any 5 things will do. I just need to build some momentum to get out of whatever rut is trapping me.

Once I am 'doing' the reasons for the slump tend to fade into the background enough to let me get on with things.
posted by srboisvert at 6:13 AM on July 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

This sucks! I am sorry. My dad died about five years back and I was the executrix and I still remember the zombie days where I had so much to do and couldn't do a damned thing. It will be okay. You are not going to blow it. A few things that helped me

- Make the lawyer have the tough decisions/discussions. "That is what dad wanted and I can't change that. Please talk to the lawyer...." If you have to be rude, be (a little) rude. It's hard because everyone has suffered a loss but people process differently. Some become overbearing. Some get sad. Some get nitpicky. Some want to overshare. Try to have compassion for other people managing (poorly) their own grief as you deal with this. And literally feel okay not answering the phone for a while.
- Agree with taff, storage can really help if you have some money to do that.
- Only a few things need to be really managed quickly which is getting yourself officially appointed executor and getting a death certificate. This will help everything else. If you have access to which banks/credit cards he used, you can close those. I had a friend help with some of this and make the umpteen phone calls to cancel magazine subscriptions and the like when I Could Not Deal.
- I got a lot of sleep. I watched a lot of tv. I told a lot of people "Not now" When friends asked "How can I help?" I would try to give them a task ("Please take all of these clothes to the thrift store and don't ask me any questions about how to do that, just handle it" "Please bring over a lasagna" "Please sit with me while I pack these boxes")

Every day will help with this process. I still miss my dad every day but it doesn't feel like a gut punch in the same way it used to (and part of that was not having his death be MY JOB for so long). Take the time to heal and grieve in the way you want to. Consider a bereavement support group if it's helpful to just have a place to unload/bitch.complain. I am sorry, this is hard. You are not going to blow it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:09 AM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You are on vacation for at least a week, preferably a month. Have a quiet chat with your father if he's still up there in your head wondering why you don't pull your finger out and get to work. You and he are going to have to face facts: you can't do it now. You can't do anything right now because you just ran three marathons. Get your father's blessing and your own to sit and noodle and sleep and eat. Hand off the decisions you have to make to your dreaming brain and trust that in a few months, they'll all get made. Your waking brain can't handle much more than putting cereal in a bowl and pushing down the lever on the toaster.

Don't pick up the phone unless somebody helpful is calling--people calling wanting you to be helpful are going to be disappointed whether you answer their calls or let them go to voicemail, so save their time and avoid the whole mess. If you do pick up, say, "Hey, Aunt Cath, call me back next Thursday; can't talk now, sure you understand, 'bye." You'll get to it when you can, when you can stand up and function again.

When you emerge from hibernation, take every shortcut possible. Hand off everything you can think of to the how-can-I-help people, ESPECIALLY the stuff that Only You can do because you were the closest and most emotionally involved and therefore for anyone else to do it would be sacrilege blah blah blah--nope, nope, nope, no to that. Hand it all off to people who will be happy to help you and who won't be wounded by the mere idea of the task. Storage is such a great idea! Now is the time to take all possible lazy shortcuts.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:38 AM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Definitely put as much of it onto a lawyer as your budget allows. We have a saying: "Old lawyers never die; they just do probate." There are, as a result, plenty of late-Baby Boomer codgers who are still sharp and know the probate system, and who also have a wealth of experience with relationship management, which is most of what we do anyway. They tend to charge far less per hour for probate stuff because 1) they have enough dosh to retire outright, and 2) they like going to court and your probate matter will let them do that.

DO NOT get a referral for such an one from anyone in your family (this could cause problems in a worst-case will dispute scenario). Find somebody with a little office near your county courthouse.

Ze can tell you what you have to do so you can forgive yourself for not doing anything else.
posted by radicalawyer at 9:59 AM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

but overall feeling sort of blah - not happy, not sad, randomly forgetful and making lots of stupid mistakes. ... I also feel intensely hungry and lazy.

These are the symptoms of depression. I am not actually qualified to diagnose you with anything but situational depression is absolutely a thing and either of 1.) the death of a loved or 2.) an intense period of stress/work that suddenly shifts are plenty to trigger it. And you have both of those things.

So, the kinds of self-care that are appropriate for depressed folk would absolutely help you here. This is a very long list, but I'll just recommend that you make sure you're eating and staying hydrated, and maybe getting some fresh air (exercise would be better) every day.

I am finding the amount of stuff I have to do now that my dad has passed to be overwhelming. I need a game plan - how to get stuff done when I am clearly not functioning properly. Has anyone else been in a similar situation and how did you manage to snap out of it and start being productive again?

Immediate term: today and tomorrow -- just rest/self care. You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your Dad's wishes.

Semi-urgent term (tomorrow?): Figure out how much of what needs to be done you can outsource/delay.

Some things (like funeral arrangements) need a certain amount of momentum right away, but you should be able to lean on the resources of the funeral home to help you do some of the hard stuff (decisions about food, contacting family, etc).

Other things, like "what to do with the house" can wait weeks without any real harm. Do you have a lawyer to help you work through your father's estate plan? If not, can you call the lawyer who helped set up his will?

Do you have a trusted relative/friend who can run interference with the rest of your pushy relatives for a little while? I'm thinking someone who can help you draft an email that says something like:
Hi all, thank you for reaching out in light of Dad's passing. He loved and cared for all of you (say this, even if it's not true). I'm going to be taking a week or so to sort out Dad's affairs and won't be in contact very much. if you have something urgent, please contact XXX (lawyer, trusted friend, funeral home, etc). Thanks for your kind words and patience at this time.
Hell, if you need me (or another Mefite) to help you draft an email like that, please reach out.

I am so very sorry for your loss. Your father was lucky to have his child with him through his last months.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:17 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

If the funeral has already happened, it sounds like you don't have any immediately pressing needs other than self-care.

Are you OK for money to feed and maintain yourself for a while? If so, you can probably just camp out in your dad's house until you're ready to take some action.

If you have to leave your dad's house to go back somewhere, are there any reliable neighbors/local friends who can look in on the place periodically? I would avoid asking family for help here unless they are rock-solid trustworthy.

In the next few weeks, if you're up for it, find a good elder law/estate attorney. It's possible that the attorney who prepared your father's will (if there was an attorney involved) could be that person.

I had a really good estate attorney involved when my mom died last year: I'd worked with her before when I was my mom's POA and she was a great help. Gave me detailed instructions on how to file with the probate court and followed up with me afterward.

Once you're ready to take some action, please do another Ask. I emptied my mom's condo in a very short amount of time several years ago while working an out-of-state job. But I don't even think you should spend much time on thinking about that stuff right now.

I'm so sorry for your loss. And it goes on hurting for quite a while BUT it does get better over a long period of time.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:43 AM on July 25, 2016

I just want to agree with the other commenters that you've done so much already, and you absolutely need time to grieve. Your relatives should feel ashamed that they are both not helping you, but also making your life more stressed. I can only imagine how hard these past months have been for you. I think it makes sense that you're feeling very tired now. You were probably on "high alert" for months dealing with your dad's pain and knowing his death was imminent. Your body may physically need rest to recover from the constant adrenaline and pure emotional crisis you've endured.
You were there for your dad when he really needed you. That's huge that you did that for him! You will always have the knowledge that you devoted yourself to him in that time of need. So many people aren't able or willing to do that. When you hear his voice in your head, remember he trusted you enough to leave you in charge of his estate. Even though I know that carries stress, it means he knew you would handle it in whatever way you need to.
For the obnoxious family members: I suggest only communicating via text or email and even then, just responding once and then feel free to ignore or block them. Maybe disable your Facebook for a time if that's - like in my family - the place where relatives air their passive aggressive fake "concerns" and comments. You need an attorney, but I think you need a therapist first. A therapist may be able to help you prioritize the financial concerns and will also be a person you can express your grief to. My sincere condolences on your loss.
posted by areaperson at 10:52 AM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Deepest sympathies. My dad passed away earlier this year and it was very very difficult dealing with the aftermath and I still have some bad days, 4 months out.

Our funeral home was very helpful and provided an itemized list of what had to be taken care of (bank stuff, government stuff) and having the checklist and notorized copies of the death certificate made it a little easier to take care of things, one-by-one.

My dad had a vast collection of music and we had no idea what to do with it; I ended up calling the local university's music department, explained that I had a great deal of sheet music and they were happy to receive it as a donation. Is your father's library specialized in any way? Your local university or college might be grateful to either take it into their collections or disseminate it amongst their students.
posted by porpoise at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2016

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