Article Series

Surviving the Storm: Finding the Best New Normal

Article submitted by Joy C. Davidson, owner of Joyful Transitions, LLC. Joy can be reached at 720-244-2660.

In past articles, I have written about the dementia journey that I walked with my mother ending in her death on June 17, 2012. In this article, I am writing the prequel. In the The Dementia Journey Part 1: Live Well, I tell the story of the day I received the phone call that my mother had had a stroke. As Paul Harvey used to say, now for “the rest of the story”.

My mother’s stroke on August 23, 2010, was only the first in a flash flood of thirteen major life events over the next eight months that completely and forever changed the landscape of my life. (I once did a stress scale test for those eight months and found my score was double the score where people are at a 90% risk of illness or car accident.) Over the next eight months, there were:

  1. A dozen 500-mile roundtrips between Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado (where my mother was living)
  2. Finalization of my second divorce (the one I thought was really going to work)
  3. Learning my sister was terminal with cirrhosis of the liver
  4. Losing two jobs and letting go of my financial services business
  5. Bringing my mother to Denver to visit her dying daughter in a prison infirmary
  6. Learning the stroke had caused my mother to develop dementia
  7. Moving her from the first assisted living home to a mental health hospital for seniors to another assisted living community at the time of my sister’s death and funeral
  8. My aunt’s health failing (I also oversaw her care)
  9. My mother not eating well due to the dementia, losing an average of 9.5 pounds per month, and almost starving to death
  10. Starting my own business
  11. My aunt dying eight months after my mother’s stroke
  12. The day after her funeral flying out of state to help my oldest son move back to Colorado as he was getting out of active Navy duty

To answer the question about whether I had other siblings to help, the answer is no. My only sibling was the sister that was a convicted felon dying in a prison infirmary. I had some help from two of my sons, but there was much that only I could do as the daughter and the Power-of-Attorney. There were times in the midst of that storm that the only thing I could do was find a way to laugh. I remember multiple times that people would tell me to hang in there, because things were going to get better. This would leave me, in a moment of perverse humor, thinking, “Of course they are going to get better. I am running out of ill and dying relatives!”

I recently gave a speech about that eight month season to a Toastmaster club. One of the members was so caught up in the details of the speech that I could tell she was about to cry. I almost paused the speech to tell her, “It’s okay. I made it!” The truth is that I did make it; I actually not only made it, but I managed to thrive in spite of and despite the multiple crises.

To say I thrived is not to say that I was glad these family members were ill or dying, that I lost or had to let go of jobs, or that I was having fun. There were days that were good, but then again there were days I called a friend to say, “Today sucked.” They knew I did not expect, nor did I want to hear a bunch of platitudes, nor did I want or expect to them to make things better. I simply needed to talk with someone that understood that I loved my family members and I was honored to be their caregiver (my mom and my aunt) or their advocate (my sister), but it had been a tough day.

Two things brought me through that season with no car accidents, my sanity intact, my physical body healthy, and my brown hair (OKAY - mostly brown, there is some gray sprinkled around the top) still on my head – my faith in God and the Best New Normal. In one of my past lives, I had worked as a lifeguard. When a lifeguard hands that drowning person a tube to hang onto, believe me, they are hanging on! During that storm of life changes, I realized that for a quarter of a century I had used my faith in God in much the same way – hanging onto God for dear life in the tough times and then taking over when it got better. I finally realized that I needed Him all the time!

From time to time in my life, I had heard people talk about positive thinking and personal growth. However, until a few years before my mother’s stroke, I had always dismissed the concept as a crutch for those who couldn’t deal with reality. In fact, I was the horse being led to water that did not want to drink when I joined a financial services firm where the branch manager was a firm believer in personal growth. Nevertheless, I did learn and I did begin to realize the benefits of positive thinking and personal growth.

When my mother had her stroke and the storm began to unfold, I was able to take a positive approach to the events. I was able to let go of those things that I could not control – the stroke, the multiple illnesses and deaths, the job loss. Instead I focused on those things that I could control – my attitude, giving my mother the best care in line with her previously expressed wishes, advocating for my sister so all the family members could visit and say goodbye – and, in doing so, I made it!

To read the complete story of my survival and thrival, you may contact me to obtain a copy of my book, Surviving the Storm: Finding the Best New Normal, that will be published the end of January or early February 2013.

More about Joy Davidson and Joyful Transitions, LLC

Founded in 2011, Joy C. Davidson and Joyful Transitions, LLC, are a voice of experience working with older adults and their families as they face changes, seek late in life purpose, and search for the resources and confidence to live a powerful life. Our support is available through speaking and educational presentations and curriculum.

© 2013, All Rights Reserved by Joy C, Davidson, Joyful Transitions, LLC

Posted February 2013 on