This first, no that first …

I haven’t posted lately because I’ve been spinning out of control.  I have reached a point where the things I have to do have simply overwhelmed me.  They have all become important, equally important, in my mind.  Consequently, I haven’t been able to determine what to do first, what should be done first.  This is the reality of functioning on my own.

Throughout the more than 30 years of my marriage I was the primary decision-maker and accountant for the family. I made the decisions and did the follow through.  So why then, do I feel like I am drowning in the sea of responsibility?

I realize now, that although I may have made the decisions, there almost always was some sort of discussion between Kevin and me, at least for big decisions.  Kevin always had an opinion (sometimes completely off the wall) and he was never bashful about expressing it.  As a father and husband, Kevin didn’t fret about the small stuff; as long as we were safe, fed, happy and having fun, that was all that mattered.  His role in our marriage, he would often state, was to socialize and protect and mine was everything else (as long as he didn’t disagree with it).  He had little tolerance for inaction and indecisiveness, any decision was better than no decision.

After years of this type of conditioning I have become quite used to ploughing through the things that have to be done. However, it’s different with this, with settling an estate.  It’s not something that is easy or straightforward, it’s emotional and heartbreaking and relentless – there are so many things that have to be done: burial arrangements; transfers of title; changing my own Will; dealing with the various utility companies, credit card companies; and all sorts of other little one-offs that come up as the days go by.

Things have to be done, yes, but not right away.  I was reminded of this again today by my lawyer and by my sister-in-law.  I’m spinning but it’s because I’ve wound myself too tight.  I am my own worst enemy, trying to do everything and get everything settled in record time.  There’s no rush and this is something that I need to recognize for my own peace of mind, since the only one pressuring me is me. Old habits die hard.

Things to do

I keep chipping away at the things that need to be done.  There is a quite a bit, some things can wait, others cannot.  One of the things that had to be done was meet with the bank.  In our case all of our bank accounts had been held jointly and so there was no real issue with proof of entitlement to the funds in the accounts.  All of the accounts were reviewed for beneficiaries and updated accordingly.  The bank account representative advised me to leave my husband’s name on the chequing account for at least 18 months.  That would allow for this year’s income tax to be filed and next year’s as well.  In the event of a tax refund by leaving the account joint there would be no issue in depositing the cheque.

At age 60 my husband had applied for, and started receiving, his Canada Pension.  The government needed to be advised of Kevin’s death and this would result in his pension payments being stopped.  After that, I file a separate request asking for the survivor’s portion of Kevin’s Canada Pension.  This will not be a lot, but unless I file it won’t automatically roll over and happen.  There are a lot of things where the onus is on the survivor to put the wheels in motion to ensure all entitlements are received.   I was also advised by my tax accountant to submit an application for a Disability Pension for Kevin for the time he was ill.  For 2014 Kevin owed on his income tax and the accountant was looking for a way to reduce the amount of tax I need to pay the government.  The doctor is required to complete the application and the government will consider the request.  Usually the qualification period for a Disability Pension is 12 months so it may be a non-starter, but in our case the accountant suggested I try.  For others whose cancer may make it impossible to continue to work, this is something that should be discussed with the family doctor or an accountant, since again, it is not automatically offered.

So I managed to get two items done this week – advise Canada Pension and also update the bank accounts.  This may seem minor but it was actually quite major for me.  In my work life I am quite comfortable in scheduling and/or attending multiple meetings on a daily basis.  I have to say, the work experience does not translate to the bereavement experience.  Since Kevin’s death, each task is tiring and monumental in my mind.  The fatigue and general apathy is a very real impediment to accomplishing even the most mundane job.  It is a real push to pick up the phone and make the necessary calls.  So recognizing my own limited scope I have, out of necessity, learned to prioritize.  The reality is that the utility companies and credit card companies and insurance companies don’t really need to be contacted right away, as long as they are getting paid that’s all that matters.  I’ve started to write down the things that flit through my mind as “maybe important” so I don’t overlook them, but also so I don’t blow them out of proportion in my mind.  Lately what’s floating around in my brain doesn’t really match up with what’s going on in my life.

I do know that I need to get a routine back in place.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve had one.  I was fortunate in that my employer worked with me to allow me to spend as much time as possible with Kevin throughout his illness and up to his death.  Now I need to think about getting back to work, and not from home as I had been doing, but back out into the workplace.  I suspect that this may be harder than I anticipate but it has to be done.