It was about 3 months ago when my life began to change drastically.
We lived across the street from my mother-in-law for years. But she had battled cancer for the last ten years. And we began to see how her health was deteriorating. So she made the difficult decision to move in with us and allow us to be her full-time caregivers.
We were happy to do it.
As hard as it was to juggle it all some days, we had no idea how hard it would be to carry on the homestead when she passed. We lost her only a few weeks ago, and I realized then that to manage homesteading through grief was a whole new ballgame.
So today, I want to share with you how we’ve been pushing forward with our dreams during such a difficult time. If you’re ever faced with loss, hopefully, these tips will help you too.
And I will state clearly upfront, I am not certified in any way as a counselor or psychiatrist. This is just my honest experience and the things I have found that have helped myself and my family during a difficult time.
So this is how we’ve tried to manage and hold it together during our time of loss:
1. Take Some Time Off
Though my mother-in-law had been sick for many years, we never dreamed she’d go as quickly as she did. She had actually been on a vacation with some girlfriends to the mountains (completing her bucket list) when we got a call at 2:30am to come to the ER.
And we never dreamed only 4 short days later she’d leave us. But that is exactly what happened. We were posted at the hospital almost around the clock.
But after she passed, we made the drive home and fell apart emotionally. And we did the same thing over and over for a few days until we made it through the funeral and a few days after that.
So during those days we did only what we absolutely had to do. We fed our animals and that was about it. My husband took a week off from his day job.
But I did keep writing to manage. I think, mainly, because it allowed me to shift my mind to something else instead of dealing with the reality at hand.
And the rest of the time was spent making funeral arrangements, spending time with family, and grieving when we needed to.
So we basically spent our time off learning how to cope. And taking time off ended up being a great thing for us.
2. Start Back Slowly (But Keep Pushing Forward)
A few days after the funeral my husband came to me and said, “You know, Mom was a worker. She would be okay with us grieving. But what she’d really say is, ‘Let’s go build a greenhouse!”
So that’s what we did. We got up, put on our work boots, and agreed to take it one small project at a time.
And we went outside that day and built a small greenhouse for us to grow our fodder in over winter.
So pushing forward really helped us to begin to cope with doing life without our loved one.
But don’t try to tackle it all at once. Don’t even try to move at the same pace that you had been moving at. Just take it slowly. One thing at a time and one day at a time.
And as I’ve said repeatedly to my own family over these past few weeks, you have to try and find your new normal. Which isn’t an easy thing to do, but you’ve got to keep moving forward.
3. Manage To Stay Busy
I know I told you not to take on too much. And you shouldn’t.
But I've found that keeping myself busy without becoming overwhelmed has been very helpful. Which means, if I have projects to do, I do them.
However, taking things at a leisurely pace is key.
And if you don’t have any projects then create one. There are always things that you need to manage around a homestead. Check your fencing to see if any of it needs repair.
Basically, whatever you enjoy or you know needs to be done this is a good time to do it. Because I have found (for myself and my family) that remaining active and busy has really helped to keep our minds in a positive place.
4. Accept Help
I’ll be the first to admit it. I don’t like having to take help from others. I’m a perfectionist on one hand and a tad stubborn on the other.
And I don’t like having to admit that I just can’t do something.
But there are times in life when I just can’t do some things on my own. And when we lost someone so close to us, that was intertwined with everything we did on a daily basis, learning how to do life without that person was a challenge.
So when I had friends that jumped in to help our family, it was amazing! They brought us dinner so we wouldn’t have to think about cooking for a while.
And then we had family that came and visited us to help with our children during such a hard time. Then we had other people that jumped in to offer help around our homestead.
So when dealing with a loss, for us, help was not a bad thing. It may have been against our norm, but nothing about this time has been normal.
And we accepted the help and were thankful for it.
5. Create An ‘In Memory’ Space
My family has a tradition around our homestead. When we lose someone or something important to us, we create an ‘In Memory’ space for them.
So when our loved English Bulldog passed away from old age earlier this year, we buried her. But then I purchased a little statue of an English Bulldog.
Then we placed it in our garden because that is where she always laid when we were outside working.
So with my mother-in-law, we’ve decided to do something similar. She loved flowers. And she could grow anything.
Which means this next year we will have a special flower garden with a bench that will be in her memory. That way, we’ll manage to have a special place on our property that we can go when we think of her.
Or that we can simply look at and smile because it will bring her to our memory.
Now, this isn’t a burial plot. She will be buried elsewhere. And our dog was actually buried in a wooded area on our property.
But this is just something we do that provides comfort for us.
6. Keep The Dream Alive
Losing a loved one is hard. I don’t think it matters if you see it coming or if it takes you by total surprise.
But one good thing about being a homesteader is you begin to see and acknowledge the value of life. Because we raise our own food, we know the sacrifice an animal must make for us to eat.
And in turn, I think that makes homesteaders a little more sensitive. I know my outlook on life changed completely when I began this lifestyle.
But I also know that I still wasn’t prepared to deal with this loss that our family has suffered. And it has been hard. I would be dishonest if I didn’t tell you there were some days I feel completely lost.
And it would also be dishonest if I didn’t tell you that there are some days I don’t ‘feel’ like homesteading. Because truthfully, there are days I want to mope and feel sorry for myself.
But I also know I have to manage a homestead that depends upon me getting up and moving my life in a positive direction.
So instead, I remember how much joy it brought my mother-in-law to be able to sit out on our back porch and watch our chickens peck around. And how much she loved listening to our goats make all of their funny noises.
And because of those memories, my husband and I are even more determined to be successful in our homesteading ventures. We actually feel like keeping our homestead dream alive is part of keeping my mother-in-law's legacy alive as she was the one that taught me how to preserve food and was a huge supporter of ours when we began this journey.
But remember, as important as staying positive is, if you need help coping with depression or grief please seek professional help. Here is a resource that you might find helpful.
7. Get The Big Stuff Out Of The Way
We all have chores that we have to do every day that are simply bigger than others. For instance, it takes more time and effort to feed our goats than it does our chickens.
And it isn’t their fault. It is just that hauling a bale of hay into the goat area requires more physical labor than throwing some scratch or fodder out on the ground does.
So anything that you know is going to be more physically taxing, go ahead and try to get it out of the way first thing.
And the reason I say this is because after you take some time off to deal with the grieving process it is hard to get back into the swing of things.
But don’t be surprised when you get tired easier during the day. You are going through a lot.
So other items that are physically taxing are things like:
And I’m sure there are plenty of other physically taxing things that you do to manage keeping busy around your own homestead.
So it helped us to plan accordingly when thinking about each day. This helped us tremendously in an effort to not over exert ourselves during a time that we were already mentally and emotionally taxed.
8. Manage to Get Organized
If you are going through a rough patch, you need things to be as neat and organized as possible. This makes life a ton easier.
So I would actually recommend keeping your homestead as organized as possible in preparation for a difficult time.
But if not, now is the time to really work on getting things organized so life can be easier while you face the months ahead.
And we are actually doing this now because we didn’t heed the advice of staying organized in advance.
But since the passing of my mother-in-law we have used this time to:
- clean up our property
- build extra storage structures so everything has a home
- build a few things around our property to help us relax and enjoy it more (like our fire pit)
- build feed bins
So just remember that organization is probably one of the biggest helps to manage around a homestead. That way during hard times life can be as easy as possible.
Well, there is my story and the few tips that I’ve developed over these past few weeks that I hope will help you if you have to face a similar trial.
But remember, I am not a mental health professional of any sort. This is just well-intentioned advice that you take at your own risk.