"What I wish I'd known is how much assistance my mother needed from me and my sister," says Jamieson Haverkampf, who was only 30 years old when her father died of stage III non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leaving her mother widowed at the age of 56. "I underestimated that."
Jamieson and her mother, Caroline, and sister, Ivy, had exhausted themselves as caregivers and advocates for John Haverkampf while he underwent treatments during the last year of his life. When he died in 2001, they were fatigued and overwhelmed by the challenges of life in the aftermath of his death. To make matters worse, Haverkampf had just started her own business in San Francisco, and she and her sister were splitting their time between there and the East Coast, where their mother lived.
"We stayed for a month to help with funeral arrangements, but there was so much more -- financial and legal paperwork, investments," says Haverkampf, whose mother had married at the age of 23 and left those issues to her husband during their 34 years of marriage. "There was a lot of transition -- selling the house, helping my mother downscale, helping her move across state lines, coaching her on where to go to meet new people as a single adult for the first time in her life. I guess it's almost like parenting your parent who never had to learn these things as a single adult on her own. I underestimated how long it would take."
Haverkampf went on to write Mom Minus Dad: The Essential Resource Guide for Busy Adults With a Newly Widowed Parent, a compendium of resources and advice that she hopes will help other adult children and their parents have an easier time of it. If she had it to do over, she says, she would have slowed down the rest of her life at that time, even if it meant putting her new business on hold. "I should have just taken a job working for someone else and cut back on the other things I was doing, to keep myself going and help her. It was just too much. Now I tell people: It's not going to be over in a week. It's an ongoing thing."