It all started when…
My mother, Carmen, developed breast cancer in the Spring of 1994. I was graduating from high school and set to begin college at the University of Florida that year. The next four years would be very trying as I was leaving home for the first time.
My parents were apart during this time as well due to my mother's various cancer treatments outside of Orlando. She endured radiation, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and a mastectomy during my first two years in college. I witnessed the emotional toll it took on my father as I experienced him cry for the first time. The physical treatments took their toll on my mother and it was immense. She was just a shell of the strong, dominating woman I once knew. It was extremely hard dealing with the reality that my mother could die. This was also my first realization of the strong support system I had. Just as college graduation came, my mother's cancer went into remission and continued that way for the next several years.
In 2000, my mother had a series of neurotic episodes, one of which caused her to be Baker Acted. Other episodes resulted in a series of cognitive evaluations. She was eventually diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. My father, Clorse, then became my mother's primary caregiver and this was a serious change to how we all used to live. My mother had to have a caregiver 24/7. With no formal planning, I was relied upon to guide my mother and father through the next eight years of their lives.
Being a caregiver took its toll on my father’s health. My father experienced renal failure and went on dialysis during this time. He also experienced a series of cardiac events stemming from the stress of caring for my mom. I had many obstacles to overcome from 2000 until 2008 and during this time, I became a power of attorney for my mom. I had to secure financing in the event that my parents ran out of money because of healthcare costs. I sought and had no success with professionals whom I deemed as experts in the field of elder care. I also sought and was denied Medicaid on my mother’s behalf on three separate occasions. My wife, Annmarie, and I purchased my parents’ home to preplan for healthcare funding later in case my parents exhausted all their financial means.
My parents did eventually run out of money and we had a family meeting to solicit and learn of my parents’ final healthcare wishes. This was done because my parents had no formal estate planning. In the year of both of my parents’ death, I had to secure and fund a nursing home for my mother for several months. I also had to make the gut wrenching decision to get Hospice involved to make my mother as comfortable as possible. I had to be a realistic because medical treatment only did as much as it could. I also had to honor my mother’s final wishes of not sustaining her life artificially. Although this was the same decision my father wanted for his own life, he could not come to let his wife go. My mother died in August of 2008.
In order to help my dad, I tabled my emotions with grief and focused on the reality of life without my mother. I cared for my father as if he was my very own child. This was also the point I realized that I had been a caregiver for both parents and would continue to be a caregiver for my father. The death of my mother became too much for my father and he lost his will to live, eventually succumbing to a fatal heart attack in November 2008. I had to handle all final arrangements just as I did for my mother. This time, I had to decide what to do with the contents of my parents’ home and how to deal with the property. Although I knew it was important not to make financial decisions out of emotion, it was still very hard. I decided to have an estate sale, remodel and rent the home, partially due to the fact that we were in the midst of a deep recession.
After the financial obligations reached finality, I had to pick up the emotional pieces and regroup for the next trials to come in my life. After relentlessly and unsuccessfully attempting to employ professionals to aid in the ongoing care of my parents, I decided to become a certified expert through formal education and mentorship. One year and a half later, my paternal grandmother fell ill due to a stroke. She would later be placed in a nursing home, only to develop a severe infection that would ultimately claim her life. The same due diligence applied to my grandmother’s care, with the exception that she was out of state. At one point, my wife and I began the process of moving my grandmother across the country to ensure she had the best care.
I dealt with the reality of these situations with seclusion and alcohol. I probably drank more than I should have, but the grief was so deep and it was the only way I knew how find relief. It was shortly after loathing in self-pity for several months that I decided I needed to employ a higher power, my spiritual adviser and priest. I realized I had hit rock bottom emotionally and my priest recommended that I seek the help of a bereavement group.
I had been yearning to interact with people who had very similar experiences to mine and it was important for me to share my story with others. Joining this group would be the turning point of my life, as it would help me lay a foundation to endure future storms ahead. The group was comprised of widows, widowers and parents of children whom had all experienced this journey called grief. They allowed me to comfortably display all of my emotions in a nonthreatening environment. They also gave me a positive mechanism in which to channel my grief. They were very accepting and uplifted my soul by reinforcing the exemplary man I had become. They also allowed me to find and share similar experiences with folks who had been in the same predicament.
After many, many sessions with this group, I began my life of healing. It was during this time that my wife and I decided to go on a medical missionary trip to Ghana. I learned that giving back to others was a significant source of healing. During this time, I also renewed my faith by investing time in a spiritual retreat with my church. My faith wavered at times during the process, but in the end, I was guided to a point in which I needed to heal properly.
Two years later, Annmarie and I would experience the most dramatic and traumatic loss yet. In the summer of 2012, we were expecting twin boys. After 16 weeks, Annmarie’s water broke, which put both babies in danger. Baby A, formally named Christopher Clorse Dale, would have little hope of survival because most of the fluid loss was from his amniotic sac. Two weeks later, Christopher Clorse was born but did not survive.
As we mourned the passing of our first son, we prayed that all would be well with our second son. The chances of survival would increase dramatically if he did not come in the first 24 hours after Christopher Clorse was born. With a little medical intervention and a ton of support of friends, family and God, our second son stayed put and was born after 41 weeks. He was named Elias. This was the turning point for Life After Grief for the Dales.
Two years later, Annmarie and I once again experienced Life After Grief with the successful birth of our third son, Gideon. Both of the boys’ names have religious symbolism. Elias, meaning the Lord is my God, symbolized our realization that a higher power controlled our ultimate destiny. Gideon, meaning warrior, symbolizes our demeanor to weather hard times.
During these times, I had unrelenting spiritual guidance, as well as support of family and friends. Constant group counseling helped me focus on Life After Grief. My strong support system made me realize how strong I really was in the face of adversity. It also made me realize how resilient I had become. These experiences have given me poise to help over 400 families navigate many financial issues and life circumstances. I truly look at my experiences in life as GIFTS that I can use to help others.
I have an Elementary of Education degree from the University of Florida. I also minored in Business Administration, as well as specialized in both Psychology and Business Administration. I have been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ for over six years and have been in private client management for over fifteen years.
I am happily married to my wife Annmarie and we currently reside in Orlando, FL with our two sons, Elias and Gideon.
In the News
Chris Dale frequently works with the media (print, digital, television, radio) to provide professional insight surrounding a variety of finance topics. For media inquiries regarding financial advice on grieving clients or commentary for upcoming stories, contact Chris Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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