Grief Starts Early With Alzheimer’s, Ways to Honor The Grief Process

October 10, 2009 at 2:33 am Leave a comment

We tend to think that grief begins after a loved one has died, but grief is a natural part of life–and change–any change can trigger grief. We grieve the loss of our pets, a move, a career change, changes in our bodies and our health, a divorce, or our children leaving home. Even the changing of our favorite seasons can cause us to long that things could just stay the same. Nowhere is grief more profound than when we care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s can feel like a series of goodbyes. We grieve our loved one’s losses, and we grieve our own. As our elders must choose to no longer drive or live alone, or walk without assistance, we feel for them. We remember our moms and dads and spouses when they young and strong and could take on the world.

I remember sitting with my mother who had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s at the doctor’s office one day. She was up on the table (I had to help her get there, and trust me, that wasn’t easy) and sitting four feet away, it caught me how small she was, how vulnerable she looked with her shoulders curve down and in. Her hair was completely white and she had a rather vacant look in her eyes. She was and wasn’t the mom I knew so well.  I saw my mother cocooned inside a body she nor I barely recognized.

Knowing where Alzheimer’s is going can kick in periods of sadness. That’s okay. It’s being honest and there are times when it’s good to cry, good to feel the emotions of sorrow and longing. Grief comes in waves, and I’ve found that if I honor the changes, the grief, even when it does feel as if my heart will break, then soon, that wave will pass.

Ways to Honor Our Grief:

  • Take some photographs.  See the beauty in vein-riddled hands and silver-white hair. There’s a sense of beauty that comes with aging, I liken it to the beauty and intricacy of a spider’s web. Even when the photographs reveal the ravages of time and disease, there’s something important about acknowledging today–just as it is.
  • Dig out some old photographs–baby pictures, grade school, high school, the dating years, wedding photos. Remember who your loved one is–and was. Create a bridge by taking note of each decade, each life event. Display these photos so when grief comes, you can ease its sting by acknowledging what an amazing life journey they’ve had–and you’ve had with them.
  • Write letters and share what you’re experiencing. Even if no one ever reads them, you need to write them. Grief is like a suitcase we carry with us–and if we have a place to put it–our thoughts, our worries, our memories–when we write them, we ease our own emotional load.
  • Talk to those who share your experience. Call your sister, a cousin, or a friend who has been through a similar situation. Knowing that someone will listen to you, someone you can reminisce with, confide in–makes our grief bearable.

The more we grieve now, whenever it rises in us, the more natural and healthy it is. We can’t deny that our loved ones are dying–we’re all dying–and if our loved one is older and is struggling with Alzheimer’s or other diseases, then yes, they will most likely die before us. Grief helps prepare our bodies and our hearts.  Know that as a loved one and a caregiver this emotional work of grief is necessary, and it’s part of your healing.

Don’t miss out on Dakim’s Dakim’s “Give Thanks for Loved Ones” Contest running now through November 5th. 

Visit Alzheimer’sWeekly.com for entry forms and contest rules.

Entry filed under: caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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