Death causes humans to mourn. And illness brings with it a million deaths, a million tiny losses both visible and invisible, long before the final death. You have to quit taking long walks after dinner. The beloved deep-throated laugh has been replaced by a rasp. That long-anticipated trip back to the homeland will never happen.
Of course you are grieving. For the person you love. For yourself. And for your life together.
And with grief comes the whole range of stages, from denial to bargaining. Yes, acceptance is a stage, too, but it takes awhile to get there. Moreover, since the person is still alive, you may also struggle with guilt; is it really appropriate to mourn someone who is alive?
Shouldn’t you be celebrating your time together?
Yes. And yes. But like so many things, that is often easier said than done. So recognize your grief, accept it too, but try not to let it take over your life.
Three things you can do about grief
- Know that you are not alone. In a University of Indianapolis study of Alzheimer’s caregivers, 80% said their biggest barrier to caregiving was the loss of the person they used to know.
- Understand that this is real. And it’s normal. So don’t try to shrug it off.
- Take care of yourself. Grief puts you at risk for depression, which in turn may put you at higher risk for dementia. So get a support network. Take a break. Breathe.