Grief results not only from the loss of a loved one. Sometimes we don't know that's the emotion we're experiencing in a relationship, or even a job (which is also a relationship).
This morning, I recalled a therapy session years ago in which it was suggested I was grieving the loss of the relationship I once had with my, then, husband of 20 years. I wasn't accepting that I could not change the facts. He was/is an abusive alcoholic . I was not accepting that I could not change him and the relationship would not be what I hoped or expected it would be.
What I learned was that I could only take care of me and my kids, be responsible for my own life, emotions and behavior. Eventually, I got past the grief and life improved significantly. We;re no longer married and I survived to find a happy life again.
Maybe it's a stretch, but I may find this useful in dealing with my Mother's dementia and it may help someone else here, too.
I believe I'm grieving:
The loss of the mother I used to know. We were the not best of friends ever, but I knew her, she knew me and we love each other. We still love each other but the "terms" are different. I miss her.
The loss of the socializing I/we used to enjoy before, when we were "normal".
The loss of my personal time - I spend more time thinking about Mom and her needs than I do about own needs. It seems I have to make time to manage things in my own life! My wonderful new (10 years now) husband makes sacrifices regularly because I need to take care of things for Mom. I wish that were not the case. We deserve to celebrate our life together.
The loss of the famiy times that were about the family - not just Mom's condition. We used to laugh and enjoy each other. Now .... well, it's not the same anymore. There's always that elephant in the room.
The loss of freedom to just "make plans" that don't require making special arrangements for Mom.
The loss of energy and sleep because of concerns for Mom.
It occurs to me that I lost many of these same things when the kids were born. It was an exhausting period in life - but joyful and I did it willingly. Sure, I complained a bit then, too. But the outcome was different. (And I was younger.)
This new person, "Dementia", was not an anticipated, joyful addition to the family. And this demon has taken over my mother without her consent or acceptance. I willingly take on this new "person", but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Now, the question is, how do I grieve my way through this? It seems like it will be transitional, based on the progression of the disease.
So it seems I/we must be in ongoing therapy together here.
How are you dealing with the losses? Are you able to celebrate the rainbows that sometimes appear? What are they?
Let's identify what it is we have lost and see if we can find a few rainbows together.
Ok, maybe that's over the top, but you should savor the memory. How did it make you feel? Did you smile a little? How did you respond to your Mom? Can you smile about it now? Try!
Create a "picture" of this rainbow to hold onto.
Photography is a hobby I've enjoyed over the years. I have many pictures of rainbows I've seen in various parts of the country. When I look at these "snapshots" I can recall the moment and how I felt in that moment.
A great thing about rainbows is that you never know when they will happen, when all elements will be in place to allow this experience.
As caregivers, we need to be aware of the precious moments that occur and commit them to memory. Perhaps we should keep a journal! This could be an album of our "rainbows".
I have a daily planner to keep appointments in and I make notes about my daily conversations with Mom. Some of them are pretty discouraging, but I note the "rainbows", too. It lifts my spirits to go back and recall these precious moments. As time goes by, if Mom no longer knows who I am, these memories will be even important, I think.
It's okay to cry because of your losses. Be kind to yourself.
I hope you find a rainbow today.