My mom has Alzheimer's, diagnosed 13 years ago. She has been very slowly declining but more so in the last year. For the first time she didn't seem to recognize me but she is very clever about hiding her dementia. I've read many posts here describing the anguish loved ones feel when they aren't remembered anymore. The loss of the person my mother used to be has been so gradual and until two years ago she and Dad lived hours away so I didn't see them regularly. I've accepted over time that Mom's decline is inevitable, that she will not get better, that she will have some days better than others, and there will come a day when she will go to sleep and not wake up. Here's my dilemma and wondering if others can identify. I think I'm emotionally detached from the day to day sense of loss. I watch my dad (her primary caregiver) silently, patiently, care for her. He grieves the loss of the girl he married and has loved for 67 yrs. He's fearful of the unknowns of the future. I'm remaining rational, practical, and emotionally "even" so I can encourage him through this. I lost my husband after a sudden illness 8 yrs ago. For four long painful years I walked that grief journey wondering if I would ever recover, be myself again, and have passion and energy for life. I finally made up my mind to move out of isolation, live a life of purpose, and feel free to love again. I also determined that I would never again let myself get so emotionally "lost" that I couldn't function reasonably and rationally. I held my brother's hand 10 months ago when he took his last breath after battling cancer for years. I couldn't cry tears of sorrow. I was happy he was free from pain! I miss him and my memories are precious but few tears. Do I have a healthy emotional response to losses and particularly where my mom is now? I would be most grateful if others could share how you've handled the grief of loss. I know everyone grieves differently; the time frame and emotions aren't the same for everyone. I just don't want to shut down.

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Thank you Garden Artist! Very insightful and helpful. I'm at peace with myself☺
Helpful Answer (2)

The fact that you're asking these questions is to me an indication that you haven't shut down.

I think response to grief and loss changes as we age and with additional losses. We don't necessarily become immune (I think that requires a different type of personality), but we do process it and respond differently. Perhaps some of that change in response is self protection.

When my mother died, my first inclination was to challenge the staff at the rehab facility as to why she couldn't be resuscitated, and/or what else they did or didn't do. I was in disbelief, although I knew my mother's health was declining precipitously. My sister, who was a psych nurse, told me not to challenge, that the method of passing wasn't inconsistent with her medical conditions.

My sister was much more knowledgeable, so I listened to her, but sometimes I continued to wonder, until the next year when my sister lost her battle to cancer. The agony she experienced changed my approach on this second path to the end. Her suffering was great, she was so compromised, chemo couldn't help, radiation couldn't help, and it was agonizing to see her struggle.

Given that it was inevitable, I just wanted to see her free from pain. That attitude carried forward to my father's recent death. Recognizing the signs, I knew what was coming. I managed to "keep it together" until the very end, when I experienced not only the painful loss but for the second time, the relief from physical deterioration and the complete lack of any quality of life.

I was able to "keep it together" for the first week or so, but then the real grief hit like a hurricane level wind. I had to take several weeks off, just to recover stability again.

So, I evolved, just as I think your approach to grief is evolving, perhaps to protect you and keep you strong now when you're needed to support your parents.

And, BTW, I think not responding in an outwardly emotional way is a way of "sucking it up" to help people get through tough times and save the emotional breakdowns for more private moments.
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Thank you for your responses and insights! It helps to know how others think and feel! I let myself go on a guilt trip because I don't respond in an outwardly emotional way. Blessing to you all.
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Everyone grieves differently and I don’t find your process wrong or bad. In the days and weeks following my mother’s death I cried surprising little. It had been such a long and hard journey for her, and for us all. It wasn’t right to want her to stay, life was simply too miserable for her. I’ve cried and been sad more in the time since as I’ve seen my children grow up minus her presence, or had times I’ve missed her being with us for. It’s more a lingering sadness that appears at times, not a constant grieving. In any case, I think it’s healthy to not linger over it in a way that doesn’t feel comfortable or natural for you. Wish you the best in the journey
Helpful Answer (1)

My dad had 2 devastating strokes. He knew the end was near and tried to tell me so. But I kept positive, not knowing how to talk to a parent that knows they're dying.

I missed his passing by minutes but I believe that loved ones often do that to save the despair of watching your family member die.

I cried next to his bed and told him he could now fly down to Puerto Vallarta (where I was living), to be with me. No more physical limits.

I couldn't cry as though my heart was breaking because I knew what the alternative offered--a life as a vegetable. I was glad he could "go" without suffering the depression of diaper changes and bed baths.

I bawled my eyes out at his military funeral. I was the only one there.

Since then, I've felt him with me when I say something he would have said or look at his picture. I'm sorry he couldn't have died in his sleep but I'm glad he was comfortable (hospice) for the few days he had left. They were great.

I think you know the signs to watch for now. You can't retract from the world. But no one can tell you how to grieve. It's a process.
Helpful Answer (1)

Dear Dlanz,

Please know there is no right way or wrong way to grieve. You have been through so much with the loss of your husband and now watching your mom decline and your dad's sadness. It's a lot for one person.

Like you said, we are all so different. I know we all worry about how others will view us in our grief, but we'll have to let it go.

I thought I was practical and reasonable. I saw my father every day and tried my best to do what I thought was best for him. But when he passed in the hospital I as horribly raw. I never thought I would be so raw and emotional and so tearful.

Then the following year my only grandparent passed. I had helped her since 2004 and tried to fill the gap left by my aunts and uncles. I felt like I had taken time away from my own dad to help her (my mother's mother). I was so angry after my father's passing, I pulled back in seeing her. Then she passed almost one year to the day of my own dad's passing. I did not cry. My siblings cried at her funeral and said to me, why aren't you crying? I spoke at the funeral and I still didn't cry. I don't know but I think I was so worn from my grief from my dad, I had no more tears for anyone else.

I too worried that maybe I was shut down emotionally. But now I think that when we need to our emotions will come out even if we don't want them to. My father's passing hit me very hard. So no matter what your emotions are or aren't its okay.

Thinking of you.
Helpful Answer (5)

Dian, I am so sorry for all you’ve been through. When both my parents passed, I couldn’t cry. In a particularly snarky moment once, my husband told me I cried more when our dog died than I did for my father. The tears or lack thereof doesn’t mean you aren’t grieving or you don’t care about your loved one. Grief has many levels and not all of them involve falling to your knees and bawling your eyes out. Grief is a heart-pain and tears don’t make that go away. Time helps. But there is no real cure. Some of us deal by taking charge and being there for whatever is needed. And, some of us believe, especially when the journey has been long and hard, that our loved one truly has gone to a better place, so why weep and wail?

You know yourself the best. If you feel yourself shutting down and wanting to hide, there is no shame in seeking therapy. I wish you peace in this journey. Come back here whenever you need to.
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