Alzheimer’s Grief’s Role
Grief’s Role in the Acceptance Process
Love and loss are inextricably linked. When we lose something or someone important to us, we must allow ourselves to fully grieve that loss, or we will never be able to live fully again. Grief’s life cycle transforms love’s bud into a flower. Love must suffer and grow to be true love. Everything else suffers and perishes. Love endures despite loss.
Marie was devastated when Ed was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She knew deep down that she would never be able to accept the situation. She couldn’t even hold a meaningful conversation with him. He couldn’t compliment her on her achievements. He couldn’t help her with her problems. He couldn’t be that solid rock who was always there for her. Marie was lost, engulfed in her grief.
Then, against her better judgment, Marie took Ed a small stuffed animal one day. He adored it. They began to play simple games with it. It was entertaining. Marie took him more small stuffed animals because it reminded her of a mother playing with her young child. He adored each one more than the previous one.
Marie realized after a few weeks that her heart had changed forever. She’d finally found a way to connect with Ed that worked for both of them. She was overjoyed to see his joy. When she realized she could give her ‘new Ed’ pleasure, it was more than enough to compensate for the loss of their previous relationship.
Make no mistake: achieving this level of acceptance will not be easy. It will take time, and the amount of time will vary depending on the individual. It could take weeks, months, or even years to complete. Some are initially convinced they will be unable to complete the task. In fact, no matter how hard they try, some people never achieve acceptance.
Acceptance should probably come after grief. It is necessary to mourn the loss of a loved one’s mental image as he once was. Grieve for the fact that the person will never get better. Weep because the person’s condition will worsen over time. Grief can feel overwhelming.
If the person with Alzheimer’s is placed in a care facility, the staff may be able to meet the majority of his needs. The family caregiver may feel unimportant. When someone cares for someone for a long time and then that person no longer appears to require the caregiver, there is such a huge vacuum that the caregiver may feel useless and depressed.
One may even believe he has let the person down, that he is not “good enough” to care for the person at home, that he has done the worst thing possible, that he is a complete failure. The caregiver may be concerned that others dislike him and are criticizing him behind his back.
Caregivers will most likely miss having their loved ones with them all day, every day. Caregivers may feel deep grief at the loss of companionship, no matter how difficult it was to keep their loved one at home, no matter how relieved they may feel that they are no longer on duty 24/7.
The caregiver may also be angry at his or her loved one for changing. He may become enraged if he is unable to have meaningful conversations with the Alzheimer’s patient. If that person no longer recognizes the caregiver, the caregiver may become even more enraged. He may be so angry that he refuses to visit the individual. He may even wish the individual were dead. This is also normal. Anger is a natural part of the grieving process.
It is critical to allow yourself time to grieve. To be kind to oneself. The caregiver’s grief will most likely end sooner or later, and he will be free to accept the situation, which will allow him to truly enjoy his relationship with the person and have joyful visits.