Recovering from grief…or do we?

I’ve been away from posting for a long time. I take this as a positive sign of my recovery from grieving. But, do we ever fully recover?

Sure, I know grief is personal and subjective and everyone handles it differently; there is no right or wrong way. Everyone has their own timetable and needs to find their new normal.

But now and then those triggers pop up. Just when you think you have things under control – BOOM! – you see or read something that sets you back. This has happened to me a couple of times post-recovery. I try to avoid articles on dementia and Alzheimer’s because an uneasiness comes over me but at the same time, they draw me in; they’re so compelling. So, I’ll scan over them. Some are upsetting to me because I find myself second-guessing my care, reflecting on “should I have done this or that”, “why was I impatient at times….she couldn’t help it”, and the like.

Such an article, and a beautiful one, written by Dan Gasby set off that trigger recently. He is the husband and care partner to supermodel, restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, and nationally known lifestyle expert  B. Smith, who has younger-onset Alzheimer’s,

The loss of my mother is still relatively new. In February it will be four years. I was depressed for the first 2 1/2 of those years during which I had a daughter and a son get married and welcomed two beautiful grandsons into our family; I now have a third due in a couple of months. Most days are good. When I think of my mother now I think of happy and fun times. I’m not bogged down by those deepest feelings of loss. That is a sign of recovery. I believe I have found my new normal.

Still, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her or miss her.

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Three years and coping

It seems a little surreal and hard to believe that today marks three years since mom’s been gone; seems just like yesterday and an eternity at the same time. I received sweet texts this morning from my daughter-in-law and friend, and phone calls from my daughters. I’ll visit mom later today and go to minyan tonight even though I went last week for her yahrzeit, the anniversary of the day of death in the Jewish calendar.

I went back into my email correspondence with Ted, trying to find something. I often referred to Ted as “T.” in my writing, and came across L’s exquisite eulogy that so embodied the essence of mom.

During the heavy grieving period we all cope differently. For me, it was wearing mom’s clothes and using her nail polish on my toes so when I looked down at my feet it was like looking at hers. And today, I’m wearing one of her sweaters and a pair of sandals that I bought with her.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of mom or tell her how much I love her. As Ted so poignantly and elegantly told me as only he could, “nothing dies that is remembered.”

In that case, mom is very much alive in me … and always will be.

Remembering the past, embracing the future

It’s quite amazing the strides I have made in my grief journey. This time last year I would never have believed that I could be where I am today.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I was experiencing signs that that I was moving on from grieving. There have been other signs, like this bamboo plant of mom’s, which is not doing well. Despite caring for it, it’s dying. And every time I pass it my heart sinks a little, like I’m losing a little bit more of mom. But it’s a sign to me to continue to move on.bamboo

But on March 5 we were blessed with our beautiful and precious first grandchild, William, and mom was blessed with her first great-grandchild.baby will sleepingThese past two years have been a struggle but, life is getting better.

Reading List

An incandescent light bulb.

Image via Wikipedia

Since getting the wake up call last month and realizing that my mother needs to be in AL sooner than later and visibly seeing her limitations, I’ve done a considerable amount of reading on dementia and Alzheimer’s via books, newsletters and blogs.  I’m trying to soak up as much information as I can.

I’ve taken advantage of Border’s unfortunate “going out of business” situation and have stockpiled a couple of books.

I’m currently reading “The 36-Hour Day.” It came highly recommended and is basically a  guide to caring for persons with Alzheimer’s, related demented illnesses, and  memory loss in later life. It’s comforting to know that I’m already engaged in some of the things recommended.

Two other books that I picked up are “A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s” and Gail Sheehy’s “Passages in Caregiving.”

The first book is an edited collection of inspirational stories of unconditional love and support; the other is Sheehy’s personal account of her own care-giving journey, offering advice and encouragement.

 A third book that I’m waiting to arrive from Amazon is, “I’m Still Here: A New Philosophy of Alzheimer’s Care.”  It focuses on connecting through a person’s abilities that don’t diminish with time, such as music appreciation, art, facial expressions, and touch.

I’ve always been interested in books covering medical issues and first-person accounts in the practice of medicine. One of my favorite doctor-writers is Atul Gawande (“Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science,”  “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance”). If you have a similar interest you should check him out.

An excellent book that I recently finished that is not about dementia and Alzheimer’s but is brain related is “My Stroke of Insight.” It’s the incredibly courageous and inspiring story of a brain scientist who suffered a stroke in her left hemisphere when she was only 37 years old and completely healed eight years later. The brain is a miraculous organ!

Also on my reading list is “The Brain That Changes Itself.” I’ve had this for a while but haven’t gotten around to it yet. This book delves into the brain’s plasticity using a mix of case studies to illustrate its extraordinary capacity to recover. It has nothing to do with dementia, it’s just a topic that interests me.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy couple of months of reading.