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.

Stumbling and Recovery

Something very strange happened to me last month. Or maybe it’s not so strange. For all the positive steps moving forward in grieving the loss of a loved one, you can stumble. And that happened to me last month.

I still get the shakes when I see the word “Alzheimer’s” in a heading or within text. Still, I read a review of “Still Alice” in The New York Times last month. But it was the readers’ comments that hit me hard.

As I read some of them, I started crying. They brought me back to my care-giving experiences. Not only did I share many of the readers’ experiences but it caused me, again, to question my care: Did I do everything I could? I knew mom had dementia but did my denial of Alzheimer’s hamper my care-giving? Should I have quit my job to be with her all the time? I still see her big smile and eyes light up when I would stop by for breakfast on my way to work. Could I or should I have done things differently? My friends and brother will give an emphatic “No!”

I think care-givers always have these doubts, especially after losing their loved one. But these comments hit such a nerve in me and set a trigger off so much so that I contacted my local Alzheimer’s Association to look into a support group. And as I’m on the phone with the rep, I just started bawling. My emotions were just so raw – something not experienced for a long time as I was doing so well.

Well, after calling the group’s facilitator and finding out she was no longer there, I guess I got over “it” because I chose not to follow through and lost interest. I’m still thinking of contacting them to find a group. In the grieving process one thing I have found, at least for me, is the need to talk. I’m sure it’s the same for most.

PS I have not yet seen the film … but I will.

PSS Gratefully and thankfully my daugher is fine. Her brain lesion is gone, and one month after her second MRI in December, she went on to run the Houston Marathon and a PR – 4:20:07! https://iloveluci2.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/together-again/

Having a Barbara Walters moment

Thank you, C., for encouraging me to seek Dr. R.’s counseling. She does help.

Matching thank you notes for the Robot Spacema...

Image by Dot D via Flickr

Her counseling makes me look at certain things with a different perspective. I know C. thinks I should see her regularly and I so appreciate her love and concern but for now, I’m fine with seeing Dr. R. on an “as-needed” basis.

But, she made me cry! She made me have a Barbara Walters moment and I don’t think I’ve cried in about two weeks! It wasn’t a bad cry but an emotional release cry, something I guess I needed and was harboring inside. I mean, how else would it have come out so easily.

Dr. R. gives me perspective and offers me a more introspective look into how I relate/react to mom’s dementia. I know I do what I do because her condition makes her vulnerable and I just want to protect her and make sure she’s safe.

Mom complained again about the alarm sensors I have on her bed and wheelchair but I told her I have them there not only for her safety but for my piece of mind – an encore conversation.

Overall, it was another good day for her, which means it was a good day for me. She had a manicure, C., her speech therapist, stopped by for a visit, and she enjoys the company of the ladies she eats her meals with. And, dinner was good tonight.

Life is good; it’s all relative.

Validation

Deep down I know that I’m doing all the right things and everything possible for my mother but I still needed validation from a professional. I sought that help this morning.

What I envisioned as a one-hour session turned into a nearly two-hour gabfest; I had a lot on my mind!

Many friends have sought Dr. R.’s counsel. I first visited with her when I was planning my mother’s move here four years ago and needed some guidance. She was helpful then. With the recent chain of events, I felt another visit was necessary. She was helpful now.

Dr. R., confirmed, validated and gave clarity to what I was already doing and feeling, and gave me tips on handling certain situations. Our conversation also opened up parallel issues of which I won’t go into here, but I felt validated, again, and it felt good.