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.

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.

Blessed

After reading and hearing about so many stories of loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s/dementia, I’ve come to see how blessed mom and our family were.

Sure she had short-term and some long-term memory loss but the most important memory loss she never suffered from as so many do, was recognizing us. She always knew who we were.

When mom was in hospice and when T. would talk to her and sing her that funny and endearing song he made up about her, even though it became more difficult for mom to talk, she managed an, “Oh, Ted,” accompanied by a big smile.

Mom never experienced personality changes as many do. She remained the same, sweet, person she always was.

As I continue to reflect back on last year’s events about mom, I still question some things that I did and didn’t do, like spending more time with her during the week even though I worked. Was it right to move her into assisted living and not move her into a 2-bedroom apartment with a live-in aide? If I hadn’t moved her to AL then she wouldn’t have fallen and fractured her pelvis and the “beginning of the end”, as I call it, wouldn’t have happened.

But then, as Dr. K tried to explain to me, her condition would have gotten much worse; it appeared as though she had some TIAs and would likely have be on the path to eventually not recognizing us.

So, as I continue to try to fully accept events leading up to her passing, I thank my blessings everyday that she knew who we all were ’til the end and how much she was loved.

Not quite there yet

Today marks 10 months since mom’s passing. In the cycle of yearly events, this month also marks the final family holiday without mom. It’s so hard to believe I have been without her this long. And it hurts.

I’m not at that place yet when I can think of her with beautiful and happy memories. I know I will eventually get there. I read that I will and I’m told that I will, and I look forward to that day. But right now, thoughts of mom just remind me of my loss.

Mom, I miss and love you so much.

Driving as a mental hazard

Driving has become a mental hazard for me. This is the time I mostly reflect and think about mom — the good times but mostly the last couple of months of her life when things started going downhill.

Nearly five-and-a-half months later I’m still playing out various scenes in my head, wondering if I took appropriate action when I noticed changes in mom’s condition. I know I did – taking mom to the doctor, hiring aides and then increasing their hours for more care, stopping by on my way to work, stopping by on my way home from work, and then finally planning to work remotely from her room to be with her and to observe her, but that never happened since she wound up in the hospital. If I know, deep in my heart, that I did do the right things, then why do I still feel this way?

The signs of behavioral change were there – hygiene accidents, forgetting how to answer the phone (but not all the time), giving her a toothbrush and gently redirecting it from her forehead to her mouth, telling me “I’m not a dirty person” when I tried to get her to wash up for bed one night, telling me one evening that she bought the place where she was living for me. These are the scenes that keep playing out in my head, scenes that I can’t seem to kick.

We never talked about death. We never really openly talked about Alzheimer’s – I always referred to it as dementia (which it was) – except for the times she wondered, “why me?”  I was afraid. I was afraid  to say she had a brain disease, but she knew her dementia affected her speech, memory and handwriting. Did she know she was dying? I didn’t really think she was dying, at least not yet. I know Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease but I never looked at it like that with her. Was I in denial?

I think it’s time for another visit with Dr. R.