"If there's one thing worse than Alzheimer's, it's ignorance of the disease." -- Marty Schreiber
Moving From Grief to Hope
Our society knows how to deal with grieving a loved one’s death. For Alzheimer's caregivers, our loss and pain are especially tough to deal with because we are losing our loved one in mind but not in body. Our loved one is gone, yet he or she still is there. Most people don’t know where to go with that type of loss.
My Alzheimer’s counselor, Lynda Markut, has helped me learn, cope, and survive.
What she has taught me is that we caregivers have many emotions and experiences in common. Love, hate, anger, happiness, pain, suffering, anxiety, worry all are on the list of what we are capable of feeling – sometimes all at the same time.
Generally speaking, some feelings are impossible to control – pain, for example. We need pain. How else would one know, instinctively, to remove our hand from a burning flame? And if we get burned, we will of course experience suffering.
When it comes to losing a loved one, the pain is horrible and deep. There’s no way ever to live again what once was. That life is over. Over. The suffering is immense.
But here is the good news. You can deal with suffering. You can treat it. And you can, if you try and with some help, live life again. Therein lies the hope that can get you through another day.
Think of it this way: going back to my earlier example, if you burn your hand, you can reduce your suffering by applying salves, bandaging, etc. Likewise, you can treat your suffering from losing your loved one. How? Experts say grieving, mourning or shedding our tears all are part of the medicine we need.
Most important, one must acknowledge that it is natural to feel such deep emotions of grief and to realize you should not go through this alone. Make connections with friends, support groups, or grief counselors. Work hard to let go of what once was so you can begin to embrace a new life, a new normal.
We can learn how to grieve, acknowledge our loss, and work to let go of what once was so we can embrace what now is. All the while, we can give thanks for being with our loved one and hold onto cherished memories.
There is hope for you and your loved one. Here are some resources that can lead you to the help you may need in caring for your loved one:
I recently talked about grieving the loss of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s with the hosts of The Morning Blend on TMJ4 WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. You can view our conversation here.
For questions or more information about Alzheimer’s and services or programs, visit alz.org or call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.
Marty is the primary caregiver for his wife Elaine, for whom his book is named. He compassionately promotes the value of learning about Alzheimer's and caregiving via personal appearances and serving as a media source. You'll enjoy his honesty and even his humor.