Grief and Mourning
Early in the process, people in your life will be scrambling to care from the loved one with Alzheimer’s. In doing so, they run the risk of not paying attention to their own needs.
The self-care tips on the previous pages will help you avoid burnout and other stress-related disorders, but it is only step one. Step two is grieving the loss. Though your loved one is still actively in your life, the way that you view them is changed forever and it is both healthy and normal to experience grieving a loved one.
If you do not adjust to the change, you will become stuck in denial, depression, anger or bargaining while never reaching acceptance. The steps to acceptance should not be avoided. Instead, embrace them through acknowledging the loss and finding new directions. Here’s how:
- Move through denial – Having a clear diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can take years after symptoms start and symptoms will come and go over time. This is a breeding ground for denial. Work through denial by acknowledging the current state of your loved one. Talk openly about it with others to cement it as fact.
- Move through anger – When denial is addressed, anger is a likely reaction. Forget the flawed notion that anger is bad or unwanted. Anger has a bad reputation because people tend to suppress their feelings for too long leading to an explosive burst of anger later where feelings are hurt and relationships broken. Find new ways to implement exercise and physical activity to channel the feeling into productive actions. You may have good luck releasing anger through art, journaling or breaking things. Finding an outlet for anger is another step towards acceptance.
- Move through depression – A loss is sad. When people see loved ones struggle, a number of thoughts are experienced. Write down your thoughts that contribute to depression. Are you worried about the future? Are you worried that you will receive the diagnosis yourself? Debate and challenge these thoughts to arrive at conclusions that make sense and will add to happiness.
- Move through bargaining – Bargaining is the process of making a deal, usually with God, in an attempt to remove the stress from your life. You tell God that you will be the best Christian if only He will allow you loved one to live longer or be symptom-free. Bargaining is an attempt to take control over something that is fully out of your hands. Once you realize the control is not yours, you can move to the next step.
- Move to acceptance – You must accept the things you cannot change. You cannot make Alzheimer’s go away. You cannot alleviate symptoms. Acceptance is not only acknowledging the diagnosis, but also in understanding the widespread influence it has on your life now and will in the future. Another part of acceptance is putting time, energy and effort into what you can control. If you feel that you have found some level of acceptance, refocus on self-care.
Having a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s puts you in an interesting situation as few diseases impact the family and friends as much as this one. Being active is always better than being passive. Taking time to place yourself as a priority allows you the opportunity to maintain all facets of your life. Along the way, work to move through the loss process. Finding acceptance does not mean you like the situation. It means that you are invested it doing what you feel is best. Acceptance is always best.