Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Intensity of 12 Years vs the Longevity of 41!

The other day I was feeling blue again. This is the nature of grief. It comes and goes, comes and goes. And when you think it has calmed down, it once again tantrums!

A new skill I have been working on is to be able to allow my emotions while at the same time asking them if they are valid. Instead of just feeling down I ask myself, "Is what I am thinking, is what I am feeling real? Is the nature of this memory true?"

The other day a bevy of erroneous thoughts were the cause of my grief. I knew they were not the truth but they were affecting me anyway. They ran, kicking and screaming, past my mind in single file, one at a time.

Was I as good to Gregory as I could be? Did I make the right decisions on his behalf? Did I go out of my way enough to be there for him. Did I spend enough time with him? Did I make sure I communicated my love to him in ways he could understand? Did I tell him often enough how much I love him?

And the thoughts got worse! Did I spend enough time with him as he was dying? Did I sit with his body long enough when he was dead? Was he really dead or is it possible he was just more deeply in a coma? Should I have kept all night vigils with him? Did I let him know strongly enough how much I would miss him and how I wanted him to stay with me?

I knew that these thoughts, these memories, these emotions were not the truth. I did not want to allow them to get me down. So I started trying to think about better times. About my great love for this man. Of the good things I did for him and he for me. But I realized that my thoughts were still of him fairly advanced with Dementia/ Alzheimer's. They were still memories of me alone, as caregiver, Gregory at Lieberman Center and greatly diminished.

So I tried to think of earlier times and earlier joy and love. And I couldn't. I pictured some events during better times but the emotions of those events did not help me feel better. Did not lighten the depth of despair or grief I was feeling. I realized that I was having trouble recalling or recreating those earlier times in Gregory and my life when we were young or even those times before the diagnosis of Alzheimer's when we were so much in love, happy, healthy.

This next set of untrue emotions replaced the earlier erroneous feelings of not being there, not doing enough, not communicating etc with new and just as painful emotions. I cried, I felt depressed, I felt alone and lonely. Where had those 41 years gone and why couldn't I use them to help me feel better. I just couldn't picture or feel or remember clearly the earlier, happier days of our relationship.

I shared all of this with Isaac, my God Son, over dinner last night. I knew the lack of truth in all of my processing but didn't know how to turn it around. Talking about it with him felt good, he is a good listener, he didn't try to tell me I was wrong or "buckle up!" He thought for a moment and asked if he could share a thought he had on the situation. "Of course I replied." This is what he explained:

"The difficulties of Gregory and your life over the last intense 12 years of living with Dementia/ Alzheimers, as well as Gregory's death, is still what you are dealing with. There is so much love and joy in the 41 years you and he have been together but right now those years are overshadowed by the 12 difficult years. It only makes sense that you need to spend more energy dealing with, grieving, those 12 years before you can get back to enjoying the memories of those 41 years."

We summed it up with this sound bite: The intensity of 12 years vs the longevity of 41! Just having this insight, as shared by Isaac, made me feel much better, able to put my grief aside for now, and to feel normal. Like I am going through the normal process of grieving. That it will get better!

The more you love someone, the more you grieve. The more you love someone, the harder it is to let go even though you know that because of that love, you must let go. Yes, the intensity of the 12 years Gregory and I walked the path of Dementia/ Alzheimer's is strong, but the 41 years of our love is stronger and will prevail!


  1. There's a certain amount of telling the story again that we do as we work through understanding the grief/horror/trauma and into keeping the pleasant memories.

    Try not to second guess how you could have done each individual task differently. There is usually not an opportunity to rehearse how a given moment will play out. You took so much better care of Gregory than anybody else could have.

    1. Jean, Has anyone every told you that you are a very wise women? You are so right about not being able to rehearse each moment. And I know that I took wonderful care of Gregory, it's just when the emotions erroneously take over. That is why it is so important to allow yourself to sit with the emotions and talk to them. Keep some, ask others to leave or redefine themselves!

  2. That Isaac is a wise one. Who would have thought putting rice in your hair (brown rice, of course) would have ultimately fostered such insight?
    Love you- Jan


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