PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

To Grieve or Not to Grieve and How, That is the Question

Interesting that often family and friends will tell you how to grieve. Or at least they will offer advice and/or suggestions. Shortly after Gregory died, when they would make their offers, I would try to share how I felt about the grieving process and how that process made sense to me.

This often took more energy then I had and most often the family member or friend would agree, and then reiterate once more their idea on what I would be going through and what I should expect. “You are strong and have been dealing with this well. But one day it will hit you so be ready. You will grieve and loose it. It will not be easy. Be prepared.” Eventually, actually on short order, I just started saying, “Thank You” and leaving it at that. I didn't feel the need to explain, or educate, or council.

My own understanding of how I have been grieving is that I have been “HIT WITH IT” for over twelve years, especially during the last month Gregory was still at home, then hit hard with the realization for 18 months while Gregory was at Lieberman - even though he was well taken care of, and hit yet again during the four days he was preparing for his passage, and finally on the day that I sat with his empty body and held his hand and kissed his cooling mouth.

I have been processing and writing about Gregory and my journey with Dementia/Alzheimer’s for over five years on my blog of over 1,370 posts with 70,344 hits and this doesn't count the manuscript, consisting of over 300 pages, which I worked on before I began the blog.

I am often "HIT WITH IT" when I wish Gregory goodnight over my shoulder towards Grandma Carrie's sewing box where his ashes reside, when I find the need to cry myself to sleep, and when I feel the need to cry myself awake.

Grief does not happen all the time but when it arrives, I welcome the emotions and sit with them. Sometimes if I do not have the energy to cope, I welcome the emotions and thank them. I ask them to come back another time when I am feeling stronger.  I do this out-loud. It seems to work and they leave me alone for the time being.

Grief happens when I am reminded of a favorite restaurant at which Gregory and I used to eat or a favorite place we shopped. It happens when I hear a certain song, or am reminded while at the opera, or when I use a language expression that we used to "shorthand" with each other.

It happens when I write my blog as I process ideas, emotions, and experiences.

So I wonder to myself, "Either I am doing a wonderful job of grieving or I am doing a good job of hiding my emotions." I think that the former is true and not the latter. I think that I have been grieving for 12+ years, just to various degrees and with various triggers.

People say, "I am so sorry for your loss." And I say "Thank You." What I want to say is, "Thank you, but I have gained more than I have lost. I am NOT sorry, I am SAD but not SORRY! I am HAPPY, maybe even JOYFUL that especially Gregory, but also I, am no longer having to live in a Ménage à Trois with Alzheimer's being the dominant uninvited partner.

(Written July 4, 2012)

After more than forty  years their relationship is as strong as ever, their love continues to grow, change, and adjust to the times. Uninvited, however, a third partner has joined the relationship.

When they first met, it was not fashionable for two people of the same sex to be in love let alone to participate in a “three-way.” But Alzheimer’s does not discriminate nor ask permission and so it became a Ménage à Trois.

In the beginning, each one was very much unlike the other. He was tall and he was short. He was fair and he was dark. He was slender and he was bulky. He was a recovering Catholic. He was a recovering Jew. He was calm, thoughtful, and orderly. He was animated, impulsive, and random.

Often he described him as a “stick,” meaning hard, formed, and inflexible. In turn, he described him as a “sponge,” meaning soft, malleable, absorbing. Over time the stick became more sponge-like and the sponge became more stick-like. Their life was good and roles “subject to change on a moment’s notice” and then the unanticipated, uninvited lover arrived. 

Now one is becoming less and one is having to become more. Slowly while one is becoming the back partner in this ménage à trois and one is becoming the front partner, Alzheimer’s is becoming the dominant partner. They do not really love the third partner in their relationship but they acknowledge the intruder’s presence and do the best they can.

Day to day, try as they might to successfully deal, accommodate is the best they can do. Once one thinks he has learned the “rules” of living with someone living with Alzheimer’s, the other inadvertently changes them. While one wonders what the other really still understands, the other doesn’t realize that he no longer understands. While one is in such pain at his loss, his success is confirmed by the other’s trust, happiness, contentment, and peace. A moving target is what they call it.

Meanwhile, their love continues to grow, change, and adjust to the times. Uninvited, the third partner is now an accepted part of the relationship. They continue to list the many things they have to be grateful for in their life list: supportive family, friends, and neighbors; pets, condo, and convertible auto; going to movies, plays, opera; great meals out and better ones at home; and most of all ... each other! Alzheimer’s Disease, they will tell you, just happens to be one part of their life, but at the bottom of the list.

(Written 11/18/15)

It took Gregory four days to prepare himself to die.
It came on unexpectedly and quickly.
Hospice expected him to leave that day or the next.
But he slowed it down, I believe, to allow me time to process as well.

He was in no pain, his breathing was not too labored.
He was unresponsive but most likely he knew I was there.
He most likely knew I was talking to him and loving him,
While I touched, stroked, and petted him.

The nurses and staff kept a close eye on him overnight,
So I did not feel the need to keep an overnight vigil.
He probably needed the time to himself to continue his preparations.
He was that kind of a private, compassionate (compassionate even with himself) person.

In the third day of his coma, he relied his energy and gave me one last kiss goodbye.
He was able to leave his body without anguish or pain.
He did so in the calm manner that reflected who he was his entire life.
I celebrate him more than I grief for him and I continue to love him.


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