Tag Archives: dementia

Grief: Where We Begin and End

Grief can hit us the moment we realize a loved one has #dementia. We understand quickly that we’re losing a bit of them everyday. It’s natural to feel sadness as we note these changes. But as #caregivers, it’s our job to find the emotional resources needed to maintain stability. This becomes more difficult when daily losses begin to multiply.

Last year grief got the best of me. My mom passed away in June and I stopped writing here. Each time I tried to write, I felt like I had no energy or insight. After many months, my equilibrium is finally returning. Last week I published some work for the first time this year. The writing process fueled me like strong, delicious coffee. It helped me focus and concentrate. The product of this effort is a review essay that appeared in #CleaverMagazine.

grief essay in Cleaver Magazine

My work is a review of the book Room for Grace, by Daniel and Maureen Kenner, and a meditation on grief. I hesitated when I was first asked to write about this book. It describes the experience of a family that loses two parents within a few months. One parent has #dementia and the other has #cancer. Being a caregiver for someone with dementia is hard enough when you’re healthy. Doing it while fighting cancer must be like climbing Everest.

Other People’s Grief

As I read more about the Kenner family, it became clear that their losses were much greater than my own. While reflecting on their fate, I felt my perspective change. I was buoyed up by a rush of compassion. My own grief began to recede. This experience of transforming the negative into the positive is something I did every day as a caregiver, but I had forgotten all about that. Looking back I realize how much I gained from a role I resisted from the very beginning. Perhaps the book will help you gain perspective on your own suffering. Let me know your thoughts if you decide to read it.

Don’t Let Dementia Steal Mother’s Day

Don’t let dementia steal Mother’s Day from your family. That #mother-child bond is sacred, no matter what’s happened in the years since your birth. For the past 11 years, I’ve had to remind myself of this on every #Mother’s Day. Though not fully present, my Mom is still here and I’m grateful for the life she gave me.

Dementia Steal Mother's Day

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
by Lao Tzu

She was always tiny and cute in her whirling skirts and pixie hair cuts. My mom was a good cook but a better dancer. Although she made a mean roast beef, she was happier doing the jitter bug. My parents didn’t always get along, but they found harmony swinging through space on any dance floor. Tall, handsome dad turning pretty little mom on the fulcrum of her high-heeled shoes. Sparkly earrings on a Saturday night with the Dorsey Brothers, Sam Cooke, Doris Day, or Motown. She could dance to it all.

My mother had a lot of rules and her two daughters tried to follow them. A strange authority emanated from her small body. When we made her mad, she cried as she scolded us. The sight of her tears was far worse punishment than an afternoon stuck in our rooms.

Her greatest teachings focused on work ethic. Though she delivered forty weekly hours of effort to her boss, Mom still came home eager to tame an unruly household. Laundry, housecleaning, financial management — she excelled at all of it. Her performance standards were high. My sister and I absorbed that.

Can #Dementia Steal Mother’s day?

I feel that Mom’s efficiency must have cost her something. At what point does #dementia sneak in? How does it find you? Why does it pursue you so slowly, so relentlessly? The disease raises a hundred unanswerable questions. But it’s taught me at least one thing: While dementia may erase their memories, it has no claim on yours. As long as a mother is alive — and well after she’s left this earthly plane — you can commit yourself to cherishing the things you value about them. You can remember who they were and what they did to plant you in this world of boundless possibility.

I have to finish here and cry a while before I go to observe Mother’s Day with my mom. She’s tinier than ever, folded like a paper doll into a giant, deluxe wheelchair. Now I call her my Origami Mommy. She’s cute as ever, nearly silent, yet somehow still aware of the charm she exerts in this world. God bless her and all the mothers silenced by dementia and other grave illnesses. May we all draw solace from the gifts they gave us so long ago.