Round about 2010–I don’t recall the exact date and don’t have time to look it up–the blog I was writing on WordPress began to slowly turn in the direction of Alzheimer’s as this debilitating disease took over my mother’s life and the lives of all who loved her. Over the course of five years, I wrote about it more and more, until I wound up changing the title of the blog to “The Wild Ride” and focused almost exclusively on this journey Mom and I were taking together. A lot of kind readers walked beside us during that time, sharing their experiences and–bless them–offering me emotional support.
Mom died on June 7, 2015 and was laid to rest with my dad in the veteran’s cemetery in Schuylerville, NY. Since then, I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t missed her.
I expected to, but I wasn’t prepared for how big a hole would be left when she was gone. For the last two years of her life–give or take a few months–I was her caretaker, both at home and also when she, unfortunately, had to enter a nursing home. I was with her daily, for hours at a time. Still, I wasn’t prepared.
I figured that, sure, I’ll miss her for about a year and then it’ll go. It didn’t. And it still hasn’t. It’s particularly tough now, as Christmas approaches, because this was always her favorite holiday and she put a lot into it–cooking, baking, buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, playing music on the stereo, and watching her beloved “Miracle on 34th Street.” (The original, not any of the make-over abominations.)
In observing my own grief, and the grief of others–friends and family who have lost those dear to them–I’ve come to understand that it never goes away entirely. Sometimes it’s a guilty grief–“Did I do enough? Could I have done more? I wish I hadn’t done xyz.” Sometimes it’s “just” sorrow. I’ve noticed how it changes over time … or has for me, at least. It isn’t as sharp-edged as it once was, although it still has the ability to make me weep. The longing to see my mom one more time can be overwhelming.
But not as she was. I wouldn’t want that. I wouldn’t want her to have to endure one more day of the Hell she found herself locked in. But if I could turn back the clock and give her a moment in the snow again, and see her smile, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
I’m not sure there’s a point to what I’m writing here, except to say we all grieve. We have that in common, among other things. So let’s be kind to ourselves, and kind to one another. Let’s not play “My grief is bigger than yours.” This isn’t a contest anyone should want to win.
And to those who remain untouched by grief, count yourselves lucky. Don’t look down on those who feel it. Don’t denigrate. Don’t say things like, “You should be over it by now” or “But it was only a (fill in the blank – dog, cat, horse, parrot, goldfish.” Love is love, grief is love, and no one should judge the length of yours.