My grief is nearly constant about seeing my loved one slowly slip away. How can a person cope with this?
First, realize that grief is natural and should be allowed to happen. You are not alone in this, and yet you ARE unique. To that end, if you know someone else in a similar situation, try not to compare yourself to him or her. They might handle the process differently. Some grieve quietly, some quickly, some prolonged. The goal is for all to reach a stage of acceptance. How can you alleviate your pain? Try writing in a journal. Grieving actually is an array of emotions — anger, depression, shock, resentment, fear, loneliness, anxiety — that need to be expressed. If you can journal your thoughts, it can create an “escape” to a “safe” place, which is easier than going to a support group or a counselor, or even talking with a friend. Writing in a journal is an immediate and healthy way of coping. You should still consider attending a support group. It can be very helpful. Go with an open mind — don’t become overwhelmed when you hear others describe their situations. Everybody will have his or her own similar, yet unique, situation. Remember, too, that you’re not only there to get help — you’ll also be helping others. We forget that doing something for others makes us feel good about ourselves, which enhances our personal health in several ways. If there is someone you can confide in, such as a close friend(s), talk with her or him as often as the two of you can. Instead of feeling that we’re a burden to others, we should realize “that’s what friends are for” was coined for a good reason. Our friends want to help us, but usually we have to make a first step somehow. Or at least a welcoming one. Don’t worry about having too many people to confide in, or feeling obligated to confide in more people than you might want. Usually, just a few will become the ones you rely on. You also should consider talking with a member of the clergy whom you know and trust. Many are trained for just these kinds of talks. In many church communities, there are also others with whom you could speak. Depending on your needs, do not think twice if you believe you might benefit from a professional counselor who is trained in grief consultations. Some of them lead grief support groups — something you might want to consider (as opposed to just a general caregiving group). Family members, of course, can fill many of these roles. Some families are always close when it comes to personal matters. But keep in mind that even those families that don’t consider themselves “tight,” often have members who answer the bell and are nonetheless there for one other when the going gets tough. If you have family members who are either unable or unwilling to “be there” for you, however, you definitely should turn to one or more of the sources mentioned above. For more information, an excellent resource is “The Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.” It can be downloaded at no cost by clicking here.