Hello grief, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.

I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. In fact, a little like too much time in a dentist’s chair leading me to have a lower threshold of dental pain, repetitive experience of losing a family member feels like it’s decreasing my tolerance of grief. I  know what’s coming.

During the last eight years, I’ve lost a father to Lewy Body disease (a combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers), a grandfather to old age, two uncles to cancer and while my grandmother is still alive, I’ve lost her to advanced Alzheimer’s. Now, I am losing a mother to dementia.

I have deliberated at considerable length about whether to publish a post on this. Mum is still alive and I don’t want to betray her trust or sense of dignity in any way, but there are so many people in my position. And particularly for those of us who are only children, this can feel very lonely. So whoever you are, wherever you are, if you are losing a parent to dementia, I want you to know I am sending you love and light. I really am.

This is where is gets, well, kind of blurred around the edges. My mother has alcohol induced dementia. My mama has consumed a considerable amount of wine over the years to self-medicate severe anxiety. The medical fraternity have always referred to her first and foremost as an alcoholic, sufferer of anxiety, second. But as someone who knows her almost better than anyone, I know, without a shadow of a doubt that she used it to self-medicate. High anxiety first, next step, bottle of wine. And god knows, I get it. While I lost a grandfather and a father 6 weeks apart, she lost a beloved father and her husband who she’d seen deteriorate from a proud, immensely self-disciplined surgeon into a little old man, hunched in a chair, unable to walk or talk, hallucinating. And all the while, aware of her own mother losing her marbles.

How do we cope?

Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes you feel a calm sense of acceptance.

Sometimes you put on a brave face when you feel anything but brave.

Sometimes, when you hear that your mother has slipped on knee-high pantyhose instead of a glove, you feel your stomach sink.

Sometimes, you want to find a quiet space, curl up in a corner and howl.

And frequently, you wish that someone would invent a miracle cream to magic away the puffy eyes. If you’re reading this and know of something (and it’s not full of chemical ingredients you can’t pronounce) I’d be extremely grateful if you’d let me know.

To be perfectly honest, right now, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this. But what I do know, as I become aware of how quickly my mother is deteriorating, is that the time I have left with her, while she still recognises me and we can enjoy each other’s company, is hugely precious.

I do know that it’s high time I left go of any residual sense of resentment about the mother I ‘should have had’ or simply wished I’d had.

I do know that the most healthy way I can respond to this, is with grace and compassion. Not just for Mum but for me.

And tonight, just for a little while, that means that I welcome my old friend grief back into the room and together, tissues in hand, we sit and talk for a little while.

 

 

 

23 thoughts on “Hello grief, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.

  1. Nothing is lost dearest Tink. Hold them the way you have always known them – in their fullvibrant essential selves. And you will meet them all t-here again. Sing to them the way you’ve always sung, call them by their old familiar names and call them back (or go out to greet them) so that you, if not by words, commune heart with heart, heard and held… holding you now, in my heart; cradling you now in my arms. Tino arohanui, kochanie (much love, sweet heart)

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    1. Thank you lovely. Perhaps it is only now that I am seeing them for who they’ve always been and singing to them in the way that we have not sung together before. This reminds me of something Marilyn Schlitz (at least I think it was Marilyn) said, that there is a difference between curing and healing and while Mum cannot be cured, we may all find healing. Kochanie to you too. xxx

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  2. Oh Tink… thank you for writing this. It’s brave and honest and heart-wrenching and reminds me to feel so grateful for the presence of loved ones in my life.

    Much love,
    KL

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  3. Thank you for your courage in writing this. To be able to share like this is so crucial not only for your own healing but also for the healing of others. It has helped me work through yet another layer of my own grief.

    I lost my father to dementia four years ago – he’s still alive but very much gone. As an only child on the other side of the world from where he is, my only saving grace was the small group of people with whom I could be totally open.

    My father was complicated and eccentric but I had a good relationship with him. My regret is that I didn’t even realise what was happening to him until it was too late – I just thought he was becoming more eccentric. Dementia never even occurred to me and since I was in NZ and he was in Canada, I was too far away to look for the more subtle signs.

    I admire your recognition of what’s happening to your mother and your heartfelt commitment to compassion and forgiveness. Those things will take this experience from simply another death to endure to a transformative and potential healing process for both you and your mother. I shall live vicariously through you and continue to balm my wounds with your shared wisdom.

    Gratitude.

    K

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    1. Kelly, thank you for your courage too. And I am grateful for your words. Reading them, I realise yet again how transformative the work we did in ‘Off the Mat’ was. For me, particularly, the inner critic work. It has helped me tremendously in being able to see Mum, at this time, not as the projection of everything I felt she should be as my mother, but who she is. And while I have been blessed by a life which has enabled me to know who I truly am, surrounded by people with the same (or very similar worldview), my mother was not so fortunate. Her identity was defined by external factors. And while that has had a significant impact on my life, peace for both of us, I am realising comes through our relationship as souls, if that makes sense.
      T

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  4. Hi Tink, I was really touched when reading your blog. I do really feel for you. As you know I am going through a similar grieving process at the moment with seeing my Father deteriorate in front of us. Like your Father, Dad was too a proud & immensely self-disciplined. Even though it is so hard to watch, do try to remember how they were when we were young and live and feed off those memories and try not to compare. I think it is just all part of the life process, although I know that does not really make it any easier, but I find taking a philosophical view really helps me. I don’t try to understand why Dad has cancer or Mum has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s but I get threw it by thinking well its just what happens to people when they get older and we are all at the stage now when regretfully these things start to happen to our parents. That helps me, even if it is only for a few days at these:-) I really admire you Tink with what you are doing. You are so brave and don’t ever think that you are on your own because although you may not have any brothers and sisters, you have lots of friends who surround you and are supporting you. Take Care honey and I’ll see you on Tuesday:-)

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    1. Thank you so much Jane, for such a thoughtful reply. You do sound philosophical and you’re right, that does help enormously. I’m so sorry about your Dad.
      Have a lovely weekend weekend and I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday xx

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  5. You embody grace and compassion, dearest Tink. I’m so glad to know you. Tho I’m not actually right next to you, I really really am.

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    1. Tho I am of course aware that you’re not actually right here, but know that you really really are, I wish you really really were. Sitting here in the sun, at the kitchen table, there is a mug of green tea with your name on it.

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  6. Clear. Compassionate. Courageous.
    May the long time sun shine upon you,
    All love surround you,
    And the pure light within you,
    Guide your way on.
    Much love
    xx

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    1. I’ve caught this with both hands, breathed it in and now send it back to you at the speed of
      light.

      May the long time sun shine upon you,
      All love surround you,
      And the pure light within you,
      Guide your way on.

      Much love
      xx

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  7. Lovely Tink, what a journey and what a transformation. What wisdom and depth as you find your own answers and honesty, and live them in truth momentarily. We wash your feet, master, even as you weep.

    Indeed you are alone within your skin and your experience.

    Indeed you are intimately connected with all of us who love you, and our light mingles with yours.

    See the gems that fall from your eyes and blossom from your heart, let them roll away, twinkling, or crystallise unfurled into Being.

    Our light is ever yours, and yours ours, and we are One.

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    1. Such beautiful words Maddy.
      So many thanks for them.
      I hope you are well and enjoying your journey.
      See you soon!
      xxxx

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  8. Big hugs Tink. Illness and loss of a parent or parents is never easy, no matter the relationship you’ve had. Although you don’t have any brothers or sisters, you’ve got a whole bunch of friends who care about you a lot. xx

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    1. A very belated thank you Jo, for your comment. It’s been ages (!) since we caught up. I hope you are well and happy and let’s catch up soon. xx

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  9. Tink how courageous of you to write this down. Also how good on you that you use ‘pen & paper’ to write this off of you. But count your blessings and embrace your joy of life too. Joy wouldn’t exist without the grief since it’s all relative.
    As you can read you have a lot of lovely true friends who took the time to reply to and have compassion for your emotions. You built those relations! So when you sit down in the corner and embrace the grief that comes sitting next to you remember that there are a lot of beautiful people around you that love you and are always there to help you. A big hug from Dick.

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    1. Thank you Dick, for the big hug and your words. Joy and grief are indeed relative. I’ve learned from experience that without indulging it or wallowing in it, it is so important to experience grief. To not to be too stoic. I’m much more joyful, if I allow myself to it move through it, mind, body and spirit. And that’s certainly easier to do, knowing I have such good friends!

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  10. Dear Tink – I admire your openness and courage in sharing this. You clearly know everything you need to know to work through this – because you’re responding with grace and compassion. And you clearly have many people in your life who are here to listen and to support you through this grief. Life may not get easier – but it will be much more kind and joyful again.
    Thinking of you
    Aroha nui,
    Nick

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