Lights On, Nobody Home
This article, PART TWO, addresses mourning a psychological absence, while still physically present, as in the case of dementia or autism.
PART THREE will discuss recovery from ambiguous grief next week.
You’ve known this person for a lifetime. You have history, lots of it.
Well, you have history with someone who looks and sounds like this person. But the personality is totally different, or gone altogether. The person who is here, isn’t really here all the way. They no longer participate in anything, including their own care. They’re not motivated to do anything. They might not laugh or cry or talk. They may laugh, cry and talk too much. Maybe they make sense, but mostly they don’t.
It’s like they are dead, and you cry a lot because it feels that way to you. But you << shouldn’t >> cry, because they are still here. Physically, anyway. But their physical presence doesn’t mend your heart. Their physical presence in this condition is a lot of damn hard work that overwhelms you most days, even if you have help.
There are many labels for their condition. Autism. Depression. Head injury Alzheimers. Coma. Addiction. Mental illness. Brain damage. End stage. Bipolar. Psychosis. Dementia. Attachment Disorder. This list is by no means complete.
These words don’t help. Their meanings are ambiguous.
Ambiguous, adj., of doubtful or uncertain nature; difficult to comprehend, distinguish, or classify: lacking clearness or definiteness; obscure; indistinct.
Grief can also be ambiguous, depending on the nature of the trauma or loss.
What that means is, you beat yourself up, feel selfish, for mourning. You feel guilty because you’re not feeling blessed by this person lately. It doesn’t feel like a privilege to take care of them. And what would the neighbors think? That you are not the Good Child, the Good Parent, doing all you can.
hellLLOOOoooo! Time to smell the coffee. This kind of grief is extremely – code red – dangerous. To YOU.
Reality check. The person is under medical care. When is the last time you had a check up? Admit that half the time you’re too exhausted to eat well. Your sleep is frequently interrupted. When we’re done here, please go online and read up on sleep deprivation and what it does to your body, and your cognitive abilities.
Reality check. Cancer is a stress disease. Repeat. Cancer is a stress disease.
Reality check. Unless someone has gone through exactly what you are experiencing, they don’t GET IT. You have to let that go, and let people see what it really looks like. You have to save yourself. Let ‘em talk. They are the ones who will have to answer for it later. There ARE organizations out there who HAVE been there, done that. They’ll be happy to help you. They’ll be happy you have decided to save your life.
Religious Leaders have commented that they bury more CAREGIVERS than old sick or crazy people.
And buckle your seat belt. When this person does die, you’ll grieve again. You’ll also feel tremendous relief, and feel guilty about that unless you have a support group. You think you’re crazy now?
Saving your own life does not make you the bad guy. It makes you the wise one. Martyrdom does not change their condition. You honor them by surviving, by being there to guide someone else through it and surviving. That is how the Circle remains Unbroken. We support each other. With the help of The Village, we can maintain
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