So many of my holiday memories focus on special times with my mom. Shopping, decorating, wrapping and cooking–all the best of Christmas for me. At this time of year I am especially aware that these are the very things I leaned from her and wish I could still share with her, but I can’t. The grief is strong, but the love and celebration of what I still have with her is stronger.
The pace of Alzheimer’s Disease and the way it slowly takes my mom’s personality creates for me a confusing mix of loss and gratitude for what I still have. The pain of saying goodbye one memory at a time can feel excruciating-like prolonging the most painful heartache. Grieving the slow loss of my mom to Alzheimer’s is messy, for me a rather ugly jumble of sadness, anger, hopefulness, regrets and questioning, usually punctuated by a healthy dose of tears.
So how do I say goodbye to these precious parts of who my mom is when I can still sit down and talk with her? This saying goodbye while holding on, sometime referred to as ambiguous grief can feel cruel. The times that I can still really connect with her come as welcome surprises, sometimes reliving an old memory on the phone or looking at pictures of special times together. The best, and at the same time the worst is when she recognizes my grief and tries to cheer me up, just like she always did. Shouldn’t I be the strong ones now? Sometimes I even feel like we are grieving together, understanding the other’s loss and somehow holding each other tighter.
Grieving the slow loss of my mom to Alzheimer’s Disease can feel devastating and yet connecting, overwhelming and yet peaceful, and fleetingly final while being largely unending. Thank you Mom for pushing through the confusion to connect, to offer peace and to express love. Today I choose to celebrate the powerful parts of you that endure.