With 6.5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s not uncommon to know someone affected by the disease. When it’s affecting your family, it’s rough.
Anticipatory grief and ambiguous loss are not terms many people know. When your mom has Alzheimer’s, you’ll start exploring their meaning. August 30th is National Grief Awareness Day, so take time to understand these forms of grief tied to chronic, incurable illnesses.
Anticipatory Grief and Ambiguous Loss Defined
Anticipatory grief is a grief process that takes place before someone dies. In your mom’s case, it’s the grieving you do while she’s still alive.
While an ambiguous loss is similar, there are also differences. You’re grieving, but this loss can occur both before and after your mom passes away. You didn’t get the closure you wanted, as she had no idea who you were in the last months or years, so there is no emotional closure.
As there is anticipatory grief before her death and ambiguous loss extends after, the grieving process can take longer. People may not understand why you’re grieving before her death, which can leave you feeling isolated.
What’s important to remember is that anticipatory grief and ambiguous loss are normal for family caregivers of parents with Alzheimer’s disease. If anyone tries to tell you they’re not, ignore them. For National Grief Awareness Day, start focusing on your emotional, mental, and physical needs to help yourself through the grieving process.
Study the Stages
Take time to study the different stages (early, middle, and late) of Alzheimer’s. The more you know, the easier it is to understand and work through the symptoms your mom experiences.
Remember that your mom may not go through all of them, but she might. She may not have the delusions and paranoia that some do, but she may wander more often and get extremely angry at everyone around her. Be prepared for everything.
Join a Support Group for Alzheimer’s Families
Surround yourself with people who understand what you’re experiencing. Family caregivers for parents with Alzheimer’s are the support team you need. While not two cases of Alzheimer’s are the same, you’ll find people in the group who have experienced some of the things your family is going through.
Look for support groups online or reach out to your state’s Alzheimer’s Association for a listing of local ALZ meet-ups. You may also find that local senior centers, churches, and medical practices host these support groups.
Hire Alzheimer’s Care Services and Take Breaks
What’s most important is that you take time to grieve. Don’t try to shut out the emotions you feel. Hire Alzheimer’s care services to take over the care your mom needs, and when you’re with her, focus on having memorable moments. Those happy memories make a big difference when working through the grieving process.