These are strange days indeed. The Stay-at-Home orders have plunged us into a new realm we have never been in before.
Once New York was given the order to shut down schools, restaurants, and non-essential industries I saw a way I could help. It made my heart beat faster when I heard I could make cloth masks for hospitals in our area. I couldn’t move fast enough. This was a way I could cope and contribute even though I was a retired microbiologist and 71 years of age.
Last week I had dinner with a friend who ended her dementia caregiving journey a year and a half ago. She brought up an experience where out of the blue something triggered an upwelling of intense grief that she could not control. She said she knew it had a name, but couldn’t remember it. Later on I saw it on Facebook in an article from Next Avenue about STUG! I sent the article to her and she affirmed the acronym.
Besides learning how to live in the present, learning how to stop the merry-go-round of negative thinking was the most valuable tool I learned in my years of caregiving. Perhaps you don’t quite understand my meaning. I mean the act of getting mad about something and then playing and re-playing the scenario in your head ad infinitum!
This week is a very hard time for me. I am visiting a friend and his wife as he is transitioning for his walk across The Rainbow Bridge. I met the couple just about 10 years ago, when they reached out for support to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the association matched them up with me in order to help them adjust to a new city.
For seven years I have kept Jim’s ties in a bag. I wanted to make a memorial wall hanging for our son that would truly spark memories. Jim was a school psychologist and family therapist. Some of the ties he wore had Santa, children, and frogs on them to help interest the children he saw.
As we all know, life throws us curve balls. Some of them can turn out to be, in the end, a very positive, rewarding, and enlightening experience. Sometimes the fear is what we are running from and not the tasks at hand, the planning required, or the outcome.
Whether you are recovering from the loss of a loved-one after dementia caregiving or some other event, grief is different for everyone. Just because one person behaved a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to follow in their lead.
Depending on your personal experience of whether you lived independently before the relationship with your loved one, you may have to figure out who you are now. I had never lived on my own before marriage. I went from attending college to marriage, and had no experience in living all by myself. You must figure out what you want out of life as an independent person, and possibly how to go about whatever that is. I am still figuring that out. I used to think while I was caregiving, that when it was all over I would want to be with another person to spend the rest of my life. Now that six years have gone by, I’m not so sure I do. It would take a very special person to urge me to marry again. On the one hand, I just don’t want to go through being a caregiver again! After 19 years, I want some “me” time.
Take it a step at a time. But when new things cross your mind that you’d like to do someday, take action. Make it happen. I am so very lucky because I have two friends Jim and I have known for years, and they invited me to go with them to Yellowstone, and the Canadian Rockies by train after Jim’s death. I didn’t hesitate, I went.