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Caregivers Who Have Lost Someone
Brenda...3 weeks later
As I noted on the spousal board, my Brenda passed away January 10. She spent 16 years with Alzheimer's Disease and progressed right until the last substage of stage 7. Up until Christmas, she was essentially pain free, but the last 17 days were torture. The brain damage from AD finally reached her nervous system, causing lots of pain and discomfort.
I had been her 24/7 caregiver for 7 years until a health incident she had one night forced me to get more help. I placed her in a wonderful Alzheimer's Special Care Center (Cedar Ridge in Cedar Park, TX) on Halloween, where she actually thrived until Christmas. I was there every day almost all day to make sure she didn't feel abandoned.
She died a few minutes after midnight. The previous evening, the Hospice social worker who had been talking with me for 3.5 years was there with us in her room (family was also there). I was a basket case. I couldn't stop crying thinking about how helpless I was to make things better for her. I couldn't believe how thin she was. I finally calmed down and sat with Brenda and talked to her for the last couple of hours. Watching her take her last breath was traumatic, but it was where I needed and wanted to be.
The next week we had her funeral. People came from everywhere. All the family, even from thousands of miles away. Old friends from far away. Lots of folks from church. Her hairdresser and nail tech. Family members of residents of the Alzheimer's Center. Even folks from the Senior Center where I play bridge. I later helped design a really nice headstone with horses (her favorite) in a sunset scene where we are sitting on a swing.
Then everyone went home.
It's been tough for me. I've put some things on my calendar but there's still too much empty time. A therapist is coming over on Monday. My main problem is the loneliness; everything reminds me of Brenda. My son got me hooked on watching "Dexter" on TV, but darned if in one episode on the whiteboard in the background someone had written "BRENDA" in big block letters. No possible purpose for that. I went back to find it but couldn't. Did I hallucinate it? Was it a message?
During the past week I read someone in a similar circumstance wrote that their therapist said they had a choice. Either stay in grief, or start building a new life.
I decided I will have to build a completely new and different life, but I'm still thinking about how. I guess I'll start with looking for opportunities. I still have friends and family, who have been really supportive.
Yesterday the vultures started calling. "I'm sorry for your loss, but would you like to sell your house?" I hung up on him. Back to the real, ugly, world I guess.
I am sorry you are going through this I know how hard it is. My DH passed away almost 2 years ago and building a new life is hard I just take one day at a time and things are getting easier.
Its still so new to you so all you can do is take one day at a time. Brenda is still with you and she will always be. I still talk to my DH and that is OK I never plan on stopping that. Things will get easier as time goes on. Hugs Zetta
Just wanted to offer up a hug...
I take it you are living alone? Have you thought about maybe adopting a cat? Not a kitten, but perhaps even an older cat? He/she would provide love and comfort and a warm snuggle. You would feel not quite so alone.
My heart goes out to you. <HUGS> and God Bless....
Mike, I am sorry for the loss of your dear, Brenda. You were so lucky to have each other! I know she will missed forever.
3 weeks is a short time, so all the feelings of loss are still strong and painful. Those of us who were hands on caregivers have a hard time "filling" in the time that was once spent caring or being with our LOs. I know I was floundering for awhile-wondering what to do with all the free time I suddenly had. Sadly, I often did nothing productive, but now, 3 and half months later, I think I am doing a better job-at least I'm seeing people more often than not.
Sending you hugs and prayers that you will find yourself having more better days than sad days in the months to come.
I am happy to see you have gotten a therapist. Be patient. Your suffering won't be cured quickly. You'll feel good one day and cry all day the next. I quit one group therapy after several weeks because I thought I had resolved some issues, and I crashed hard after missing a meeting.
Concerning seeing your wife's name, don't be surprised to see things like that, even if it's a glimpse of your wife. Several times, out of the corner of my eye I saw my wife sitting in her favorite spot on our sofa. My therapist told me it's normal.
It has to do with having a exceptionally strong bond with your loved one. And yes, my therapist said we do get messages....
Try to hang in there. The first year is the hardest time as you deal with the pain of losing Brenda and healing yourself. You've suffered a lot of damage to yourself after seven and a half years of caregiving.
Thanks to all of you for your support and kind replies.
The therapist started today and gave me some things to think about and some homework to do. He said I have to deal with both Mike the Caregiver and Mike the man. We are going to work on the caregiver first.
He also believes we get messages. He says when we do, it's time to acknowledge them by saying Hi, but not asking questions because she's not able to answer. Yesterday I was out driving and saw her initials on a license plate, which was quite unusual since "Bs" were assigned years ago and almost all (I would have thought all) have been replaced by now. It got me thinking about aspects of our relationship I had not thought about for a while. So thanks for the hello, Brenda.
The therapist had a whole list of things i could do that would honor Brenda, things I wouldn't have thought of. After we get through the first part, we can look at how I might rebuild my life. He said that after all the time as a caregiver, my life as Mike the man was supressed for years and pretty much disappeared when Brenda passed away. So there will have to be a new Mike, but I know not who that will be at the moment.
One good thing is that I can freely say what's on my mind without worrying about it being irrelevant to anyone I'm speaking with. That alone helps a lot. So do all of you here. I'll have to get busy on the homework and see how this all turns out.
Thank You for sharing what your therapist told you. I feel my DH around often I will start saying Hi to him. I am glad to hear that you are getting the help you need. Hugs Zetta
Grief is so individual. At four weeks I was still barely functioning. It took several months before I actually put my foot into the water and became a docent at our art museum. It was a good fit for me particularly since I knew nobody. I was not a recent widow...just a new member.
I like your counselors recognition of us a caregivers. Along with everything else we lost our job.
I am 4+ years into stage 8. Am I happy? Pretty much. I have enough socialization but the painful loneliness still overwhelms me at times. The hole left by my husband in my heart will always be there.
Your mourning is going to take it's own course. Life will get easier ...promise...but there will still be moments.
In addition to your counselor we are always here to share.
Thanks to everyone for the kind replies.
It's now been over three months since Brenda's passing. A lot of things have changed in my life. After much "homework" with my therapist, he said I was ready to start work on rebuilding my life. Not that I would ever forget, but I needed to be into a new season rather than forever dwelling in the old one.
My therapist suggested I get some new furniture and/or rearrange things so I wouldn't always see Brenda when I was home. I got some new things and it reminds me every day I am in a new season. Our best friends are from our church and they have always stuck by me. I told them I was going to try to start building a new life and they said that only I would know when I was ready to go forward. Old saws like you need to spend a year in mourning didn't apply to everyone. I had already spent so many years mourning that at 74 I just wanted to get a life, for however much time I have left.
Our friend runs a weekly bible study for women, and I met one of the women in her study (she's 71). We have been getting along really well and it has been wonderful to have someone to hang out with during this virus fiasco. She's very much like me, and we both try not to dwell in the past, although we acknowledge that it happened and is in our life experience. Over the next months we will see where this goes.
As a footnote, I am happy that Brenda did not have to live through the coronavirus restrictions, since family members are no longer allowed to visit at the Alzheimer's Center. She would have felt abandoned for sure. I look at the timing as "a God thing." Perhaps He felt she had suffered enough and didn't need abandonment to be piled on top of all the other problems.
Thanks again to everyone here for your kind support.
Mike your story is a promising one so filled with courage and grace. I applaud you for seeing a therapist in the first place, and for the determination to move forward in perspective.
I am going on 2 months now since Tom passed. When I placed him a year and half ago, i sorted through all his left over clothes and donated all but a few things. Kept a few personal things in the closet and the enormous amount of his collectible wargaming hobby was also sorted through and stored in the basement. It felt better, like I had regained some control over my life but also that I put parts of what made him unique into a loving storage place so that I could just touch it once in a while. That part of him was already gone. Then when he died, it was all much easier because I didn’t have that component to deal with.
I , too, echo what you state about being so very grateful he passed just prior to lockdown. My heart goes out to all those who are enduring the unique pain of isolation from their loved one, and also the fear of an LO contracting the virus. Life is certainly not always fair. Blessings to all
Just an update, six months after Brenda's passing.
As I noted above, I met someone several weeks after Brenda's death. We married on May 6, during the Covid lockdown. It has been wonderful to have someone in my life again. It was the right decision and we are very happy together.
I still have moments, though. Wistful times like what would have been Brenda & my 25th anniversary several weeks ago. Like her 75th birthday a few months ago. And when watching tv and seeing a death, I usually break into tears. Going through her things and finding poems I wrote to her that she saved; things like that.
But I am very blessed. Some people never get the chance to have a great marriage, and it looks like I will have two. I still check in from time to time on this board and find out how my friends are doing. It was a heartbreaking and nightmarish period of my life, and I empathize with all of you who are still going through it. I can think of little in life that could be worse than either having this disease or caring for a loved one who does. I can't even imagine how bad it would be to be caring for someone and then be prohibited from seeing them. My prayers go out for you.
It is nice hearing from you and even nicer to hear that you have found happiness. You are lucky to have found another love in your life, especially during this time of being lonely. Brenda will always be in your heart. Hugs to you and your new wife. Zetta