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It's the Anticipatory Grief for Me

It's the Alzheimer's anticipatory grief for me... And it is exhausting. Seriously. It's true: living with someone who has Alzheimer's dementia is living with loss, that part IS VERY REAL.

I know for sure because for the last 10 years I have cared for my mom with Alzheimer's, I have grieved parts of her daily. From her memory loss to her personality and motor skills failing, this disease has taken so much from her and will continue to take from her, so I continue to grieve.

Why is Alzheimer's anticipatory grief so hard?

Anticipatory Grief is different from our regular grieving (a natural human response to loss), in that we're grieving ahead of time for things we know will soon happen. It's a time of anticipatory loss - we know something will soon be gone from our lives but believe it or not; this is also a time for an invaluable opportunity.

This is an opportunity for self-reflection on all aspects of life especially with the care we are extending to ourselves.

How I'm feeling

I am very aware of the fact that I will soon be grieving my mother's inevitable transition. For 10 years, every day something about my mom had changed. Whether it was her forgetting to use her spoon to eat or not remembering the words to her favorite song, pieces of who she once was were fading away and I didn't know what to do.

I felt helpless, lost, alone, angry, and tired.

The good news and how I cope with it

It's a conscious thing. You get better at it the more you pay attention to it, those feelings that you are feeling! I used to be the type of person who would bottle up any emotions and feelings, but not anymore.

The reason for this change is because I realized that bottling my feelings up was causing me to become more stressed out and irritable. But, even if you're not a natural at doing it like I was, I have found this little trick to be super helpful in getting focused on my feelings. Are you ready?

My trick is I give myself permission to let my feelings out instead of bottling them up inside and pretending everything is okay. I practice self-care.

This too shall pass

While anticipatory grief IS tough — and while we DO have moments where we are very sad about what's coming down the road — it DOES PASS.

There does come a day when our self-care isn't just for this anticipatory loss we are experiencing but becomes so much more. It becomes a daily wellness practice, something to stay present for while grieving and beyond. It becomes evidence of who WE are as people, not just caregivers. How can you help yourself during anticipatory grief?

Exercises for Alzheimer's anticipatory grief

Here are my top 5 exercises for anyone experiencing anticipatory grief:

  1. Be mindful of your thoughts and practice positive self-talk.
  2. Create an emotional safety plan by talking about your feelings with someone who will listen without judgement.
  3. Allow time for reflection by journaling your thoughts and feelings.
  4. Take care of yourself by doing things that make you happy.
  5. Take deep breaths when you start to feel overwhelmed.

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