Balancing Grief and Gratitude When Your Loved One Has Alzheimer's
Last updated: February 2023
When my mom was living with Alzheimer's, I constantly struggled with how to appreciate what I still had while also grieving what I had already lost.
I was grateful that my mom was still alive. I wanted to make the most of the time we had left together, but I was also grieving her while she was still alive.
The woman who raised me
I found it hard to reconcile the woman I saw in front of me with the woman she used to be — the woman who raised me.
I also found it hard to accept the new normal for our relationship when I was craving the relationship we'd always had and missing the relationship we would never have.
I was constantly teetering back and forth between being grateful for what I still had and grieving what I had already lost.
Balacing grief and gratitude
When someone you love has Alzheimer's, it can be difficult to find a balance between grief and gratitude. You don't want to waste the rest of your loved one's life feeling sad and wishing things could go back to the way they were. But it's also hard to witness their decline and the loss of your relationship with them.
You are grieving them while they are still alive, while also trying to be grateful that they are still alive. It's complicated.
Acknowledge your feelings
From my experience, it was helpful to acknowledge my grief and all the things I missed about my mom. I allowed myself to think about it and feel sad for a while. But I knew that if I allowed myself to feel sad for too long, then it would be hard to get out of my funk.
On the flip side, I knew that it wasn't healthy to pretend like everything was okay or that I wasn't sad about losing my mom. I had to find a balance between the two.
Writing a gratitude list
One thing that helped me was writing gratitude lists. When I would get off the phone with my mom or come home from visiting her, I would try to write down at least one thing I was grateful for during our time together. I found that I was never able to stop at just one thing. I would usually end up with at least five things, sometimes ten.
Whenever I felt especially sad, I would read through my gratitude lists to make myself feel better. It helped remind me of all the good moments I had with my mom. I would get excited about the possibility of having more good moments the next time I saw her. I would get excited about what I would be able to write on my list when I came home.
Creating a healthy balance
I found that by allowing myself time to feel sad for what I had lost and also time to reflect on what I still had - I created a healthy balance of grief and gratitude.
There were some days when I felt so sad that I couldn't pull myself out of it and that was okay, too. I knew it wouldn't last forever and I would eventually find something to be grateful for again.
How do you establish a balance between grief and gratitude with Alzheimer's disease? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Do you think businesses can better accommodate individuals living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers?