Coping With a Year of 'Firsts' After a Loved One Passes From Alzheimer's

Last updated: December 2022

If you have recently lost your loved one who had Alzheimer's disease, first let me say I am so sorry for your loss. I truly understand your pain after losing my mom to the disease in April 2020.

Many times during my mom's illness, I wished her death would come sooner rather than later. I wanted the horrific and incredibly difficult journey to be over for my mom, family, and myself.

I often thought that I would mostly feel relieved when my mom passed away because the pain would be over, but when that day actually came, I was surprised by how sad, shocked, and unprepared I felt.

Coping with a mix of emotions

There was some relief mixed with my grief, but I quickly learned that my pain was not over. It was just the beginning of a new phase. I felt a different kind of pain — a more permanent kind.

The journey was finally over, and my mom was gone. And then my year of "firsts" began.

The first holiday without my mom.
The first Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Mother's Day.
My first birthday without my mom.
My mom's first birthday without her here.
My parents' first anniversary without my mom.
The first time I accomplished a big goal.
The first time I got really sick.

I never realized how many "firsts" I would have to go through without her. I had been doing life without my mom for 10 years already, but this was different. Maybe you can relate.

I still wanted to celebrate

Although many of these events were painful, I was surprised that I still wanted to celebrate. I still wanted to decorate for that first Christmas and blow out the candles on that first birthday.

I still wanted to celebrate my mom's first birthday and buy her flowers for that first Mother's Day. I still wanted to find a way to honor her and include her in all those special events of my life.

The most important thing to remember when grieving is that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling.

That's okay, too

If you can't even bring yourself to put up a Christmas tree or lights this holiday season, that's okay. If you can't wait to deck the halls, that's okay, too. If you want to skip through the new year, then do that. If you're going to make resolutions, goals, and vision boards, then do that instead. If you want to pretend that birthdays don't exist this year, that's fine. If you want to treat yourself to a special gift or trip for your birthday, that's also fine.

It's all normal. It's all okay. You can do whatever feels right to you. Feel whatever you are feeling without judging yourself for feeling that way.

Coping with a year of firsts

This pain won't last forever. I know it may all feel meaningless without your loved one here, but I promise you will find meaning in life again. You will find ways to include and honor your loved one in everything you do. You will want to celebrate again. You will want to find joy in life again. I can almost guarantee it.

But for now, do whatever you need to get through it. You survived a long, difficult journey with your loved one's Alzheimer's, and you will survive this year of firsts, too.

How did you cope with your years of firsts after a loved one passed? How would you want family to keep your memory alive after the curtain closes? Let us know if the comments below, or share your story.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AlzheimersDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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