A sketched and partially painted portrait of a woman is surrounded by drawn out hobbies like knitting, volleyball, books, and gardening.

Losing My Mom, Finding Myself

During the ten years my mom suffered from Alzheimer's, I was never her full-time caregiver and she never lived with me. My mom lived with my dad in my childhood home and he was her primary caregiver. I was a part-time caregiver until we hired an in-home care agency to help out.

My life was consumed by Alzheimer's

Still, my life was consumed by my mom's Alzheimer's. It was all I thought about. When I wasn't at my parents' house visiting or helping out, I was beating myself up for not being there. I felt guilty the minute I left their house or hung up the phone from talking to my mom. How dare I spend even a few moments of my day doing something unrelated to my mom and her care!

I also did not allow myself to enjoy anything because I felt like I didn't deserve it. I felt bad going out to dinner with friends or going away with my husband because my mom and dad could no longer do those things. How could I go about enjoying my life when my parents were stuck at home suffering?

Total abandonment

I did not allow myself to have a life outside of Alzheimer’s. I abandoned myself and allowed my mom's Alzheimer's to completely consume my life. As a result, I lost myself to my mom's Alzheimer's. I lost my identity as "Lauren" and replaced it with "Alzheimer's daughter". I gave up practically every aspect of my life that wasn’t somehow related to Alzheimer's.

And yet, my mom still died from the disease. My suffering and total abandonment of myself and my own life did nothing to stop my mom's suffering or her death.

But, now what?

Since my mom died, I have been contemplating some big life questions.

Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I want to do with my life? What do I like to do for fun? I have committed to finding myself again. Or maybe it's not as much about finding myself as it is about creating myself.

Managing grief after Alzheimer's

My mom's illness and death have changed me forever. I am not the person I was before she got sick. I have learned a lot about myself and life along the way. I have learned what is important to me and what doesn't matter so much. I have learned who I want to be and who I don't want to be.

And most importantly, I have learned that you can't wait until the hardship is over to live your life because that day will never come. There will always be something. Life will always be hard. If you wait to live your life until it's easy, then you will die waiting.

Finding myself after loss

So yes, I am sad and yes, I am grieving, but I am also grateful for this opportunity to recreate myself and my life post-Alzheimer's. I refuse not to learn something from everything I have been through and I refuse to let my mom's suffering be for nothing.

I am becoming the person I was always meant to be. I may have lost my mom, but I am determined to find myself.

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