Sunday, January 9, 2011

Remembering our Loved Ones While They’re Still Among Us

My essay this month was depressing as hell ("We Finally Saw Our Father"). It’s difficult to write about my Mom’s Alzheimer’s, and about Dad’s life with her. I find little comfort or pat answers in how to deal with such long-suffering grief. I believe God’s in his heaven and all is right with the world, but I wish we didn’t have to deal with the fact of human suffering that seems to have no end. I have to daily accept it and just do what’s in front of me to do. Writing helps—it always offers epiphanies that I get to hold onto, some sense of mercy, makes me see what’s there, like my Dad and his wonderful personality of caregiving surfacing.

How do you deal with failing parents? Do you avoid it or embrace it?
Do you feel sorry for yourself?
Do you take issue with siblings who don’t help?
It took me some time to realize that siblings who don't live nearby may not realize how sick a parent really is, and even if they do, that their relationship with their parent is none of my business. Do you talk about such with your siblings?
What kind of “help” can we really offer?
And where do you find the grace in such a hopeless circumstance?


  1. This issue is very personal for me and difficult to discuss. My father died a few years ago of cancer, but the toll of Alzheimer's was heartbreaking. I couldn't bear to witness the slow death of my ultra-masculine dad.

    Unfortunately, I do not have any answers that will bring you comfort. It has only been within the past two years that I realized that I blocked out everything because I couldn't handle my emotions and caring for my father. So, I guess I escaped by pouring myself into my work and seeing my caregiver duties as additional work. Otherwise, I would have probably fallen apart.

    I have a few siblings, who are all older than me. I know one very well. Although they showed up for the funeral, none left a penny to cover the expenses. So, I cared for my father and am stuck with funeral costs. There's not much love for siblings here.

    In the end, though, I thank God for the time that I had with my father. I acknowledge his passing but I hold onto the memories of a healthy dad. The one who laughed loudly as he watched "The Jerry Springer Show," the one who could clear the buffet line at Ryan's yet, and, most importantly, the one who loved me dearly.

    I also use my father's death as motivation to exercise and get my health together as well as prepare for my own retirement. And, when I can do so without crying, I want to volunteer at nursing homes and assist the agencies who cared for my father when his health was too poor for my to keep him at home.

    Long sigh. Good luck, Sheilah. It is never easy but cherish each moment while fighting for your sanity. In hindsight, I didn't have a lot of time with my fahter, but when I cared for him time seemed interminable. You'll find balance. Lastly, search for support groups for caregivers.

  2. It has taken me days to be able to comment on both the blog and the comment above. Both are breathtaking in their poignancy. I am also dealing with the loss of a parent through dementia and the cruelty of losing them mentally while physically they are still with you is so difficult to handle. The line in the blog, "I believe God's in his heaven..." and the line from the comment above by Ms. Hudson, "It is never easy but cherish each moment while fighting for your sanity." These thoughts and ones like them are what helps me through the day. I pray, I bow my head, I sing, I sigh, and I cry. And I believe that in the end all will be answered. But kindness and friendships will always be the answer in this world. Thank you both, and my love goes out to you.

  3. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, Evelyn.


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