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Grieving for a Loved One with Dementia

by Linda Burhans, Caregiving Expert
December 05, 2014

Question: I am caring for my husband who is suffering from dementia. I am overwhelmed by grief and would like some advise on how to handle this.

Answer: Many people think grief happens when someone dies. They may not understand that it's possible to grieve for someone who has a progressive illness.

Grief and loss sometimes occurs when your loved one is still alive. Caregivers know that Alzheimer's disease and dementia can create many practical challenges.

And many caregivers say that the hardest part of caregiving is not the practical side but in fact the emotional side. It can be a heartbreaking experience watching your loved one slip away more and more each day. I see this many times in the support groups I facilitate.

You may be experiencing daily losses. These can range from loss of income, freedom, time, the relationship you had with your loved one and health just to name a few. The response to the losses is known as grief.

I know that no two people experience grief in the same way. Emotions can range from denial, anger, guilt, sadness and/or acceptance. Allow yourself to be as sad as you are. Know that it is common to feel conflicting emotions. Grief is actually a sign of health. Talk with someone you trust about your grief.

Don't let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone when you're grieving. When you talk with other caregivers you share your emotions and that can be very comforting. Now more than ever you need support.
Be kind to yourself. Stop telling yourself that whatever you are struggling with should be easy. If something is hard for you it's hard for you.

You might also consider a grief support group. A grief support group gives you the opportunity of sharing common experiences and receiving support in a safe nonjudgmental environment.

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Caregiver Advocate, Linda Burhans is the author of Good Night and God Bless, that talks about the emotional, rewarding and frustrating journey of her mother, during the final 18 months of her life. Good Night and God Bless offers inspirational messages of unconditional love, loss, joy, sorrow and humor for those caring for aging parents. Linda is sought after for speaking engagements and workshops for family caregivers, senior home health care and assisted living facilities.

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