My life partner of over 41 years Gregory was diagnosed in 2003 with Young Onset Dementia/Alzheimer’s at age 55. He died at age 68 on October 4, 2015. We were not only best friends and husbands but also, toward the end of our journey, I was his primary caregiver.
Michael writes a BLOG which features periodic essays, poetry, life observations, anecdotes, and other musings; as well as selections about Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease.
Previously he wrote a BLOG specifically dealing with Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease which contains close to 1,500 posts, written over a period of five years and receiving over 150,000 hits. Even though inactive, it serves as a great source through which to browse.
I hope that by sharing some of my direct experience with grief, you will gain a stronger understanding of grief and empathy for yourself. If a professional helper, perhaps my story will help you with the clients with whom you work.
The essays in this collection were written between 2010 and 2019 and are taken from my BLOG, “michael a. horvich cares.” The BLOG began in 2010 as a way of processing my thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and growth during Gregory and my twelve-year journey with Dementia/Alzheimer’s. Its purpose also was to share our progress with family, friends, and others who might come across the BLOG and benefit from my experience.
✿ ✿ ✿
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Horoscopes and Breakdowns
Today’s Dose of Grief
A Love Affair With Loneliness
The Intensity of 12 Years vs the Longevity of
It’s Been A While
The Seven Faces of Grief
A Room Full of Grief
Personal Aspects of Dealing With Grief
Will I Date Again?
The Worst Part of Dementia/Alzheimer’s
Different Intensities of Knowing Gregory is Dead
The Grief Continues … But Differently
✿ ✿ ✿
In a model introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying,” the stages of grieving have become well-known.
Stage 1: Denial "It can't be happening."
Stage 2: Anger "Why me? It's not fair!”
Stage 3: Bargaining"Just let me live to see my son graduate.”
Stage 4: Depression:"I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"
Stage 5: Acceptance"It's going to be Ok."
Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to any form of catastrophic personal loss (job, income, freedom). This also includes the death of a loved one and a divorce.
Kübler-Ross also claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by all people, though she stated a person will always experience at least two.
I have modified her stages of grieving to ongoing grieving when living with Alzheimer’s:
Stage 1: Denial: Try to live your life a day at a time without dwelling on the worst. Live in denial by being optimistic and living your life with joy and love regardless of the disease. Is denial so bad? I relish those days when our relationship can seem “normal” or what I like to call “even.” Not thinking about Dementia/Alzheimer’s 24/7 is a good thing.
Stage 2: Anger: Anger in this situation is most about losing what you have with the person, while they’re still physically standing there in front of you ... losing them little by little each day. I work at not being angry with Gregory. Usually anger is directed towards a person, how do you deal with anger at a situation? On days that I am sad, angry, depressed and fearful all at once, I fear that I will never come to acceptance of the hand that we as a couple have been dealt.
Stage 3: Bargaining is a constant. “If only it would stop here, I would be happy.” or “Maybe they will find a cure before it gets worse.” “Help me know how to deal with this.” Some people pray, some meditate, some chant. All efforts seeming to try communicating with some supreme being who has power over such things.
Stage 4: Depression. Not a fun or healthy place to be. But a fact of life when living with one living with Alzheimer’s. They say that depression is anger turned inward. In this case not true. I am not angry with myself. I am angry with the disease. When I was dealing with cancer a number of years ago, my oncologist told me "It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be depressed. But not for more than fifteen minutes at a time.” So if I have to wallow in depression, and believe me, sometimes it helps, I do it for fifteen minutes at a time, and then try to move on with my day.
Finally Stage 5: Acceptance. We will get through this but I don’t think that I will ever reach acceptance of Dementia/Alzheimer’s, but I strive to accept the changes as they come. Acceptance here refers to getting through to the other side of a situation. Eventually the other side of Dementia/Alzheimer’s is death.
Gregory’s grandma used to say, “There is no future in getting old.” I often feel that there is even less of a future in getting old with Dementia/Alzheimer’s. I work at emptying my fears through writing and I feel much better. Wri