A few years ago, my step dad was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Needless to say, this is not what any of us imagined life would like.  I never would’ve guessed that at the age of 30, I’d have a parent with dementia.
Loving someone who has dementia is hard.  There have been many ups and downs. On the good days, I am filled with gratitude. I am thankful that he’s still alive, that he knows who I am, and that we can still have mostly normal conversations.

On the bad days, the slightest little thing sets me off and I feel overcome with sadness or anger over some silly, insignificant thing. It didn’t make much sense to me until I finally figured out that what I was experiencing was grief.

But I didn’t feel entitled to my grief. He’s alive. He’s still in the early stages of the disease. Shouldn’t I just be thankful that it hasn’t gotten worse yet?

Even though he’s still here, our relationship has changed and it will never be the same. I’m grieving because I can’t rely on him the way that I used to. I’m grieving because I don’t feel like his daughter anymore – I feel like his parent.

I’m grieving because it breaks my heart to listen to him as he struggles to articulate what it’s like inside his brain. I’m grieving because his mind is filled with confusion and frustration, but often times no one even notices the pain he’s in…because he seems high-functioning.

As a society, we don’t do a great job of handling grief and loss…especially “ambiguous” loss.

Related Post: What Ambiguous Loss Is – And Why It Matters

If you are experiencing grief that no one seems to understand…grief that is not the result of a death, but is a result of Alzheimer’s or another disease, a breakup, a divorce, the sudden ending of a friendship or a familial relationship…I want you to know this:

Your pain is very real.

Your grief is valid.

I see you.

You are not alone.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28