Grieve your own wayApr 26, 2023 10:51AM ● By Laird Landon
Dear Laird: I am 70 years old and was my husband’s dementia caregiver for seven years. He died six months ago. Recently, I found someone I enjoy being with. We share many interests. I do have some guilt about disrespecting my husband, but I enjoy feeling alive again. In addition to the guilt, some of my friends criticize me. They say I should wait. Should I give him up? Signed, Katherine
Katherine: Your friends, out of mistaken love, want to protect you. Unfortunately, they are not helping. Your guilt and your grief are honest, and no one should tell you what to do.
Everyone who loses a loved one must learn how to rebuild their life and keep the departed in their thoughts. This is the central challenge of grief and it takes time.
Some caregivers feel relieved. Others sacrifice a good part of their own life to care for another. They need time to process.
Most spousal caregivers miss the intimacy that is lost; the touch, the laugh, the closeness of living with another. You deserve to find someone.
I have a friend who cared for his wife with multiple sclerosis for 22 years. Nine months after her death, he was engaged. His friends were worried. They couldn’t imagine doing that so soon. My friend’s response was direct: “Isn’t 22 years of grief enough?” They have been happily married for nine years.
At the heart of the matter is this little piece of advice: “Everyone should grieve in their own way.” All friends who mean well should support that.
Neither course of action is right or wrong. And in neither case is your husband’s memory desecrated. That someone would care enough to dedicate a big piece of their own life to care for a loved one is a massive show of respect and genuine love. That is a fact that often is not taken in consideration when someone says to you, “Maybe you should wait a little longer.”
Family-Caregiver.org has two short videos on caregiver grief. Additionally, the website lists a Zoom support group called Grieving After Dementia, which meets on the first and third Mondays of the month from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Send you questions to Laird in care of the BEACON or email him at [email protected]