September 2nd makes one year since my grandmother passed, and it is still by far one of the most devastating events in my life. I now understand what people mean when they say “It never gets easy, but within time you cope.” I still get teary eyed when reminiscing on thoughts of her, associating her name with the words “died” or “passed away” and even conversations about Alzheimer’s disease often trigger some emotions.
This experience however has allowed me to be able to empathize with those who have lost loved ones; especially grandparents. See prior to my grandmother passing away I had never experienced losing a loved one, so when it happened to others I felt really bad for them but couldn’t truly connect. Now I understand more than ever the pain one feels when losing someone they love.
One of the hardest parts about losing someone to Alzheimer’s disease is watching this person slowly forget how to do everything… literally EVERYTHING. I witnessed my grandmother go through stages of forgetting why she was in a particular room, what month or year it was, forgetting how to eat and swallow food, loss of speech and of course…forgetting me. I speak from the point of view of a grandchild but couldn’t imagine how that must have felt for my aunts, uncles and even my mom. To experience your own mother in a state where she has trouble recognizing who you are, and cannot recall your name? HEARTBREAKING!
Time to Self- Reflect
I can say that losing my grandmother has not only allowed me to empathize for others dealing with the loss of a loved one, but I’ve seen how it has allowed me to be more forgiving- not only to those who I felt have hurt me but also forgiving of myself. I’ve realized that I completely avoid situations that make me sad or hurt so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the anxiety and feelings that are attached with those emotions. Basically, there were times I avoided going by my grandmother or being by her because I hate to see anyone I love in such a terrible state. Or even knowing that she no longer had any idea who I was, killed me. It seemed easier to avoid the situation, but in this case I regret doing so.
I realized this pattern of avoidance applied to other relationships in my life as well. So I had to decide either I was going to continue to avoid any event that brings on sadness OR take ownership and make changes. I decided to make a change. I realized I needed to forgive myself first, then accept that it’s absolutely okay to cry and be hurt when situations aren’t always at its best. Most importantly I needed to analyze the other relationships I was avoiding and deal with them head-on. So in case you’re wondering, “why is she sharing this personal ish?” Well yes it is personal, but it’s part of life and I figured if anyone is going through a similar situation, doesn’t hurt to share my experience!
Join me Saturday, October 29th for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Manhattan!
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