You are caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s disease, who sometimes recognizes you as her daughter, but often thinks you’re her sister or maybe the neighbor next door when she was growing up. Now, you can continue to grieve for the loss of your “mother” as you knew her, and feel powerless about helping her in her present condition. Or you can accept this new person in your life, and see beyond the cognitive decline to the authentic self that lives inside her. In that place you can meet and embrace one another for fleeting moments or for a long-term relationship.
Few of us want to confront the reality that illness and death are an inevitable part of life. We live in a culture of denial, pushing away thoughts of our own and our loved one’s mortality. How can we learn acceptance in the face of fear and insecurity? How can we ever accept our own shortcomings: impatience, exhaustion and out- bursts? How can we bear the losses, pain and grief experienced by our patient, a situation over which we have no control? I recommend taking a look at the Big Picture.
We know intuitively some basic truths: we cannot have great joy without profound sadness. Every beginning has an end. Even more, we know we cannot be and do everything. Scale down those heroic gestures. Simply accept that you are only human. Feeling anger, sadness, confusion and resentment are natural responses. In some cases, you may have had to sacrifice your career, your sense of self-worth, active involvement in the community and life as you have known it. These losses can be heartrending for you. Affirm to yourself that you can and will overcome them.
When you open your heart to life’s possibilities and live fully in the moment, you can be better prepared for any eventuality. You can also be a more comforting presence for your loved one. When we learn, truly realize, that Now is all we have, we can let go of our illusions and efforts to be superhuman, and savor the magic of each moment. Try throwing your arms open and embracing the universe, just as it is right now. You can breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t have to change a single thing.
This may not have been the experience you wanted, but it can prove to be of great value to you. You may not be the person you used to be, but you are more of the spiritual self you are meant to be.