Monday, April 17, 2017

Under The Umbrella of Dementia’s Grip

Whether death is sudden or lingering and expected, grief steals from us; it robs us of our joy and sends us down a turbulent river of emotions.

A dear friend was diagnosis with dementia a decade ago. At the onset of his prognosis, there was little change in character. But in the last five years, and especially in the last six months, his disease rapidly progressed, and sadly, he lost his battle last week.

Often when we hear the word dementia, we presume memory loss. But dementia is so much more than that. Memory loss does indeed create a profound anguish because memories are the foundation of who we are. But on the whole, dementia encompasses a vast range of loss and sorrow, filled with many outpouring of emotions, bringing grief and loss to the forefront of our daily lives.

Because I had witnessed my friend's dementia unfold, it made me more aware of how much grief and loss are combined and present for caregivers and family members dealing with this disease. Before seeing the disabling characteristics of dementia first-hand, I mostly considered the words grief and loss (when used in tandem) to be associated with death. But long before there is any closure with death, the people involved must move through the agony of the anticipated losses that gradually steal the personal bond they once shared with their loved one. And once death does finally come, it's usually accompanied by a mixture of sorrow and relief: sorrow because their loved one is no longer with them, and relief because suffering has ended.

Dementia, however, is not a one size fits all. It’s a unique set of experiences for the individual and their family.

In my friend's case, there were times when this disease caused his brain to misfire, leaving him lost and frustrated. But there were other times when moments of normalcy had crept back to the surface, bringing joy and laughter into our lives.  

It can be a long emotional journey watching the person we love slip away from us, the person that may now not even know us. So we must savor those moments of normalcy. Because even when they become a rarity, they are still a precious gift of hope for all who are fearful and struggling under the umbrella of dementia's grip.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thirty-Five Years Married—Finding Love After Abuse

Derick and I met at a community college, located at a midway point between our hometowns. I was 19. And he was 18.

I had entered this college because it offered an upgrading program for me to complete my General Education Diploma (GED). Derick was there taking a Welding trade, which he has never used to gain employment. (But I am so thankful he decided to take it! I'll chalk it up to fate!)

I remember how our classrooms were around the corner from each other and how every morning Derick's whistles would echo behind me as I walked by him. I should have been flattered that this hot, blue-eyed guy was admiring me. In fact, one time I would have loved all the attention, and I probably would have even shaken my booty at him. But Derick's boldness left me uncomfortable.

At 19 years of age, I had already been in two abusive relationships. I escaped one only to fall into another, the last one ending six months before I entered college. So my emotional scars were still very much present. My self-esteem was damaged, and I had a negative mindset with regards to trust and dating and even love. In my young life, it had only shown itself to be abusive, untrustworthy, controlling, and manipulative. And besides, I had entered college for the sole purpose of obtaining my GED. I didn't need any distractions; I only wanted to achieve a better life.

It's not easy re-engaging in the dating scene after abuse. (In my case, abusers.) The question always at the forefront of my mind was, "Will he abuse me? " and it held me back from Derick's persistence of wanting to date me. It would be months before I said yes. And I am so glad I did. He mirrored love in my life in ways I had never experienced before. It was a love that would take us down the aisle two years later.

We by no means went on to have a fairytale marriage. It has been far from perfect. Through busy careers, parenthood, sickness, grief, lack of intimacy, it all, at times, left us wondering if our love would stand the test of time.

However, here we are today celebrating a marriage milestone of 35 years. Our love has not only evolved, but it has indeed stood the test of time, for better, for worse, in sickness and health, until death do us part...

Do you believe in fate? I sure do!