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Embracing Grief When a Loved One Has Alzheimer's

One day when I was visiting Ed, my beloved Romanian life partner of 30 years, in the memory care facility where he lived, they were having a festive sing-along. I sat down beside him to keep him company.
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"There is no greater sorrow than to remember happiness in a time of misery." -Dante

One day when I was visiting Ed, my beloved Romanian life partner of 30 years, in the memory care facility where he lived, they were having a festive sing-along. I sat down beside him to keep him company.

All of a sudden the activity director, singing at the top of her lungs and pounding away on the piano, ripped into a rendition of the Beatles' song, Yesterday. I was caught off guard, completely unprepared for the torrent of emotions it would bring about.

Yes, yesterday all my troubles had seemed so far away. And yes, now they were here to stay. Ed wasn't ever going to get better. Tears welled up in my eyes and I bit my lip as I tried to keep from bursting into tears.

Then more words of the song tumbled out and intensified my sorrow. In some ways Ed wasn't half the man he used to be. There was a shadow hanging over him. The pain was searing.

Memories of yesterdays shared long ago suddenly flashed before my eyes. I remembered our first date. How we'd met and fallen in love that beautiful summer. I remembered the pet names we called each other. Cuddling on the sofa and talking into the wee hours of the morning. I remembered Ed's ever gallant and chivalrous manners. How he used to sneak into my house on my birthday while I was at work and leave flowers on my dining room table. I remembered our exciting trips to Hilton Head and Italy.

Suddenly I realized I could no longer control myself. I knew that in a matter of seconds I'd be crying like a baby so I jumped up and left because I didn't want to make a scene in front of the staff and the other residents.

I drove home on auto-pilot, crying uncontrollably all the way. But it was a good cry. It was the first time I'd cried about Ed's condition. The first time I'd cried about my loss of my constant supporter. My biggest fan. My chief confidant. And the first time I realized how very much I had loved him and still loved him.

By the time I arrived home I was feeling better. I had gotten in touch with my grief. Had acknowledged it. Had given myself permission to feel it deep in my heart. And that felt good.

Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy. She is the co-author of the forthcoming book, Finding Joy in Alzheimer's: New Hope for Caregivers. Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of helpful information for Alzheimer's caregivers.