Starting A New Year After an Alzheimer’s Death

By | July 21, 2016

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It’s been eight months since my wife died with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I’ve moved on with my new life as a widower … but it’s definitely been a bumpy ride. I still “lose it” occasionally. Tears may come while listening to a song, watching a tender scene on TV, or during an event that I wish I could have shared with Clare. Sometimes just a passing thought of Clare brings painful tears

There isn’t one day since Clare’s death that I have not thought about her or “spoken” to her in my mind. Not one day. I struggled with depression and sadness on many days for four months after Clare’s death … but all that changed when I had a proverbial “Aha moment” while reading somewhere that when you suffer the loss of a loved one, instead of feeling sad you should feel fortunate that you were lucky enough to have had that loved one in your life. Since reflecting upon those words, when those tears or feelings of sadness come I try hard to think about how incredibly lucky I was to have been with my true love for more than 50 years. That helps me … a lot.

However, I still think about things I wish we had done before Clare’s AD changed our lives. I wish we had made a video or auditory recording of Clare talking about herself … her childhood, her high school and college years, how much she enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom when our daughter and son were young, and how much she loved the teaching career she began when they were older. And I wish we had videoed Clare talking about the incredible joy she felt each time she became a Grandma. Sadly, our four wonderful grandchildren, now ages 14-17, knew their “real Grandma” for only a few precious years.

I also wish we hadn’t kept postponing that “really special” trip we had planned to take with our children and grandchildren. We had started taking four day extended weekend trips to different cities each summer with our children and grandchildren, but we had talked about taking a “really special” trip with them one summer … a Disney cruise or a trip to Europe … once our grandchildren were all old enough to fully enjoy such a trip. Sadly, by the time the grandchildren were old enough, Clare’s AD made such a trip too demanding.

I also wish that Clare had more genuinely caring friends and relatives. For sure there were some very notable exceptions, but many relatives and friends stopped seeing her or even calling her … or me … as her AD worsened. I had read a report by Alzheimer’s Disease International noting that “nearly 60% (of people diagnosed with AD) said that friends and family members began to avoid them and lost contact with them after the diagnosis.” I hadn’t expected that to be true of Clare’s many friends and relatives. But I was wrong.

I’ve been trying to find the happiness that Clare wanted me to have after she was gone, and each month I’ve made progress. Conventional wisdom is that time heals all wounds. If true, then I still need more time because I still miss Clare each and every day. But as a new calendar year begins in a few weeks I expect to continue moving forward … I just hope the ride will be less bumpy.

To all who read my columns, stay well and best wishes for a happy and healthy hew year!

If you would like me to respond to questions or comments about this column, please email me directly at [email protected] All of my columns on The Huffington Post may be accessed at www.huffingtonpost.com/allan-s-vann. You can learn more about my journey with Alzheimer’s at www.allansvann.blogspot.com where you can read my articles that have been published in caregiver magazines, medical journals, and in major newspapers.

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