Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Importance of Setting Boundaries During Times of Grieving

It's funny the little things that you think about when you are grieving, the thoughts, insignificant to anyone other than you, that suddenly flood your heart with a profound sense of loss.  

Moments before writing this post, I was reading an article about setting boundaries during grieving.  I decided to write a quick post recommending that article to you.   I began reflecting on my own process of grieving when suddenly, of all the things that could pop into my mind, I thought about my Mom's Polaroid camera. 

How many of you remember the Polaroid Camera? 

Both my Mom and I owned one and neither one of us could resist taking dozens of photos at every family gathering.   

If you owned a Polaroid, you recall the process of: taking your photo; removing the film card from the camera; peeling off the cover; and watching your picture slowly develop.  Actually the picture developed in a minute or less.  It just seemed like the process took longer because you were standing there watching it.  Those were great little cameras and the pictures held up for decades.  However over time, those old photos began to fade and the edges curl. Hopefully you scanned yours into your computer before they completely faded.  I saved a few of Mom's and mine but I never got to them all. 
All of those photos faded and were eventually lost forever.  Ironically, Mom's life slowly faded in a similar manner as the result of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.  Her memories, her mobility and her life slowly faded away over the course of 10 years and I was an eyewitness to almost every minute.  And just like the times I spent waiting for those old Polaroid films to develop, it seems like that process took much longer too.

It is said that we should never make important decisions when we are: stressed, overly tired, or grieving.  That is certainly wise counsel.  However, it simply doesn't apply to the world of family caregivers who are: often stressed; almost always tired; and for whom grieving is a complex and long process. 

In the case of those who care for someone with Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury or other forms of dementia the grieving begins long before their loved one dies.  Instead, the grief comes in waves, as each stage of their loved one's disease erases another bit of their motor function and memory. 

If you are a former family caregiver who has experienced the loss of the person who was in your care you can probably relate to this comment by Allana Reoch as much as I do:

"I have spent a lot of time setting fires in my psyche over the reality that I wasted my time in the last few weeks of my dad’s life sharing my experience with people who took advantage of my vulnerability.  It has been tedious and frustrating work to forgive myself and attempt to understand the complexity of those situations. As a result, I am fiercely protective of the space I need to grieve, and I advocate for others to empower themselves to do the same."

I too wasted time trying to explain my experience of grieving to others until I realized that only someone else who has traveled a similar path could understand.  To date, I have not been able to fully express my feelings of being alone in the home in which both of my parents had died or why I would never want to sleep in the bedroom in which I had watched my mother slowly slip away.  Like Allana, it was my experience that there were those who took advantage of my vulnerability in the weeks and months after my mother's death. But that is not their problem, it is mine. 

I strongly recommend that every family caregiver read this article and share it with others.  It is important that we fully own our grief but equally important that we accept the fact that it may never be understood by others. 

* How Instant Film Works

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