Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

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none Re: grief over losing a spouse, or beginning dementia?

From: Dallas
Posts: 262
First, Sueh, I'm saddened to learn of your loss. My heart goes out ot you.

I think you have raised a good question, but I fear it may not have an easy answer. When we lose a spouse after a long life together, our entire world is upset. Indeed, Thomas Attig in the book, Relearning the World, exactly describes it so. It may be that your dad's world has been so utterly reshaped that he has little grounding upon which to assess that which is real.

What further complicates matters is that a significant percentage of spouses report seeing their loved one after the death. It is NOT unusual. Nor is it unusual for the spouse to not talk back. Indeed, it is arguable that whatever the source of these apparitions (psychological or paranormal), the point of them is to help the survivor come to terms with the loved one's departure. As a hospice chaplain for twelve years, I encouraged people who had these experiences to explore them, to try and grasp their meaning to them. I would exercise caution, as I'm sure you are, in minimizing these experiences. In dreams or waking life - or both - he's just trying to process his loss.

One other note is this: Loss affects memory, digestion, immunity, capacity to enjoy life, awareness of surroundings, sleep, dream life, and truly every other aspect of life. We really are re-learning the world.

Having said all that, there is yet another caveat to the situation as you have presented it. Often, where one spouse has dementia, the other spouse covers for the demented spouse through a unique pattern of interference, practices, etc. that others might not see. Then when the spouse who does not have dementia dies, the behaviors that are common symptoms of dementia become obvious to everyone because mom is no longer there to remind dad that he forgot to put on his pants (and I'm not trying to be funny in the least in saying this). My mom really covered for my recently deceased dad pretty well: None of us realized how well. So, it could be that you're picking up on things that have been there for a while but are only now obvious. Or, not...

In any case, I would not become too alarmed. I would give your Dad time to adapt to what he is going through. If, after several months, he is still going through these experiences, I would take him in for a physical. If he worsens or becomes depressed, I would jump in even sooner. That's all I can think of at the moment. I'll post more as I have other thoughts.

We wish you well.

Mike and Barb Davis

Posted on 2008/9/24 20:44

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