Gaining closure can be difficult

Many of us have unfinished business with loved ones. The decision about whether or not to put those issues to rest can sometimes be further complicated if the loved one develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Over my time on Helpline, I have had calls in which the theme was regret for conversations not had. For example, I once received a call from a woman who told me that she and her mother had such a dysfunctional relationship that she ran away from home at age sixteen. Now an adult, she is her mother’s caregiver. Her mother’s Alzheimer’s is so far along that they will never be able to gain closure in regards to those parts of their relationship.

If you are conflicted by unresolved issues with someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, I recommend deciding now if you should attempt to reach out and settle differences. You may decide “yes,” or you may tell yourself “no.” The choice is very personal and unique to each person and situation.

Keep in mind, however, that you should make the choice when you are actually able to act on it – before their mind can no longer can recall your mutual past, answer your questions or fill in those blanks

If you are currently unable to have those conversations with your loved one because of advancing Alzheimer’s, you might try any or all of the following to work through your feelings of loss, resentment or anger:

1.     Write a letter to your loved one, sharing your feelings as they come up regarding your relationship or lack thereof. Re-read it a few times over a period of days/weeks, then shred it or burn it and try to let your negative emotions go up with the smoke.

2.     Join a support group where you can talk about your feelings with other caregivers who might be in the same situation you are.

3.     Talk with a grief counselor if you find yourself grieving the loss of a relationship with your loved one when you were a child, or feelings of abandonment in a difficult period of your life.

4.     If you feel the issues are deep enough and have affected parts of your adult life in a negative way, perhaps consider seeking out a therapist who can help you identify those situations and work through them.

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