The weeks after my Dad died were one of the worst transitional periods in navigating as a Caregiver for my Mom with Vascular Dementia. I was shocked and devastated at his quick decline and death, and my Mom, who no longer had any short-term memory, kept asking for me to take her to visit him.
I didn’t want to have her keep reliving his death, but I felt like I was always having to let her know he passed away. She was living in Assisted Living with him and really liked it there when he was alive. However, she didn’t do well after he died. She was out looking for him in the community and getting into fights with the other residents.
What I realized was that there were many things I could do to help her know about his death and help her try and process the grief. First, and I’m still not sure why we did this, but after dad died, we all gathered around his body and had the hospice nurse take a picture. I printed out copies and put them in her apartment with the date so she could see we were all there at his death and had said our last good-bye. Remarkably, this really helped her process his death. She could see all the kids were there and by her side.
Once the obituary ran, I put those copies up along with the final picture. After the burial service at Arlington Cemetery, I added more pictures of the service and all of us together. I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone in her grief.
Dementia is such a cruel disease.
I remember talking with my mom over a year later and telling her about watching my son at a track meet. My Dad was a hurdler for West Point. She had one of those out of the blue clarity moments and says “Oh Vald, would have loved to be there to see him run!” I hadn’t heard my Mom talk about Dad for months. I was elated and gut-punched with grief all at once. Remembered.