Alzheimer’s caregivers know ambiguous grief even if they don’t know exactly what the term means. When a loved one has dementia, we grieve for the losses the disease brings although the person is still living. Our loved one is still alive, but we mourn the person he or she was.
Ambiguous grief occurs when we have a loss without closure. During Covid-19, countless people worldwide lost loved ones and had no closure. Our loved ones were in nursing homes and we couldn’t visit. Family members and friends died in hospitals and we couldn’t hold a hand and provide a comforting presence.
I don’t know if I could have handled not getting to see Jim when he was in a nursing home. I’m so glad that I was not in that situation. I could say that I would have brought him home if at all possible. But would I have? It’s hard to judge what you would do in a situation when you didn’t have to live it. Probably the most judgmental sentence in the human language is, “Well if it happened to me, I would have …”
Loved ones died and services were delayed, or maybe we didn’t feel comfortable going to funerals and had to watch them online. There was plenty of ambiguous grief to go around.
I always thought of ambiguous grief as having no defined beginning or ending. Last March my brother-in-law Larry passed away. After his services, we mingled, but not as much as we normally would have. We were just hearing talk about a pandemic. “Well, if it doesn’t happen,” I told my son, “at least this will be good practice for us.”
I had no clue what the next thirteen months would bring. Our family had loss after loss without normal closure. I made video tributes for family and friends, to find a small amount of closure for myself. I cried alone, but in some measure felt I was reaching out to others whose hearts hurt too.
After receiving the vaccine, my life is slowly moving toward hope. My calendar, although a fraction of pre-covid bookings, scares me. I look at it and think to myself that I’m not going to be able to do everything.
This hope has no defined beginning. Even after I had the immunization, I am psychologically in shutdown mode. I don’t have the enthusiasm or energy to return to all of my normal activities.
Ambiguous hope; cautious hope, but hope just the same. I’ll take it.
Copyright © April 2021 by L.S. Fisher