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Posted: September 02, 2008

Spousal Caregiving

Closure: Celebrating Life and Beginning a New Journey

Bill Andrew

As many readers of this column already know, my wife, Carol, went to her heavenly reward on June 9, after her 14-year journey with Alzheimer's disease. The weeks since then have been busy, with Carol’s funeral Mass, cremation and planning for her burial in our family plot at Manitowoc, Wisconsin. 

On Saturday, August 9, Carol's cremains (cremated remains) were interred in our family plot at Calvary Cemetery in Manitowoc, following a Memorial Mass and the Catholic Rite of Committal (the final act of caring for the cremains of a deceased member of the Catholic Church). So now, I have "closure" of sorts, with Carol in her final resting place. Eternal rest grant unto Carol, Oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. 

 

As I write this column, I continue to be flooded with many memories of our life together -- in effect, it’s a celebration of her life with me. We would have celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary recently, on August 22, however, that was not meant to be. The Lord wanted her with Him.

 

And now I begin a new journey, a journey as a widower who has recently lost his loved one. This journey is often called the "bereavement period" -- a period of time when it is normal to feel intense, changing moods and emotions. It is also a time when the survivor often feels extreme sadness, relief, guilt, anger, fear, helplessness, anxiety, and, perhaps, even numbness. It is a time when the survivor has many questions about the demise of their loved one. The whole world may seem to have been turned upside down. 

 

According to the experts, these feelings are normal. I found myself initially in a "mental fog" -- that is, a time of confusion and distress. And now, I am ready for this new journey of life -- and of faith.

 

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers for coping with pain and grief. As I am finding, the survivor must be patient and be willing to talk about their feelings with other family members, with trusted friends, or, perhaps, a grief counselor. If I hurt deeply, it is because I loved deeply. 

 

I am also finding that bereavement includes both grieving and mourning, words that most people consider as synonyms (that is, words having the same meaning). However, there is an important difference. Grief is what you think and feel on the inside after someone you love dies; that is, the internalization of those thoughts and feelings. Mourning is the outward expression of what you think and feel; that is, the externalization of those thoughts and feelings. We all grieve when someone we love dies, but if we are to heal, we must also mourn.

 

To assist me on this new journey, I will be attending a grief support group sponsored by a local hospice. I will learn how to address my grieving process -- and how to express that grief through mourning. The lessons learned will become the catalyst for healing, as I continue on this new journey of life and faith. While I will obviously miss Carol, I will always have her memories with me. In future columns, I would like to share with you some of those lessons learned. Stay tuned.

 

Please email me at ASKBill@caregivershome.com with your comments and/or reactions. I will include them in a future column with your permission. Please provide your full name and address. In the column, I will only use your first name and the initial of your last name as well as your city and state. Thank you.

 

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

 

"Great lives never go . . . they just go on!"

 

Benjamin Harrison, President of the United States (1833-1901)


Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

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