Because of my mother, I am a member of a few online support groups for people who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia. There is one statement that I see over and over again in these groups. It is said in various different ways about various different aspects of the journey. The statement comes from trying to figure out how to be with someone who no longer knows you. It comes from trying to figure out how to help someone do the most basic tasks. It comes from having to clean the grossest messes. It comes from having to answer the same questions from them over and over and over and over. It comes from having to watch someone you love die. It comes from pain, from grief, from exasperation, from exhaustion, from isolation. The statement is, “I don’t know how to do this”.
I know the feeling well, but just now something occurred to me … None of us do.
When it comes to the most difficult aspects of life that we will face, none of us knows ahead of time how to get through, what exactly to do or say, how we will make it, how we will get it done. And yet… somehow, we do. There is some other incomprehensible aspect of life that exists beyond our knowing that gives us what we need on a moment by moment basis. It never answers our calls ahead of time, and even if it did, it would not make sense to us in the moments before it was needed.
It comes in so many forms … in the joke that if spoken at another time would have felt inappropriate, right now somehow brings relief. It comes in a healing flood of tears as grief takes over the split second after our strength is no longer needed. It comes in the unexpected words and actions of another that you didn’t even know you needed. It comes through the radio when life plays the perfect song for the soundtrack of your life in that moment.
I cannot claim to know why we face pain in this life, I only know we all will. I consider it a blessing to have seen through my own pain that if you know what to look for, life will offer things to soften the sharpest parts and give you moments of respite as you travel the journey.
For those currently feeling pain, my heart sees you and feels you. I do not know if this will make sense, but it is ok to let yourself not know how to do it. You do not need to know how. You have permission to stop trying and let life take over for awhile.
Much love, Brianne
If you have appreciated this piece, consider purchasing my new book, Love Doesn’t Care If You Forget: Lessons of Love from Alzheimer’s and Dementia