Grief and Dementia

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Among the cremation services offered in Dayton, OH are grief resources, including grief support groups. Families who have a loved one with dementia have a unique grief experience because of the singular progression of dementia: they grieve loss twice.

This very complicated and ongoing grief is a topic that is little understood and rarely acknowledged by those whose families are unaffected by the various forms of dementia, particularly by the devastating disease of Alzheimer’s. In fact, even the families and caregivers of those with dementia are hard-pressed to describe the confusing and extremely difficult grief they experience, even though they have first-hand knowledge of both the illness as well as its emotional impact. The fact is their loved ones who are suffering from dementia, and most particularly Alzheimer’s, are leaving them well before their physical death occurs. This is the “death” of the person they know and love, and the grief that attends such an illness is unpredictable, and it affects every person differently.

Psychologists and grief counselors explain how this occurs, and why it is so complicated for the families who experience it. The reality of dementia, regardless of its type, is that it robs the person of self. And with that loss of self comes the shock, false hopes, and ongoing waves of grief that the family members feel for that person as they witness this gradual (or quickly-progressing, in the case of certain types of Alzheimer’s) loss of their loved ones. It is not only unpredictable, but it is also frightening for both the family members and the person who is beginning to suffer from its first symptoms.

But as the disease progresses, the fear and grief remain and deepen for those who must witness it first-hand. It is, essentially, a death experienced twice, and a grief that is daily increasing in complexity as the illness progresses.

Often the experience of caring for a loved one with dementia is accompanied by an ongoing sense of guilt, and caregivers are very often torn by their emotions. For example, they may be grieving their loved one at the same time they are resenting the burden of caring for them. Or they may be rocked by the sheer unpredictability of the disease, which can manifest itself differently from one day to the next. This can result in compounded grief as the families and caregivers, having already begun grieving their loved one, experience the abject fear of an unknown future and whether they can handle it. There is also the rollercoaster of emotions, since at times it will seem as if the death of their loved one is imminent, while the next day it appears that they are, in fact, getting better.

Regardless of the form the dementia takes, the factor common to all of them, particularly Alzheimer’s, is that the person the family knew is essentially gone, and this first death is followed by the second, physical death of their loved one. It is an overwhelmingly difficult, complicated experience and form of grief, and psychologists and grief counselors stress that it’s critical to seek support with people who are undergoing the same or similar types of grieving as their family members suffer through the illness.

For more information about grief resources and cremation services offering in Dayton, OH, our caring and knowledgeable staff at Glickler Funeral Home & Cremation Service is here to assist you. You can visit our funeral home at 1849 Salem Ave., Dayton, OH 45406, or you can call us today at (937) 278-4287.

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