L is for loss.
My car is eight years old, and last year for the first time, I had to pour $5,000. into it over a six month period. Battery, tires, breaks and a few other things I don't know the name of. It hurt, but as it had never had any major repairs, I wasn't surprised. It's running well now, but at its age, it's just a matter of time before there's something else. Cars wear out.
So do people.
Talk to any elderly person, and you'll probably hear a litany of all the parts that don't work. Ears strain to hear normal conversation, eyes squint to identify who has entered the room, legs tremble when trying to walk, skin develops lesions, bladder and bowels loose control--the list goes on. Sometimes the mind doesn't function like it used to. Diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis become a part of regular conversation.
Loss is hard. When people have been strong and independent all their lives, it's difficult to admit to anything less. Often people deny ("There's nothing wrong with me!") or get angry or bitter, focusing totally on the loss. Life isn't what it used to be, so it isn't worth living.
I would never minimise the struggles so many go through. It's frightening, it hurts and it often gets worse. As a care partner, you are a part of this, either by watching it in another, or perhaps by participating in it yourself.
How do you deal with loss?
Here are a few simple suggestion. Whole books have been written on this, but in this forum, I want to give you s\a few points to think about.
What is the loss? Don't talk around it or avoid using the word. Call it what it is. When you give something a name and learn about it, you shrink it to reasonable proportions. Incontinence isn't a black cloud that affects every situation and a worry that clouds every interaction. It's a condition, and there are interventions and products that help deal with it.
There's no point in acting as if difficult situations aren't difficult. That's pretending, and doesn't get anyone the help they need. You as a care partner, and your loved one if they are able, should talk about it. How does it feel? What do they miss the most? Does it make them feel angry, sad, ashamed? Do they feel less of a man or a woman? These are conversations that may need to be revisited several times. It's important to express the grief and whatever emotions are there.
I read something wonderful the other day. A woman with dementia was writing about the progression of her disease, and she said, "I have dementia, but it doesn't have me."
What ever condition, disability or disease you have, don't let it have you. By this I mean, don't let it define you. Don't let it be more important than the person inside. Look beyond the disease to the "you" who is still there. Because you are.
Find the person you are. Your personality with all of it's quirks, humour and experiences, is still there. You have wisdom and background no one else has. And you, no matter what your losses, have something to contribute to the lives of others. Find it.
Don't stop at "loss."
Go beyond lost to found.