Finding More Joy Than Sadness

shared, with permission, from Erin Shaw Washington

It’s my mom’s birthday today — she would have been 68. This picture [below] is centered on my sister and my big kiddo, but there is mom right there at her side. She developed this visual disability pretty early on in her dementia that only progressed over time. She got to where she couldn’t really see her grandson, we don’t think… but his noises and chatter he made while he sat next to her coloring (she’s coloring in this pic too) brought her great joy. She laughed when he laughed. She talked to him sometime when he talked to her, sometimes in words we didn’t understand. Her visual and language disabilities didn’t bother him in the least at that age.

I miss my mom every day, but I look back on memories like these with more joy than sadness. My mom got one of her dearest wishes and dreams… to be a grandma. That relationship looked really different than pretty much all of my friends’ kids and their grandmothers, but there was a real connection and love there that P still remembers and values today. Sometimes he misses her a lot even 6+ years later, and that’s okay. Grief and sadness come together with losing someone you really loved, don’t they?

Having a loved one with dementia is hard and there is no way around that. But if you have someone living with dementia in your life, I challenge you to not focus on what they once were, and what is lost, but instead to think about the very best way that you can find joy with them exactly as they are, right there in the moment.