A friend of mine is dealing with the loss of her partner slowly due to Alzheimer’s disease. I had no idea how bad it was until her daughter posted something on Facebook about her dad not remembering her. To be honest, this was one of my greatest fears as we struggled with Jerry’s illness. I didn’t want him to forget me or the life we built together.
My sweet friend asked me how long the guilt lasts. She recently put her husband in an assisted living facility because she could no longer care for him alone. I was honest and told her the guilt lasts a long time.
We humans are super good at beating ourselves up for doing our best and still coming up short. This is where guilt lives. In Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly” she talks about the root of guilt which is shame. As a society we don’t deal with shame in a healthy way. This post is for my friend, I feel like I let her down with my original answer.
Guilt like grief changes as time passes. When Jerry first died I felt guilt that I let him down. I didn’t check all of the hiding places for weapons, I forgot about the place in his truck perfect for a pistol. I felt like I let my sons down by calling them home to a crime scene.
I what if’d myself almost everyday. What if I’d been more patient, kinder, less stressed. What if I’d made him sell the animals and move to a smaller home. What if. It is a monster.
Then I felt guilt because of the relief I felt in not being in a dysfunctional marriage anymore. Then I felt guilt about dating. It goes on and on. The thing is, you can feel guilty about everything or you can change it the way I learned to do in therapy by reframing it.
So, friend. Guilt will go away when you forgive yourself for being human. You have done your very best for your spouse. It’s ok to have the help you need. You have put him in a facility of the highest caliber. Your spouse is ill and as sad as it sounds, he doesn’t know what is happening anymore. He has lost the ability to differentiate time. Only you know that it’s been 3 days since you visited he doesn’t. You advocate for him and his care. You are amazing!
You love him. You will always love him. This new version of him is harder to love. I like to think that with great love there is a requirement to go through hell in learning to let them go. Otherwise, we would be destroyed by their loss, it’s almost like we need to lose the one we love before our eyes so we can say goodbye to the shell they’ve left behind and be OK going on alone.
The thing is; we are never alone. So when does the guilt go away? I guess the answer is, when you are ready to let it be, stop picking the scab and let yourself heal. Guilt is a liar. Don’t listen.
I love you.