I was NOT in denial.
I am so tired of hearing from different people that they think I was in denial for the longest time about my Dad’s condition.
No, I was NOT.
I knew he had Alzheimer’s. I knew there was no cure. I knew there had yet to be a single survivor of this disease. I knew things were going to continue to get worse, instead of better. I knew he would eventually lose his life to it.
But what I also knew, and still know today, is that our God is a mighty God. A faithful God. A loving Father. The Ultimate Physician. Anything is possible.
So, I chose to be optimistic, to be hopeful, to always find that cup half full, and to always find a shred of joy in each day, in each visit I had with my Dad before he died.
There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for… ALWAYS.
Who likes being around Debbie Downer all the time? Who likes being around a Negative Nelly? How does that help the situation or the person in the situation?
That’s why my Dad never saw me sad or crying when I was around him.
Of course my heart was breaking on the inside seeing him digress more and more each visit.
But would that help him? Would that make the situation better? The outcome any different?
First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
I clung to that verse.
Do you know how hard it is to be thankful in ALL circumstances?
At first I was thankful he still recognized me. He may not have known my name, and wouldn’t even say my name when I asked him repeatedly to just say “Heather,” but I know he knew that he should know me.
I was thankful he was still mobile.
I was thankful my kids willingly came with me to visit him and for the joy they would bring to all the residents’ faces.
I was thankful for his tight hugs and a sweet kiss every time I would leave him.
I was thankful to hear him say, “I love you, too.”
Some days I had to dig deep for things to be thankful for after each visit.
That doesn’t mean I was in denial.
But striving to find joy in all circumstances sure doesn’t make facing Alzheimer’s any easier or more bearable.
The last day I saw my Dad alive, it did finally hit me like a ton of bricks that this was it. This was the end.
I had been hopeful for what felt like such a long time, that seeing him laying there, moments away from being in the arms of Jesus, I just lost it.
I finally cried.
And not just cried…. like sobbed. Uncontrollable, full on ugly cry.
And it was then that I had something else to be thankful for…
I was thankful my Mom was with him when he went.
I was thankful he was comfortable.
I was thankful my brother had gotten a last visit in to see him, as I had thought for sure he’d still be around at Christmas time.
I was thankful I had a final opportunity to tell him I loved him, and a final opportunity to tell him goodbye.
And then I was thankful he was finally at peace. He was finally where he always wanted to be. I knew the final outcome would always end exactly the way it did.
So, NO. I was never in denial.
But… I am now.
Denial is the first of the five stages of grief, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
According to grief.com Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.
I very well could have been denying myself the opportunity to be sad while Dad was still here, but that’s not how I want to live my life. Now that he’s gone and as I sit and write this blog, it just doesn’t feel real that he’s really gone. Looking at his pictures staring back at me on this computer screen, his eyes lock on mine and it’s like he’s looking right at me, through me even, to the inner most part of my soul. But there’s no denying it, he is gone.
There is a grace in denial. What ever would we do without grace?
I’m pretty sure you all can figure out I’m angry.
Bargaining… no. Never did that and still won’t do that one. We asked God to take him home and now that he’s where he always wanted to be, I wouldn’t bargain to bring him back or ask he give up his reward. He was ready to go.
Depression… maybe a little. Doing this blog was supposed to be therapeutic for me, but in all honesty it has just made me sad. It’s made me think of him a lot, miss him a lot, and still wish he were here. So, that only leaves acceptance. Someday. Someday we’ll all be in a better place, and although I may never be okay with how things played out, I will accept reality and learn to live with it. Someday I’ll be okay and at peace living a life without him in it and accept that as my new norm.
But, that’s not today.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Thank you God for being the ultimate comforter. The one to whom we can share all of our cares and worries, the one who gently wipes away our tears of joy as well as our tears of sadness. May we feel your loving arms around us, be given and accepting of the gift of your grace, and begin to heal. May the only thing left to deny be ourselves, so we can pick up our cross and follow You.