I found this article interesting recalling the grief I experienced while my grandmother struggled with Alzheimer’s, gradually becoming worse and failing to even recognize me.
My guess is that when people read the title of this article they will react with either a, “what are they talking about? How can someone be grieving someone who is still alive and what the heck is ambiguous grief???” or a “holy crap, yes! I have felt exactly that way! Thank goodness WYG is finally covering this topic”. This is one of those topics where if you have been there, you get it and if you haven’t, you don’t. Either way, hopefully, you’ll read on.
Before we dive in, if you clicked on this post because you feel like you are grieving someone with a terminal illness who has not yet died, there is another WYG article you should read before you read this article. Check out our article on Anticipatory Grief, which is about the grief that comes when we anticipate that we are going to lose someone.
In contrast to anticipatory grief, there are times in life when someone we love becomes someone we barely recognize. The person is still physically with us, but psychologically they are gone. There are a range of reasons this can happen. Some of the most common are things like addiction, dementia, traumatic brain injuries, and mental illness. If you have never lived through loving someone in such a situation, this can be hard to understand. The person you love is still there, sometimes they ‘look’ sick, sometimes they don’t. But regardless of how they look, they do things they would never have done, they say things they would never have said, treat you in ways they never would have treated you, and they are not there for you in ways they previously were. This is sometimes referred to as “ambiguous grief” or “ambiguous loss”.
This may sound very abstract, but when it occurs in your life it is very concrete and real. Your mom, who always loved and supported you, doesn’t recognize you, understand you or says hurtful things. You husband, who was always kind and considerate, is now lying and stealing to support an addiction. You son, who was brilliant and driven, is now struggling with delusions and hallucinations.
More on this article @ whatsyourgrief.com