How to Deal with Loss of a Loved One due to PD: By Dr. De Leon

If tears could build a stairway and thoughts a memory lane I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again. (poem: if tears could build a stairway to heaven- unknown)

When I was in New York City last week I had the pleasure of meeting many great people including this wonderful team of son and father from New Jersey. They were there celebrating the life of their mom and spouse respectably. It was a bitter sweet moment for the duo. They came to the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in her honor. After battling Parkinson’s for 18 years, she had finally succumbed to this chronic progressive neurologic illness and passed away a month prior to the walk in Central Park.

As I was fumbling to find words of encouragement and comfort to these two individuals who were obviously grieving, it dawned on me that we as a Parkinson’s community seldom offer much encouragement, support, or guidance to those who have lost a loved one to PD; as if this was the final reward for a life lived in the trenches year after year as a loved one with Parkinson’s disease advances. However, although initially there may be a sense of relief when the person so devastated by disease goes gently in to the night; ultimately there is a gap and a void that must be filled. These brave individuals who have devoted their lives to the care of those living with PD are as much part of the fabric of our PD community even after the person with PD dies.  These warriors are the forerunners to where our lives will ultimately end-up. They alone have the capacity to show us the way. Therefore, these wonderful individuals perhaps more than anyone need our (PD community) love, support, encouragement and deserve to be lifted and raised up to God for healing and comfort.

How do we deal with loss?

It is not easy to lose a loved one even when death it’s a natural part of life; we still feel the sting of their absence when death finally comes. We are never as prepared as we think even when death is imminent. Although, grief is universal the pain is deeply personal and there is no right way of mourning or correct amount of time someone should spend grieving. During the time of mourning you may still laugh and feel joy and enjoy life. These emotions may be intermingled with the tears of sadness which may come at unexpected times. Don’t restraint your emotions based on someone else’s view of what a person in mourning should look like or act like. Laughter is as important as releasing your sadness in the healing process. Laughter can strengthen our immune systems while connecting us to others yet relieve the pain at the same time. We are not blank slates when it comes to how we handle or show our grief according to grief counselor Rob Zucker “what you bring to the table will impact how you process your loss.” The most accurate predictors of how we will cope depends on our own “personality and temperament prior to the loss” of our loved one, as per the author of “The Truth about Grief: The Myth of its 5 Stages and The New Science of Loss.” In other words if you were a positive glass 1/2 full type of person you will find it easier to move on and get on your feet then if you tend to dwell on the negative aspects of life.

What can you expect after a loss?

As with any loss, disbelief and absence of emotions can occur in some individuals even when death was anticipated. Anxiety can also be a big part of the grieving process. Other individuals may experience a ‘second storm’ wave of feelings that suddenly hit you like a brick when the finality and reality of situation sets in, this can occur months or even years later as it did me (especially when confronted with other stressors) leaving a deep ache in my chest and silent tears which had never been shed.  Most people are able to bounce back from intense grief which includes deep depression, anxiety intrusive thoughts and insomnia within 6 months. Although loss is forever, acute grief is not (thank GOD!) The pain and loneliness markedly scales down but the gap always remains however with time the void does get smaller. Loved ones are never farther than a thought away!

flowers Coping:

One way of coping is through journaling and writing your story, doing art as a form of therapy, meditation, and prayers, as well as exercising. Thinking about how you handled tough situations in the past. Accept yourself and others wherever you are in your grief- without prejudices or judgment. It is okay to focus on positive emotions which are protective in nature like “I can’t believe how well I am doing on my own.” We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit but cannot do it alone so surround yourself with people that lift and support you.

One thing I have learned that even when we are heartbroken, crying, and feeling low we still can rise! We still have worth and a purpose!

You can have a very satisfying and full life after the passing of a loved one. If you are still struggling and feel depressed- seek professional help immediately!

Crying only a little bit Is no use. You must cry Until your pillow is soaked ! Then you can get up and laugh. Then you can jump in The shower and splash- Splash-splash! Then you can throw open your window & “Ha Ha! Ha Ha!” & if people say, “hey what’s going on with you Up there? “Ha Ha! ” sing back, “happiness was hiding In the last tear I wept! Ha Ha!Galway Kinnell



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