In writing my book, “Bleeding Hearts”, I hoped to shed light and possibly start the conversation on the sensitive subject of a spouse “moving on” when his or her loved one is stricken with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s. While I understand that not everyone has the same ideas or feelings on the subject, I feel strongly that no one should judge anyone else for following their heart in search of taking care of their own needs while attending to their partner’s needs.
While I have said (and will continue to say) that I believe that the ultimate victim of a disease like Alzheimer’s, is the victim who carries the diagnosis themselves. I pose the question: What about the “other” victim(s)? What about the spouses and/or partners of the diagnosed patient?
Along side their partner, they too suffered through the horrific diagnosis. Having dreams of their future with their loved one, shattered as well. After the heinous diagnosis, they are faced with grim conversations of decisions that they will, ultimately, have to face. While the disease takes hold of their loved one, the partner is made to feel a myriad of emotions like fear, sadness, etc. while their loved one slowly slips away, into a world of their own. Once the Alzheimer’s victim is lost to the world of silence, the partner is then shut out. They are left to live on making decisions that no one should ever have to make for another and witnessing the continued assault of the disease…alone.
When I came into Eric’s life (we met on a dating service), his wife had been “gone” for quite some time. She was in hospice with the diagnosis of “early onset Alzheimer’s” and was only showing few glimpses of recollection to anyone or anything. His eyes were sad and mournful…soulful and deeply hurt. I could feel his loneliness before he said anything about his beloved wife, Gaye. And once he told me the despairing story I could understand why, almost immediately, he presented this way to me.
Eric was encouraged by his family, in particular his beautiful daughter, to move on and find someone to be happy with. While he entertained the thought, he didn’t feel ready. It was when he was ready that we met. Our relationship blossomed and I quickly realized that I would have a major role in the story of him and his wife; a woman whom I had never met, but came to love because of him and his love for her. But because Eric chose to “move on”, all the while continuing to respect and love Gaye, he was once again faced with distress because not everyone agreed with his decision. Shame was then added to his myriad of emotions. Why should he, or anyone, be denied comfort during such a time?
Being able to be a source of comfort to him, in these darkest of days, providing love and support -leads me to think of a song by one of my favorite country bands Sugarland, “Shine the Light”… “And when your worries, they won’t let you sleep and rob you of your days. And you’ve looked in all directions but you still can’t find your way. Or when you just need someone to remind you that it’s all gonna be okay…I will shine the light.” For it is in those darkest days that the spouse/partner of an Alzheimer’s victim needs to be reminded that there is and can be light at the end of their painfully dark days. And that they should be left to do so, without shame and/or judgment.