My grandma was diagnosed with dementia almost ten years ago. Compared to many her form of dementia was not extreme. She had lost her short term memory, but events from the past were clear to her. This meant that a trip to a museum could trigger a memory from her childhood where she could recite lines from a play she was in when she was seven; however, she would repeat a question she just asked less than a minute before. Visits became hard as seeing the confusion and repetition became wearing, and you come to a realization that the person you love is slipping away from you.
“These Walls Speak” became my coping mechanism for this time. I used the character Hestia as a vessel to express my own thoughts and fears of what would happen when Grandma was gone. I could safely state my own selfish feelings because it wasn’t really me expressing them, it was the character, right?
No, they were my thoughts and feelings. It was hard to visit. It was easy to not travel back to my hometown and visit rather than sit in awkward repetitive conversations. Ultimately, it never mattered what we talked about. It was the fact I was there that mattered. It was spending time with a woman who had helped raise me and had wanted nothing more than to see me smile. I owed her those visits because of everything she had done and the fact I knew there were times I was a downright brat.
My family had a horrible habit at every event that we got together of saying, “this could be the last time.” Instead of living in the moment, they were focused on the future. When Grandpa passed away, this became even more prominent even though the gatherings became fewer. This also created a dread in me that Grandma wouldn’t be around for much longer. I really did not think after Grandpa passed she would live ten more years alone. It created an anxiety, a fear riddled thought path that I couldn’t express.
Hestia could though. Hestia had an advantage I didn’t. She is a retro-cognitive clairvoyant. She can touch an object and read its past. She is also fictional and can say whatever she wants without fear of retaliation and scorn. Years before I faced Grandma’s funeral, Hestia dealt with the loss of her grandmother. She walked the empty house built by her grandpa that so closely mirrored my grandparent’s home of over seventy years that had aged and became out of code. She remembered sleepovers and all the joy the place brought while worrying about the in-fighting that would ensue from the will. Hestia played out her grief before I would have to play out my own, but her metaphysical abilities gave her a peace of mind that I’m currently looking for.
Loss of a loved one is hard. Hard is too weak of a word to express it really. No matter how much you try and justify it with “they’re in a better place” or “they aren’t suffering” it doesn’t matter. Grief and guilt are selfish emotions. They aren’t meant for the person who is gone either mentally or physically, they are for the one who is bearing them. The important thing is to express these emotions. Some people are able to talk with someone whether family or friends or a medical professional while others need a creative outlet. I wrote my grief before Grandma passed away. It gave me a good ground to be level-headed when she passed this summer, but that did not mean I’m not still grieving and that’s okay.
We as humans have developed a very toxic way of coping with emotions. There is a projected need for everything to be rainbows and sunshine and if it isn’t? Smile anyway, no one cares to hear about it. Just so you know: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to let it fester and wear on you. Finding a way to express the hurt and pain and anger that is productive and safe is the fastest way to heal. Find your way of coping. Mine was writing. Others paint or draw or manipulate stock images into amazing artwork through computer graphics. Some need to move and be active, sweating out their demons in dance or running or rock climbing. If you need to vocalize there are groups of people going through what you are going through. These are positive forms of coping. I know there are darker more negative ways and there are resources to redirect those energies as well.
Reader I wish you the best in all your ventures. You got this!
Andrea L. Staum is the author of the Dragonchild Lore series, Scattered Dreams short story collection, The Attic’s Secrets novella, and contributed to several best selling anthologies. She’s a trained motorcycle technician, is an amateur home renovator, and somehow manages to find time to write. She lives in south central Wisconsin with her husband and their four overlords…err…cats.
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