Out of the Old and into the New
Since posting my last blog in December we have transitioned from the old to the New Year. Did you stop and reflect on the passing year and contemplate the year ahead, or did you mindlessly party your way through it? Maybe you did both. You might be wondering how this relates to Alzheimer’s. Well, if we change the time frame from a year to a lifetime, and the context from our lives now to late-stage Alzheimer’s and the end-of-life, it is very relevant indeed. And looking at these contexts raises some important questions for us in our lives now.
When people have late-stage Alzheimer’s, or are nearing the end-of-life, the mental structures that have held everything in place loosen and start to fall away. Unresolved issues from the past come to the surface, involuntarily. Jung called this, “the personal unconscious in which forgotten or repressed material surfaces in a state of diminished consciousness”. These memories were repressed because they were too difficult to deal with at the time, so it is not surprising that when they eventually surface they are distressing. They can present as a single episode or a number of episodes that span a lifetime, sometimes called a ‘life review’.
If we as carers and friends ignore or dismiss troubled thoughts as merely the wandering of the mind, the person is left with unresolved negative feelings about themselves and without the resources to process them. But if we are aware of what is happening we can listen, ask questions sensitively and support them. We can go even further and assist them in resolving the things that are troubling them. A helpful position to take is to tell them that, although in retrospect they might see things differently now, we all make the best choices at the time, no matter how strange that might seem. If this had not been the case we would have done things differently. Reviewing the past in this non-judgemental way can bring about new understanding and result in deep healing. I call this, emotional clearing and healing.
By listening and supporting a loved one in this way we can help him or her to find comfort and peace of mind. It heals the past and enables the person to move forward with positive feelings. However, it would be easy to work though this process once and think it is finished, complete. Not so. If you are listening you are likely to hear these cries for help many times, so keep going. The more emotional clearing and healing that can be done, the less baggage the person has to carry with them and the easier it is for them to face the end-of-life, free from fear and with a feeling of peace.
And now it is time for us to face some important questions about ourselves. Are you carrying unwanted baggage? What are you doing about it? Emotional clearing and healing our past now is preferable to leaving it till we don’t have the resources to manage it and are totally dependant on others. Have you thought about what you would want at the end of your life and what a good ending might be for you? If you haven’t it might be an idea to do so now, what ever your age. Thinking about what we want at the end-of-life can help us to discover what we need now in order to be happier and more fulfilled. After all, who would not want to be free from fear and be at peace?
So, out with the old and in with the new, with conscious awareness. Wishing you happiness and fulfilment in 2014 and looking forward to the next stage of our journey.
Maggie La Tourelle