Chapter 3: Recognizing your grief

Grief and dementia

I've been there
Genevieve reflects on her experience caring for her mother.(3:22)Video transcript
Julie speaks of the many losses related to dementia.(3:22)Video transcript

My wife and I were so excited by the news we were going to be grandparents. By the time our grandson was born, my wife was incapable of processing what this even meant or who this new baby was to us.

When they get confused or lost, hoard things, and their memory fades, life takes on a whole new dimension. Knowing and loving someone who is losing their mind is horrible.

Dementia affects everyone differently, but as it progresses, the losses the person experiences will increase; that is the nature of the disease. Changes in thinking and memory can have a direct impact on your relationship with the person. Some people have used words such as “fraying,” “fading,” or “unravelling” to describe the person or their relationship with them.

If someone you care about has dementia or if you are a caregiver, your own grief may be impacted by the particular changes that the person is experiencing over time. You may grieve their losses in addition to the losses you are experiencing. You may be grieving for both of you.

Click on each box below to read more. Remember that a person may not be affected by all of these. 

If opportunities to share feelings or memories or to resolve conflict become limited or lost, you may feel lonely, lost, or abandoned.

What may help

  • Acknowledge the complexity of your grief and the many losses you are experiencing. You may grieve for the person who is ill, for yourself, and/or for others in your family.
  • Naming your losses can help you to clarify your thoughts and communicate your experience and needs to others.
  • Reach for support from family, friends, or local resources, such as the Alzheimer Society, which has dementia resources that are not diseased specific.
  • Look for new ways to maintain a connection with the person (e.g., through touch, music, or pictures).
For additional information on grief and dementia, see Chapter 3 – Recognizing your grief, Missing who they were.

Helpful resources
Tips on communicating with someone with dementia -
Find an Alzheimer Society near you -