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I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Death and grief and the impending doom of losing my mom. (Yeah, I know. I’m super fun these days.)

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how much my mom’s Alzheimer’s has affected mehow much it has changed me.

I often ask myself why my mom’s illness has had such a heavy influence on my life. After all, I’m not the one who is sick. I’m not my mom’s caregiver. I don’t even live with her. Yet, I have almost completely put my own life on hold to navigate this experience.

Why?

Why is it that some people are able to carry on with their own lives, with a parent’s Alzheimer’s as just a side note? Something that pops up every so often to interrupt their normal lives before they return to business as usual?

Why is it that death and grief and loss affect people so differently?

Why has it affected me so greatly, so fully, so deeply?

Well, I am an empath, so pretty much everything in life affects me greatly, fully, and deeply. I can’t get through a day without feeling all the emotions that are humanly possible. It is often a blessing and a curse.

Maybe it is just my nature as an empath to stop and allow myself to really feel what I’m going through, to really hold space with these emotions, to fully absorb the profoundness of this experience.

I am going through a monumental time in my life right now. Losing your mother is a deeply profound experience. It only happens once. It is a mile marker in your life that forever changes the way you look at everything. It forever divides your life into the before and after.

How could it not affect you greatly? How could it not have a heavy influence on your life?

RELATED: How to Love an Alzheimer’s Daughter

Grief, pain, sadness, and loss are all part of the human experience. They play a bigger role in some people’s lives than others, but I am oddly comforted by the fact that everyone in existence will experience these emotions at some point in their life.

Everyone in existence will feel grief, pain, and sadness at some point.

Everyone in existence will lose their mother at some point.

And to feel all of these things, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, is that not what it means to truly live? If you are experiencing it all, if you are feeling all of the emotions, doesn’t that just mean you are truly living a full life?

Losing a parent rocks your world. It forces you to grow up even if you’re already grown. It changes you.

Maybe it doesn’t change you so much as it shapes you into the person you were always meant to become. Maybe you don’t break, but you bend, you curve, you shape. You become a whole person who is living a whole life.

Life is about love and joy and happiness, but it’s also about pain and loss and sadness. Grief is part of the package. It’s part of the deal. You can’t have love without loss, and you don’t grieve without loving first.

RELATED: To Those Who Know the Bitter Hurt of Losing a Parent

In thinking about the inevitable death of my mom, I feel pain and sadness, panic and dread. I know my world is about to be rocked. It’s only a matter of time.

But I also refuse to numb myself to this part of the human experience. I refuse not to learn anything from it. I refuse to move through my life quickly in an attempt to outrun my grief. It’s here. It’s with me. It will never leave me.

I will always acknowledge the enormity of the situation. I will always acknowledge how deep the grief cuts me. But I will also get through it to live a life that somehow does my mom’s suffering justice.

RELATED: The Journey of Grief is All Your Own

I know this experience, this loss, will force me to grow. It’s part of my life. It’s part of my story. It’s part of me. I am becoming the person I was always meant to be.

Death is tough. Grief is tough. But so is the human heart.

It is designed to hold a complex range of emotions all at once. It is designed to break and yet somehow, its pieces stay intact.

It is meant to love and grieve at the same exact time. To use it for both just means you are truly living.

The highest of highs, the lowest of lows.

Your heart will shatter, but as they say, the cracks are how the light gets in.

Previously published on the author’s blog

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Lauren Dykovitz

Lauren Dykovitz is a writer and author. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two black labs. Her mom, Jerie, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 at age 62. Lauren was only 25 years old at the time. Jerie passed away in April 2020 after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer's. Lauren writes about her experience on her blog, Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s. She has also been a contributing writer for several other Alzheimer’s blogs and websites. Lauren self-published her first book, Learning to Weather the Storm: A Story of Life, Love, and Alzheimer's. She is also a member of AlzAuthors, a group of authors who have written books about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Please visit lifeloveandalzheimers.com to read more about Lauren’s journey.

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