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Health & Wellness
On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

'There Are No Rituals For It': What It's Like To Grieve Someone Before They're Gone

Close up picture of elderly hands with young caretaker's hands
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The KERA series On Our Minds: The Caregivers  has been spotlighting North Texans navigating the challenges of caregiving. One of the toughest trials for caregivers can be processing the mental and emotional loss of a loved one who is still living. 

Pauline Boss, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, talked with Think host Krys Boyd about that pain, which she calls ambiguous loss

Mourning is typically what we do after someone dies, but people caring for those with Alzheimer's or dementia can feel that pain as they watch a loved one slowly fade, and Boss said it's tough to live with that ambiguous loss.

"It's an incredibly difficult time," Boss said. "There are no rituals for it."

Boss said caregivers can cope with these complicated feelings of loss by accepting "both and thinking," holding two opposing truths in their minds at once.

"'My mother who has dementia is both here and also gone,'" Boss said. "Nonbinary thinking is very important to lower our stress when we're dealing with somebody who is both here and gone." 

Boss is dedicated to helping articulate the lonely and confusing feelings of loss even as someone lives. Her seminal book on the subject is called “Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief.

Listen to Boss' full interview on Think.