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Adam Abbasi-Sacca shares his experience coping with grief while his grandmother was living with dementia and how he has channelled that grief since she has passed.
“I often felt helpless in the face of her declining health”
Adam describes his grandmother as one of the most important people in his life. When she lived with dementia Adam said the process of grieving started long before she passed away.
“I remember feeling so overwhelmed and unsure when my grandmother's dementia began to take hold. It was like watching someone disappear right in front of my eyes. Even though she was physically present, she was no longer the vibrant and lively woman I had grown up with. Some days she wouldn’t speak, most days she did not recognise me and would be startled when I would first visit her,” Adam said.
“My grandmother was such an important figure in my life - she was there for every milestone and special moment. To watch her slip away was incredibly painful and left me feeling a profound sense of loss. I said goodbye to her well before she passed.
“Throughout the process, I experienced a range of emotions that were difficult to manage - sadness, frustration, and anger all jumbled together. It was hard to reconcile the memories I had of her with the person she was becoming, and I often felt helpless in the face of her declining health.”
“We now get the chance to breathe”
When Adam’s grandmother passed away he explains the changes he experienced in himself and his family.
“For me, and members of my family, we now get the chance to breathe. And while the breath might be shallow and shaky, it’s different from the time of making daily decisions that will influence whether your family member lives or dies,” Adam said.
“Before, the pain and worry of her struggle with dementia overshadowed our time together. Days where she was unable to move, talk or eat. Now, I can reflect on the beautiful moments we shared with a sense of relief that she is no longer suffering.
“Of course, the hardest part of losing someone you love is the emptiness of space they once filled, that is left behind. And although it’s a natural part of our human existence, it’s a sombre thought knowing you'll never see or hug someone you loved so much again. This is especially true for my grandma, who left behind a large family of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
“I am immensely proud of her and the role she played in our lives. Even though we can't choose our family, I know without a doubt that I would choose her every time. Grandma meant the world to our world.”
“I've found comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in my experiences”
For Adam, sharing his experiences has been crucial to processing his feelings and his grief.
“As a writer and commentator, storytelling and sharing my personal experiences have been crucial in helping me process my grief. Recently, I wrote an article for ABC Australia where I detailed some of the emotions I experienced during my grandmother's decline from dementia, before she had passed,” Adam said.
“Since that piece was published, I've received messages from countless Australians who have shared their own stories of loss and how my article made them feel less alone.
“In addition to sharing my story, I've found it helpful to talk about my feelings with friends, family, and professionals. I've also turned to journaling and reading on the topic of grief and dementia as a way to process my emotions. Our family also used my grandmother’s funeral as an opportunity to raise money for Dementia Australia – who have a range of resources available.
“What's been most important for me, though, is knowing that I'm part of a vast community of people impacted by dementia - nearly 55 million people worldwide. Through this network, I've found comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in my experiences, and that there are others who understand the unique pain that comes with losing a loved one to this devastating disease.”
“Don't be afraid to talk about your feelings with those you trust”
Adam’s advice for others coping with grief? Speak about it.
“Grief is nuanced and deeply personal – most of us know there is no "right" way to feel or cope with it. That means It's important to acknowledge and honour your emotions, and to seek out support from others when you need it,” Adam said.
“It's important to understand that you don't have to go through this alone. Don't be afraid to talk about your feelings with those you trust. This doesn't mean you have to share your story with the whole world - it could be as simple as confiding in a close friend or family member.
“It's natural to feel vulnerable when opening up. I truly believe that vulnerability can be a source of strength. By sharing your story, you not only allow yourself to process your emotions, but you also provide comfort and solace to others who may be going through a similar situation.
“There are countless individuals who have experienced loss and can empathise with your feelings. So don't hesitate to reach out and seek support from those around you.”
If you need someone to talk to, we are here to help. The National Dementia Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year on 1800 100 500.
Adam Abbasi-Sacca is a proud Italian and Iranian Australian freelance writer and commentator whose work can be found in a range of publications. His focus is storytelling and opinion editorial pieces that capture his personal experiences. He is contactable via his website.
You can also read more stories from Adam on our website: