Memories are a thing of the past … 

Most people don’t have the perfect life where everything goes just the way they would like or a life where everything around them is perfect – most people have something in their life that makes them feel sad.

Our biggest unhappiness and tragedy in our life is of course losing our dear Daughter Millie. Many of you whom have read what we have written in the past few years will of course know that a month to the day after we lost Millie, we lost her Grandpa Frank (Dan’s dad) to Cancer. 

Sadly, Dan’s Mum has also been suffering from Alzheimers. When I first met her 5 and a half years ago, she had small memory issues, mixing words up, forgetting what she went in the kitchen for and forgetting where she had left things like her coat. Over the years, she has gotten slowly worse but for the past 3 years in particular since the loss of Millie and Frank she has worsened at a much quicker rate. 

To be honest, at the time Millie passed away, she didn’t really know what was happening and that was really sad for Dan. It’s a horrible illness to watch someone suffering from but it’s even worse that when Dan needed his Mum the most, she couldn’t be there for him through absolutely no fault of her own. 

In the summer of 2012 before we lost Millie and at the point it was quite clear that Dan was going to lose his Dad to Cancer, Dan and I had a conversation in our kitchen at home about how we could help his Mum in the future when his Dad passed away. We discussed the possibility of maybe moving house to somewhere were there was a Granny annexe for her to be somewhere we could keep an eye on her but so that she would still feel independent. We wanted to do this for her because she was Dan’s Mum and we didn’t know how she was going to be when it would come to Frank’s passing.

As it happened, during Frank’s Cancer battle, we lost our Millie and it turned our world upside down, inside out and extremely dark, darker than we ever could have imagined. 

Unfortunately as time progressed I got extremely ill due to my mental health issues, Dan was himself struggling with depression and this led to us not being in a situation where we could offer Dan’s Mum any help. We couldn’t promise to take her out anywhere because we didn’t know whether we were going to get out of bed ourselves on a day to day basis. We couldn’t offer to make her dinner in the evening because the chances are that we wouldn’t have slept during the night and would be asleep when it would come to her mealtimes. We couldn’t physically or mentally cope with her care because we were struggling to look after ourselves and we were extremely close to ending our lives. We were broken.

In the past 3 years after losing Millie and Frank, Dan’s Sister has looked after their Mum with support from social carers attending her home, meals on wheels type services, other relatives helping out and from Dan’s other Sister when she has been here in the North. This week though has seen Dan’s Mum move into a home that has a specialist dementia team and it is actually a really lovely place. She seemed happy last night with Leo (See pic below).

 
Of course, she doesn’t actually know who Leo is, she doesn’t know that Leo is her grandson. She doesn’t know that on many occasions she has referred to Leo as a “she” or a “her”; this one specific thing has been tough on Dan and I after losing Millie but obviously not her fault, it’s the illness. She doesn’t know that Millie is his big sister. She refers to him as “the baby” when she sees him and just smiles at him. I find this really sad. What I find even more sad is the look on Dan’s face when he sits with his mum. I know that he is sad that he can’t have a proper conversation with his mum and I know that he is also sad because his Mum is never going to really know or remember his children and I understand that he struggles a lot with this thought. 

Then I struggle. Some people probably think that we should have “gotten over” what happened to Millie and helped out more with Dan’s mum. It’s not actually as simple as that. You might like to think that it is…but it isn’t.

  
Dan became my carer a lot over the past few years. He made me get out of bed and get dressed. He made me take showers. He made me eat. He took me to hospital appointments. He took me to Counselling appointments and Pyschologist appointments. He was there for me when I had had enough and wanted to end my life. He has been there to comfort me when I woke up screaming in the middle of the night. He has been by my side when I struggled through my pregnancy with Leo. Dan learnt to understand why I couldn’t make an attachment to our son that I was carrying. I know that he really struggled with this part of my illness and I totally understand why. What mother wouldn’t fall in love with their child instantly from the moment you find out you’re pregnant? A depressed, struggling woman with anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD because of child grief. That’s who. 

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We were there, we were ready to offer our help before we lost Millie but we couldn’t afterwards. Child grief is hard enough to deal with on it’s own but for Dan helping with his mum was virtually impossible. It certainly wasn’t good for his mental health when she referred to Leo as Millie and has no memory of Millie even when you show her a photograph.

I feel as though it’s my fault that Dan hasn’t been there for his mum as much as he would have wanted to be. He made the decision to concentrate on me, look after me and to ensure that he had a wife to hold every night and not a wife he would have been visiting at a resting place. I love my husband so much and it does upset me that he has had to look after me but there was no one else I wanted or needed to look after me, Dan was and is the only one that could ever understand my pain and the reasons behind why I wanted to end my life. 

Luckily, Dan’s Mum had two other children and other relatives that could offer a lot more help physically, emotionally and mentally then Dan ever could in the past 3 years. 

For more information on Alzheimers Click here

Even since having Leo, we’ve struggled to help any further because our lives aren’t like other people’s. We refuse to put Leo into any type of childcare and struggle to let anyone look after him, even for a hour because of what happened to Millie and we both work full time. This means that we work alternate days and one of us is often working in the evenings (like Dan tonight) and we are lucky if we get one day a week together most weeks; that’s why it’s really important we take time off together for family time when we can and make the most of the one day a week we do get together.I’m not complaining, I’m not at all. I come from a family where my dad worked in the day and then my mum would go out and work in the evening when we were going to bed and I know plenty of other families today where parents work alternate times just to pay the bills. It’s life for many of us. 

I’m sure Leo’s  Grandma will soon be settled into her new home and we of course will keep taking Leo to visit her so he can see her Grandma smiles. Some decisions in life are so hard to make and ultimately you have to make choices to survive x

  
Someone commented on a photo of Leo yesterday and said how much his smile is like Millie’s – so I pulled this photograph up which is one of our favourites and put them side by side … We love how much our gorgeous kiddies have so many similarities.

Click here to visit Millie’s Trust 

13 thoughts on “Memories are a thing of the past … 

  1. Becky

    My Grandma had Alzheimer’s for over ten years, before she finally lost a long hard fight and passed away peacefully the week before Christmas. It’s heartbreaking seeing them detoriate in front of you, and in particular my dad used to find it really difficult as he couldn’t “fix” anything. When she was getting frightened and forgetting things it wasn’t something he could fix or make better, because it was the disease taking hold of her. He does take comfort in that now she’s gone she’s at peace and we have such lovely memories with her which will forever be in our hearts. They actually quite like babies, grandma used to spot babies when we took her out for trips and smile at them constantly ❤️ It’s an awful disease but it will never take your memories away that you have together Xxx

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  2. Katy

    Jo, you and Dan are not just amazing and inspirational people, you are so motivational. When I read your blogs, my heart breaks for you both but also admire your strength & determination. Leo is just so cute and adorable and you are doing such a good job at raising him despite your heartache and pain.
    As I read your blogs I feel ashamed at how I am/feel at times, sitting feeling sorry for myself at times, looking at the things I can’t do instead of what I can do.
    Leo looks such a bundle of fun, keep enjoying him and doing the great work you do
    Much Love
    Xxx

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  3. jorobertson2015

    You really are an inspirational woman and I hope you know how much your words mean to others. I cry most times i read your blog and admire so much the way you can express your feelings publicly. Big hugs to you all xx

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  4. Sue Winters

    Jo, I don’t know you personally but we share a mutual good friend, Sam.
    I can’t possibly understand how you felt when Millie died, I do understand what you were feeling when you knew you were pregnant again…guilt, and I expressed my concerns to Sam about this, I too suffer from depression, I was retired from my job 3 years ago due to it and was referred to a therapist. During my visits with her it transpired that I blamed Alzheimer’s for taking my Mum away from me, she died in 2009, she lived with me and my family for almost 25 years, she was pivotal to our daily lives but sadly as the illness progressed I was advised that she needed to go into a home, as an only child this was totally abhorrent to me yet, I knew that it was best for her and she would be very well cared for.
    The reason for me writing this to you is that you, Dan, Millie and Leo may be losing the person you knew but deep inside there will always be a tiny spark of recognition, although Millie isn’t with you in body she is and always will be in your hearts, this is how Dan will have to adjust to what’s happening to his Mum, it’s very very difficult, you look at the person and they are the same but inside their brain is not working properly but they are happy in themselves. Before my Mum died there were many occasions when I desperately needed that hug from my Mum, we had been very close but I knew the illness was winning and taking her from me. Dan and you will also see this, Leo won’t know anything is different, he will smile and she will return that smile.
    You WILL all come through this, its yet another challenge that life has thrown at you all, but don’t be hard on yourselves if you feel you can’t cope, or you feel down, talk to your closest friends or family, but don’t put on a ‘brave face’ I believe that those who care for you, will allow you to shout or scream or cry.
    Hope you don’t mind that I send my love and best wishes to the three of you, and I blow a kiss to Millie.
    Sue

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    1. JMT Post author

      Hi Sue, lovely to hear from you and thank you so much for all your lovely words. It’s lovely to hear from someone who has actually been through this and can offer good advice on it – although I am sorry to hear that it affected your mum. I will pass this on to Dan too for him to read.
      Thank you for your love and best wishes and Millie’s kiss xxx

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  5. Becky

    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and as a mumbto an 18 month old I have said to my other half that if we lost our daughter I don’t think I could carry on living, so although I burst into tears when I read what you said about you and Dan being two people who were very close to ending your lives (it made me just want to give you both a massive hug), I get it. To carry on the way you both have and to do such wonderful things for other people is just amazing. I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and I hope you take a few moments to reflect on what a great mum you are to both of your children x

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  6. nosnikrapzil

    The thing which really really jumped out at me when I read this is that you are taking Leo to see his gran, allowing them to spend supervised time together. Although Dan’s mum doesn’t seem to know what is happening, none of us can know what is happening deep inside her. And Leo is able to feel the love of his gran even though she had dementia. A big hug to you both because this is so hard for you, but you are doing a fantastic job.

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