Nothing is simple for a person suffering from dementia, nor for those who love them. Doug Groothuis explains how anger was one of the first emotions he felt when his wife, Becky, was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia.

“When she first went into the behavior health unit at the hospital, it was such a strange, unfamiliar, and unwelcoming environment. I got extremely agitated that I wasn’t allowed to talk with her or spend time with her. I drove home with my friend and I was just outraged and screaming at him, at the institution, and at God.”

“But God continues to love us through that and it’s better to be angry at God than to try to ignore Him. After all, who do I have besides the Lord to give me wisdom & strength through this?”

As Doug reflected on Scripture, he found many biblical characters who were sad and angry with God. This gave him comfort.

“We see so many casting out their laments to God, like in Psalm 6 and Psalm 39. So I take heart that God can handle our anger. He loves us with an everlasting love. He knows that we face horrible and unexpected and confusing situations, especially concerning loved ones.”

“Through the scriptures, God teaches us to have those emotions.  Lament is the anguished cry to God for restoration.  It often involves confusion and anger. You want to get to the point of relinquishment and resignation, but it doesn’t always happen right away.”

Doug has found strength and encouragement in the stories of others who suffered and cried out to God.

“We have Moses lamenting in Psalm 90, we have the book of Lamentations, even Jesus laments to God on the eve of his crucifixion. So, we learn to lament in Scripture and God expects it from us, and walks with us as we work through our pain and suffering.”

“I think that Christians sometimes believe that we have to be happy all the time, but life is jagged and punishing often, and it is a fallen world. So, we learn through Scripture that we can voice our frustrations and concerns to the Lord.”

While suffering is part of life in this world, Doug reminds us all that God’s sacrifice for us in Christ assures us that our tears and our disability don’t have the final word. 

Loving my wife through dementia

Dr. Douglas Groothuis is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Evangelical Philosophical Society, and Society of Christian Philosophers. Dr. Groothuis received a PhD and a BS from the University of Oregon, and an MA in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of  .

One Response to "Loving my wife through dementia"

  • Glen Manning says:

    Due to my wife having seizures for the last 6 years, some of them severe, she has been diagnosed with a type of dementia because where the seizures originate in her brain is next to and connected to her memory center. Sometimes it is hard to not be “pulled” into an argument with her and remember she probably does not remember anything about what we are “discussing” or she “remembers” things a lot differently from reality.
    Without God’s strength and the comfort of the Spirit, I would never be able to get through all of this.

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