They say the ghosts of our past eventually come back to haunt us. Those with dementia usually lose short term memory and begin to remember people and events from their past that were consciously forgotten long ago. Their ghosts often revisit mistaking a grown son for a long-deceased brother or husband or daughter as her mother; they resemble the younger version. They ask when their parents are coming home or begin to relive pleasant or traumatic experiences from their past. Their ghosts appear in the present.
For most of us, our ghosts begin to reappear with our memory of them. This seems especially true for seniors, for as friends and family begin to die before we do, we spend more time remembering and missing those who have impacted our lives. However, even if we don’t remember them, their influence has in some manner, affected who we became.
Everyone experiences their past ghosts on a subconscious level, and every day these encounters continue to shape us. All personal encounters and experiences mold our thoughts, emotions, and reactions thus becoming part of the blueprint for our neuronal wiring. Of course, we aren’t usually aware of this.
When a person with dementia reexperiences their past, it is as real to them as your present is to you. They might hallucinate the people or relive experiences like sitcom reruns. Commonly when someone is in the dying process, they see their dead loved ones appear in the room with them.
Unfortunately, they might also experience the people who have hurt them. These unresolved issues might play out again and I believe in a way it helps to clear out the past. Even if the person can’t consciously understand what’s going on just the surfacing of what was buried is a type of cleansing. Isn’t that what psychology is based on?
Those with dementia can be our teachers helping us become aware that we also have buried. When we witness the emergence of their “old stuff,” which was hidden away in their psyches, we need to realize that we also have ghosts hidden in our closet. If those ghosts were an uplifting influence, we benefited from our relationship, however, if our ghosts were destructive, and the painful issues weren’t resolved, we are affected by them our whole lives even if we don’t know it.
When dementia progression thins the barriers between the conscious and subconscious mind bleeds through. This is tangible proof the past is never truly lost. People, places, experiences, and events form part of everything we are, not just our conscious memory which fades or is lost. Everything we have experienced and everyone who has ever come into our lives is interwoven into our mind, body, cellular memory, and spirit. Our past even changes our DNA. We are forever connected to it. Dementia can’t take that away.
Whoever they were in the past or whatever people came into their lives are still part of who they are until the moment they die.