On Losing a Loved One to Dementia

“Through sincere reflections about the wife he cherishes and the tragedy they endure, Groothuis reacquaints us with biblical lament. Coursing through the devastation, we find the hope of the kingdom to come, and the living Word that gives voice to our grief.”


In this era of Facebook feeds and selfies, when image clothes identity, grief is an ill-fitting garment. It hangs on us, constricts our breath, and subverts the illusion that we can fabricate meaning from glossy photo ops. When our friends endure suffering, we spout platitudes that inflict more harm than good. When we bear its shackles ourselves, artifice crumbles away, and we struggle to frame our anguish within a Christian context. Angry at God, we fear our own anger. We wonder how the world steams on, while we linger in the shadows.

Compare this blunted expression of our sorrows with the anguished cries of Job, or David, or Christ himself. In the Bible, mourning occurs openly, with cries of despair that drive us to our knees, yet cast our eyes heavenward. As the psalmist laments:

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death. (Ps. 22:14–15)

No euphemisms profane this tide of grief. And yet, in the depths of despondency, the psalmist praises. Lament doesn’t negate faith, but rather springs from it:

You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him. (Ps. 22:23–24)

Modern Lament

Few examples of modern literature so guide us when we suffer, but here is an exception: Douglas Groothuis’s Walking through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness—A Philosopher’s Lament. In this memoir, the philosopher and apologist who teaches at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado, invites us to walk with him as he grieves his wife’s decline into dementia. Groothuis admits he didn’t want to write this book, but “it wanted to be written” (6). His narrative ebbs and flows, unveiling heartbreak and rage in some moments, pristine clarity in others. Throughout, he points to God, and returns us to the interweaving of grief and faith through lament.

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