Anticipating the loss of someone you love is a terrifying and traumatic time. The person may have a life threatening or terminal illness. You are torn in two: one side is full of hope and trust that the person will survive, the other full of fear and dread that he or she may not.
Anticipatory grief is a terrible place of limbo between knowing and not knowing.
The time between knowing and not knowing is a silent grief that you often choose not to talk about. If you keep it to yourself, you believe that in some way, you won’t bring about the worst, an outcome that you can barely manage to think about. If you can just try harder, just pray harder or believe more, maybe you can make a difference.
You feel isolated and know that no one in the world understands what you are going through. Friends only want to help, even though you know there’s nothing they can do that would help unless they could heal your loved one and make them well again, which they can’t.
Anticipating a loss can be just as powerful as a loss itself. You are not ready to let your loved one go. There can be feelings of guilt that you are grieving before a loss occurs. You may feel that you need to prepare yourself for the worst, but you don’t want to lose hope or faith.
In anticipatory grief, you may experience all of the emotional stages of grief, which may include, anger, blame, guilt, hopelessness, depression, sadness, disbelief, regret, loss of control, shock, loneliness and pain. Living in this state of heightened emotions for a prolonged period of time takes it toll on you.
Anticipatory grief also affects the person who is dying. The person is fighting for life and hope, against fear, anger and desperation. You your this person feel like you can’t discuss these feelings with each other, for fear of speaking the unspeakable. For fear that if you talk about it, it will make it real.
I suggest that instead of hiding, talk about everything. Talk about the possibilities. Be honest with each other as a family. You do not always need to keep a brave face. Tell your loved one if you feel scared, confused, or sad too.
They may just tell you some things that ease your mind, and will help with this process a little. Talk about everything before it’s too late and you are left with regrets. Spend this time together and try through your pain to make it into the precious time it could be, a time to get closer.
These last days, weeks or months will be what you are left with in your most recent memories. You will go over and over them in detail in your head after a loss and you must know that you said everything you wanted to say.
Acceptance does not mean losing faith or giving up hope. Try to find a place for both to live alongside each other.Tags: grief, hope
Leila makes a good point about saying what you want to say so you don’t have regrets when it is too late. A helpful article. Thank you.
After having both my mother and mother-in-law die in the same year, I have had some personal experience with this. We talked in Mother’s family, but not in my mother-in-law’s family. I so encourage you to say everything you can and talk about memories. It’s also good to talk about what type of send off the person would like. Mother even chose the songs to sing. We felt so good by honoring her this way. More people need to be encouraged to talk about it. Now I am a volunteer with Hospice and still I believe talking about it is the best path.
Than you for your insight.
Leila, Thank you for your article. It made me think back to my grandfather’s last days. He knew he was dying… we all knew. The pain in my heart was so intense… and i remember hugging my grandfather and just crying…. he lifted my head and smiled at me and said, ‘where I’m going, I’ll always be watching you…’ he took my hand in his hands and told me everything he wanted… and hoped for… I then thanked him for being such an inspiration and for giving me so much in my life. I told him that I loved him. His last words to me was, ‘Sagapo’, (I love you in Greek)
I feel so blessed that we spoke openly about our love and appreciation… and we truly said our goodbyes for a few weeks. It was healing for us and it gave my grandfather relief and perhaps he also maintained some dignity in that he was able to say what he wanted and needed as he spent his last days on this earth.
What a different experience loosing my grandfather was to loosing my daughter so unexpectedly… the pain so very different, so much more intense… unbearable.
Leila, you amaze me and your story is one that I know will touch many lives. I am excited for your book… and I look forward to reading.
You writing is so very important and although we’ve never met in person… we only know each other through our writing… and our experiences with loss… I am so very blessed that you are in my life!!!
Love, hope and light,