,In the last week my husband has undergone three emergency surgeries, all of them life-threatening. I wondered how many operations he could tolerate. He is in the critical care unit of the hospital, hooked up to more tubes and wires and machines than I can count. If he survives, he many never walk again.

I’m feeling intense anticipatory bereavement, wide mood swings that go from despair to hope. Because I’ve studied anticipatory grief for more than a dozen years and written about it, I recognized these feelings and realized I needed help. So I contacted family members and they rallied to help me.

I reached out to a neighbor. “I’m talking with you now because I may need your help,” I explained.

“Thank you for asking,” he replied.

My husband is a retired physician and I contacted one of his colleagues. “Please let the department know his aorta dissected again,” I asked. She said she would spread the word and asked me to hold on to hope.

I reached out to physicians’ wives I’ve known for years. I contacted my minister and asked for help from my church community.

I contacted our financial advisor, who has become a friend. I contacted two of my husband’s best friends.

Each contact made me feel less alone in my bereavement. My husband’s surgery lasted about 12 hours and, though he came through it better than I thought, I’m afraid to hope too much.

As the emails come in, as I talk on the phone, I realize my contacts have make people pause and think about life. It’s easy to get caught up in mundane things, to run around the gerbil wheel of life, and forget that each moment is a miracle.

If you are feeling anticipatory grief now, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your requests remind family, friends, and colleagues that life is fragile. Love matters. Family matters. Friendships matter. Meaningful work matters. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of; you are living your life mindfully.


Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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