,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.