The signs of anticipatory grief to look for, and I how experience it

Today has felt like a very tough day. Lots of emotions flying around my head, and worries flying around my brain.

I read about a phrase I had not seen before. Anticipatory grief. This is where we grief before death when we are aware that someone is going to die soon. Marie Curie have a great article describing it:

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/talkabout/articles/what-is-anticipatory-grief/271278

Normal grief can have the following stages, as developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her 1969 book On Death and Dying:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

The process can look different for different people, and circumstances can make us cycle through the stages differently. However, this is triggered by the death of the loved one – a car accident, a heart attack.

Anticipatory grief will have a trigger – usually the diagnosis – and the feelings experienced after that can be just as intense as grief as we normally see.

There are some conflicting emotions that we deal with however, and this is where I find myself this week. Obviously we are hoping our loved one doesnt die, but on the other hand are coming to terms with the fact that they have been told they will. Almost planning for life after their death.

This does happen alot with me (I’m not sure about the children). I desperatly do not want my wife to die, and want her back as she was, but also sometimes want to be able to move on. I have a feeling that the disease we are dealing with is holding me back, and these are thoughts that make me feel very guilty and exceptionally angry with myself.

That is one reason I am relieved to find out about the thinking around anticipatory grief. So relieved I was in floods of tears in a toilet at work. The concept explains much of my mental conflict, and the ongoing battle to clear my head.

Couple that with constantly being on edge, constantly worried about is going to happen next. Is that pain in her side an organ not working properly? Is the lack of appetite a precursor to something? This is really tiring.

I find the only time I feel happy is when I am in the car on my own, listening to music. The worries go, because I dont have the visual reminders in front of me. This is like a min break from everything.

We experience similar when I am with the children on my own, again there are no visual reminders of the worry, and we can be normal is only for a minute. This is the life I want, laughing and joking around, and I feel so guilty for thinking that, knowing that my wife will most likely not be able to be involved in that.

What is recommended for these feelings? Well I seem to have stumbled across one, of looking after yourself, having some relaxation. Otherwise talk to someone, and this is where I fall down. I am terrible for bottling things up until they are too late, and not telling people. I use the phrase I’m OK in response to questions of how are you all the time. And truthfully, most of the time I’m not OK. I need to take the advice and talk to someone.

I found the articles I have read today interesting, as they did describe my feelings very accurately. I just wish though that someone had a magic bullet that would make all this go away. None of the articles contained that secret.

Update

I wanted to do an update to this blog, explaining how I am feeling about this recently. I find my self feeling listless and unmotivated in work, not really completing tasks that should be easy to do. I know what I have to do, yet just dont do them.

I limp through the day mentally, there but not really there. Finally the walk to the car, and that time when I am on my own heading home or to the childrens school is when the waves of grief wash over me, all the thoughts and emotions that I have been holding back all day will break through the dam.

I will start by thinking about losing my wife, then snowball into the thoughts around what I will do, and what I will say to the children. Oh god, what will I say to the children – that is the worst thought. I cant bear that thought.

Slowly but surely all of these thoughts will eventually overpower my self control, and most evenings I will find myself sat in my car, driving along to school openly weeping at the wheel.

Unfortunately this cycle is going to keep repeating, and I will keep having a mini breakdown every evening I am sure. The stages of this grief dont get dealt with as we are constantly living with the anticipation of what will come. And as we all know, the only way we will move on from anticipation in this instance will be for my wife to die, the thought of which is causing all this pain.

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