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3 Lessons Learned from dealing with Anticipatory Grief

Last week I spoke about my experience dealing with anticipatory grief and this week I would like to talk to you about some of the learnings this experience gave me. Hope one day you may find this useful!

Some of them are probably upon reflection, whilst others were steps that I took that felt natural at that time.

My dad started being dependent of his oxygen machine almost 24/7 since January 2022. He was living on his own and normally was able to do majority of things by himself.

It was in February 2022 where everything really changed. It was the month that he completely lost his independence.

I received a call from him, in a very calm fashion (as per usual whenever something difficult happened to him) he said ‘I think I fainted, I was trying to change from one oxygen machine to another and I don’t remember much else’. Then he said ‘I want to see your face every day, I know we are far, I know you are a millennial that prefers texting but I may not have too much time left’

The rest is history from that moment onwards.

They are my greatest treasure. I have a bunch of screenshots of all the video calls I had with my dad, I probably have 8 months worth of pictures. I still haven’t pulled myself together to make a collage, but I know they are there. I wish I had taken more videos. I often find myself latching to the few I have from him and hearing his voice on repeat. I have one of him dancing, which makes my day every time I watch it as it reflects exactly who he was.

It is tough because everyday you are facing your reality. Sometimes I would wake up and for a split second imagine everything is calm and stable and there are no adversities, then reality hits and you know you have to get ready to soldier through the day.

However, as I mentioned before, beauty and sadness can coexist. From the moment I knew my dad’s health was declining, I made a conscious decision to give the best of me. I wanted him to go feeling loved and cared for. This gave me meaning and purpose even in the toughest circumstances.

This process helped us both, my dad and I had conversations that we probably wouldn’t have had (sadly!) if death was not so present. Those words will stay forever with me.

As a carer, or as a terminally ill person it is often easy to forget about your emotional health. Either you are worried about your physical limitations and pain or overwhelmed with the care needs and uncertainties that the illness brings.

I tried very hard to continue my exercise routine during the periods I was caring for my dad. It felt incredibly good and at times, it also helped me to release my emotions. I often found myself having a good cry in between workouts, this was completely new to me, but I read it is normal!

I remember wanting to have a care/life balance whenever I was in Mexico. I did my best to meet friends but I remember I was always feeling anxious and imagining the worst case scenario that could happen to my dad whilst I was away. There was a point that I had to go to the doctor as I was experiencing high blood pressure and heart palpitations (anxiety, but I did not know!) and had to take medicine for a few weeks to help me regulate myself.

Dealing with Anticipatory Grief

In the midst of the challenges and emotions that come with anticipatory grief, remember that love, resilience, and meaningful connections have the power to bring light into even the darkest of times. As you navigate this journey, know that you are not alone. Reach out for support, cherish the memories you create, and take care of yourself along the way.

💡Have you experienced anticipatory grief? I would love to hear your story!

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