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Grieving ahead of time and everything in between

Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst…

But whilst you are waiting, there is that period in between, where you don’t want to let go but you know you will have to. You just don’t know when.

It is uncertain and sometimes you wish it will remain uncertain, because that means they will still be here, or that you will still be here. Some other times you want the uncertainty to end, you feel guilty or that you are giving up, but you are not. It is just the way it is, it is normal.

The truth is that not everyone experiences these conflicting but accompanying emotions, but if you do, you are in for a treat! I don’t mean it in a sarcastic manner, well, maybe a bit. But the reality is that being aware of these emotions before a death occurs (yours or a loved one) is a real gift, even if painful.

Grieving before the death actually happens is called anticipatory grief. You can grieve your own life or the life of others who are close to you.

It is like waiting knowing that the bus is going to hit you, you don’t know how and you don’t know when and you just want the agony of the waiting to be over, but you feel so bad because you know it will be final and it will be something else

For me anticipatory grief looked a bit like this:

Denial: not really wanting to believe my dad had a terminal illness, not reading much about it and avoiding certain conversations at the start of this process. Not telling anyone he was diagnosed for a while.

Schitts Creek No GIF by CBC

Anger: being highly irritable. I was getting annoyed at small things like litter in our building corridor and getting frustrated at people who were annoyed at small things in life, when clearly there are worse things happening in the world!

Angry Lilo And Stitch GIF

Bargaining: thinking / hoping this new medicine will work or that lots of food will make my dad recover his strength and walk again like he used to. Thinking he has to get worse before he gets better.

Despicable Me Please GIF

Depression: going to bed and silently crying until falling asleep, thinking about what will sooner or later happen to both of us.

Sad Meme GIF by Travis

Acceptance: no, I don’t mind being full of joy, happy it will happen. This is the period I ‘enjoyed’ the most, where I was able to give the best of me to make his last days as joyful and comfortable as possible. I was able to be intentional, and that is a key word. Remember that one!

However, this ‘acceptance’ period, is rarely rainbows and butterflies. You can be intentional, give the best of and you build beautiful memories.However, if you don’t take care of yourself, it might impact your mental or physical health. I had high blood pressure and heart palpitations for a few weeks which were triggered by stress, something that had never happen to me, I am rarely stressed!

Accept Tv Land GIF by Throwing Shade

What’s the lesson here? Be intentional but also take care of yourself. Remember that classic airplane rule about putting your oxygen mask first before helping others? Yes, that not only applies to plane emergencies!

You know, evolution gave us some not-so-great feelings like grief to nudge us into looking out for our social body. Surround yourself with good people and talk to them about how you feel!

There is beauty in the struggle. In spite of all the challenges and dark moments we face, there is always a new way of seeing things, a new way to connect the dots. Sometimes we just have to remember to look up.

Stephanie Cacioppo

See you next week!


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