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Forums / Grief and loss / Anticipatory grief: coping when someone is very unwell

Topic: Anticipatory grief: coping when someone is very unwell

14 posts, 0 answered
  1. Quercus
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    Quercus avatar
    3544 posts
    6 March 2021
    Hi,

    From where I sit 2021 has been even worse than last year.

    Dad has stage 3/4 cancer. Specialist says I'm at high risk too.
    My Nan (94) is not in a healthy place.

    And someone so very very dear to me has passed away (more bloody cancer, my goodness how I loathe that C word).

    But strangely it's not death that has me so upset... It's my reaction once I anticipate future grief. I found I shut down and block people out. It's like I'm trying to prepare myself for life without that person. I don't know how to stop doing this. I worry that it hurts the people I love and they may not understand why I have backed away.

    Good old Google introduced me to an idea I'd never heard of. Anticipatory grief. Apparently other people feel this too.

    Psychology websites suggested spending more quality time with the person/ people. I seem to have done the opposite. It has helped me cope without my depression taking over but now I feel guilty. I didn't support my friend as I should have. I need to learn from this and change for my Nan and my Dad (although I'm stubbornly positive he will survive this).

    Has anyone else experienced this reaction? Could you find ways to stop yourself isolating?

    Thank you in advance and seeing as this thread is in the grief section I hope you are managing to get through the days coping with your own loss and know you can always write for support. There's no time limit on grief.

    ❤️Nat

  2. CMF
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    CMF avatar
    8659 posts
    6 March 2021 in reply to Quercus

    Hello Dear Nat,

    Firstly, I'm sorry for your sad news. I too have shut down in the past, when my mother and father were ill and passed away. I don't have a solution unfortunately but I understand. It is a way of protecting yourself. It doesn't mean you love the person any less but you are protecting y9urself from the pain of grief and yes, preparing for life without them.

    Who is it that you feel you may be hurting? Are you able to explain to them how you are feeling?

    Sending you comfort Nat

    CMF x

    1 person found this helpful
  3. Unbeliever
    Unbeliever avatar
    268 posts
    6 March 2021 in reply to Quercus

    I had an extremely good friend that died in 2019.

    I was determined to be her "rock" no matter what... and I am relieved to say that although not perfect I did a pretty good job right up to the end. It took strength and understanding of what she was going through. I was resolved to "be myself" and to not try and sugar coat things or be some fake version of myself by telling her "what I thought she wanted to hear" or make it all about me.

    My main goal was just to listen to her, whenever she needed someone to and to make sure that there was nothing left unsaid between us... and to make sure I did that as early as possible as opposed to leaving it to the last minute (like most of her other friends and family did... and then got upset that she didn't have enough time to hear "their speech" at the end).

    Anyway, with her I learned some terrible things about people and how they deal with death. People generally are just TERRIBLE at it. So many people she thought of in the highest regard let her down badly and revealed selfish and ugly parts of themselves that she had never seen before she was dying.

    ... so many people she respected and loved broke her heart. Family, friends, colleagues. The list of people that let her down far exceeded the ones that didn't unfortunately. And there was nothing I could do about that, except ensure that I was not one of them... in which I was determined. Because she was my friend and I loved her. And she deserved it.

    So many people made her death about them and not her. Dying is hard enough as it is, without people dumping all of their own personal crap on them as well. To some degree I understand, but on another level I still don't. It's like accepting someone else's mortality means that they have to accept their own... so because they don't want to, they behave foolishly and selfishly in response.

    Look, these "final moments" whether they be days, months or years are more important than any moments that came before them. Don't define them by their illness or even their death as if it is some dominant aspect of them as a person. Because it isn't. What is happening to them is not WHO they are. So focusing everything on that is foolish and a waste of both yours and their time. And a waste of these most precious moments that you have left with them.

    They are so much more than just dying. But you already know that. You need to focus on those parts of them and the things that make them special. This is all that is important now.

    2 people found this helpful
  4. quirkywords
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    quirkywords avatar
    12306 posts
    7 March 2021 in reply to Quercus

    nat

    When my mum had dementia I grieved for a short time so by the time she died , I had no tears left.

    When she was not incoherent and angry, I would sit and hold her hand and look at old photo albums. She was not the mum I had known in many ways but I just read and sat.

    I do agree with unbeliever not so focus on the dying part but the things about them that you love or make you smile.

    i am sending a big hug as it is so hard but you will work out what works for you.

    If you can stay in the moment get as much support as there will be time for grieving later.

    Please do not feel guilty about your friend , I am sure they knew how much they meant to you. As some who feels guilty too much and says sorry too much, it is not worth berating yourself.

    1 person found this helpful
  5. Doolhof
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    Doolhof avatar
    8744 posts
    7 March 2021 in reply to Quercus

    Dear Nat,

    Grief can be such a confusing, consuming, contradictory and strange experience to try to understand and live with. We can beat ourselves up wishing we had been able to do more to help the person who may be dying from cancer or some other condition.

    The thing is, I believe we do what we can! It just may not be possible for us to be able to reach out to be there as much as we would like to because of such things as our own health issues, depression or anticipatory grief.

    Maybe we don't even realise at the time that we are trying to protect ourselves from the hurt we are feeling.

    Grief can accumulate. Unresolved grief can be devastating and destroying, slowly eating at us for ages.

    I'm so sorry to read about your Dad and also the fact you have been told you may be at high risk as well. That news may increase your desire to be distant from your Dad. I hope you can talk to people and gain help to understand this situation so you can reach out to your Dad and stay safe as well emotionally.

    My sincere condolences for the death of your friend. Cancer can be such a cruel disease. My husband and I have had 3 people we know die of cancer this week.

    My heart goes out to you Nat and to all people grieving here.

    Kindest regards to you all.

    1 person found this helpful
  6. Doolhof
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    Doolhof avatar
    8744 posts
    9 March 2021 in reply to Quercus

    Dear Nat,

    Hi. Thinking of you. Just wanted to let you know you are being thought of in a special way.

    I hope you find a way to reach out to loved ones to let them know what you are experiencing and how they may be able to help you.

    Please know you are a very cherished and cared for person here on the forum. I am sorry to know you are hurting. Let me/us know how we can support you if you want to.

    Hugs to you from Dools

    1 person found this helpful
  7. Boudica
    Boudica avatar
    195 posts
    4 April 2021 in reply to Doolhof
    I think I understand your feelings.
    1 person found this helpful
  8. Oracle123
    Oracle123 avatar
    4 posts
    4 April 2021 in reply to Quercus
    Such a hard time. Be brave to the reality that these people know I'd coming. It is sad and heart breaking but takes get strength to let it happen. Share a tear and honest with these people it will be refreshing for them to have someone that is willing to confront their realities with then not just avoid the situation with small talk and kind comments
    1 person found this helpful
  9. Boudica
    Boudica avatar
    195 posts
    4 April 2021 in reply to Quercus
    oops, I'm fumbling like an idiot! When I was 20, when my Grandmother was dying, I just couldn't face it. She was the family member I had been closest to. When she was very sick and very sad I stopped seeing her, and did not visit her for the last few months of her life, so the last time I saw her was when I was called to identify her. It is a horrible shame I live with and I wish I had the time back that I lost. But somehow it just hurt so much that I was losing her that I could not see how precious those final moments were until it was to late. It is so hard to face that loss, but it is so important to be able to stay present and there until the end. I am now faced in my forties with supporting my Mum who has a similar untreatable illness to my Grandmother. I hope this time around I will face it with more courage and compassion than I did in my twenties. I wish you and your Dad all the best.
    2 people found this helpful
  10. Quercus
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    Quercus avatar
    3544 posts
    17 May 2021 in reply to Boudica

    Thank you to everyone who has posted here and for sharing your own stories, I appreciate it.

    I'm sorry I haven't felt able to return to reply until now. I do that a lot (just flake out on people).

    Boudica, your story hit home. I feel a lot less alone and knowing that someone else has acted as I do. I'm sorry to hear about your Mum. When you said you wanted to be more compassionate this time my gut reaction was to feel you're being hard on yourself. Perhaps I am being that way too.

    Like you, I'm trying to make more effort to be present and involved with my Dad (and with my own little family). It's mentally exhausting and I feel very drained all the time.

    How are you holding up?

    Sorry that I haven't replied to everyone else who has written, this is about all I've got for now. But I am very thankful to you all.

    2 people found this helpful
  11. Boudica
    Boudica avatar
    195 posts
    17 May 2021 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Nat,

    Don't feel like you need to reply, it really isn't needed unless you feel like talking. I think we are all like that, sometimes there aren't any words to say.

    My mums journey has really just begun, hers will be a slow illness. Like my Grandmother, it is neuropathic and will affect her mind and her physical function. She is still getting around just fine, but has pain, and sometimes when she wants her body to do something but it just does not respond. She will stand there wanting to take a step, and her legs will not get the message and nothing happens.

    It really makes it worse knowing what is ahead, as I think the memory of what my Grandmother suffered towards the end will be raw forever. She was in a nursing home because we could no longer cope with her care, as she was unable to move at all. She wanted to go for a long time before life released her, she was truly miserable. It was heartbreaking.

    Even though my mum has a long time yet. I know in my own way I am already grieving. Once you know it is inevitable, it is like a shadow in the corner of your vision, or a weight on your shoulder, it never leaves you. It is not something that you can't talk about with other people, as they just become really uncomfortable.

    My mum has been talking about assisted dying, and has said if the laws in our state are not passed, she wants to move to another state so she does not end up suffering like my Grandmother did.

    Maintaining her quality of life as much as possible is my main focus. Not just pain control but maintaining access to pleasure and things that make her feel alive.

    Sorry if the things I talk about trigger you, or make your own struggle harder to bear. Sometimes it helps talking and sometimes not.

    My thoughts are with you.

     

     

    2 people found this helpful
  12. quirkywords
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    quirkywords avatar
    12306 posts
    19 May 2021 in reply to Quercus

    Nat

    thinking if you at this difficult time.

    2 people found this helpful
  13. Philomena
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    Philomena avatar
    40 posts
    20 May 2021 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Quercus

    I understand what you must be experiencing.

    It requires a lot of inner strength and courage to face a situation you are in at the moment.

    Life is a blessing every day make the most of it and try and find ways in which you could reach out and help someone in need get involved in things you like. Talk to friends you think you feel comfortable with .

    Make the most of every day and every moment . Give yourself sometime to think some quiet time to calm down.

    Listen to music or read a book of your choice keep occupied.

    Be strong .

    1 person found this helpful
  14. Doolhof
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    Doolhof avatar
    8744 posts
    20 May 2021 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Nat,

    Thinking of you and your family.

    I find it difficult in situations where my mind is telling me one thing, my heart another, my depression kicks in, my energy levels seem depleted and the things I want to do and feel I need to do just don't happen!

    I hope you are able to take a moment, decide what you want do and need to do to help yourself, your family and your Dad and then I hope you are able to find the hope, courage, strength and care that you need to do those things.

    Moment by moment. Day by day. It is not always easy. We each do the best we can at any given time.

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