Most of us know what it feels like to lose a loved one to a terminal illness. Grief is unpredictable and loss can feel like white noise or earth-shattering pain. Living with a parent, partner or child diagnosed with a terminal illness literally rips the ground from beneath our feet. Knowing how, but not how much longer, can take us on a journey of acceptance, denial, depression, indescribable fear and complete dissociation from the current reality. Loss, no matter the circumstances, is life altering.
Anticipatory grief is grief experienced before a loss happens. With the anticipation of the loss of a loved one, we often begin to go through the mourning process long before our loved one has passed, this can look like:
⁃ Short temper
⁃ Feeling overwhelmed
⁃ Withdrawing socially
Anticipatory grief can be good, as it allows us to say goodbye while there is still time. We have an opportunity to say or do the things we did not make time for before and this can help with acceptance after our loved one has passed.
When we are taking care of a terminally ill loved one, it can become easy to neglect our own needs as we feel their current needs surpasses our own, but we can’t forget to still make time to take care of ourselves.
Here are some things we can do to take care of ourselves while taking care of someone else;
⁃ Get in touch with a counsellor or therapist and talk to them about your concerns, your feelings and your thoughts.
⁃ Make time to take care of your own needs. Even when it feels like there is no space for your needs, you need to remember to take care of yourself.
⁃ Go through the emotions. You don’t need to be strong 100% of the time, you are allowed to let yourself fall apart and grieve for your loss.
⁃ Grief is grief, even when we anticipate the loss we have yet to lose.
⁃ Make sure to take a few minutes a day to ground yourself and identify how you are feeling, physically and emotionally.
⁃ Take time to care for your own body and needs. Like they always say on an airplane, “You can’t help the person next to you before you put the oxygen mask on yourself.”
⁃ Be kind and patient with your thoughts and feelings, no one expects you to have it all figured out or to keep it together.
“Grief does not change you. It reveals you. And herein lies the gift that cannot die. It changes the course of your life forever. If you allow yourself to feel it for as long as you need to – even if it is for the rest of your life – you will be guided by it. You will become someone it would be impossible for you to be, and in this way your loved one lives on, in you.” – John Green