Anticipatory Grief

Editor’s Note: The following is taken from the OSF Home Care Messages of Hope booklet, “Anticipatory Grief.”

Consider the Following

A friend goes in for “simple” surgery and the doctor finds a malignant tumor that cannot be removed.

Your friend reacts with denial – “This can’t be true. I’m too young” – anger – “I’m not ready to give up. I have young kids. I feel okay. I’m going to fight!” – fear – “What lies ahead? Am I going to be in pain? How is this going to affect my family?” – bargaining – “I’ll get a second opinion maybe to buy me some time. Please give me one more round of chemo…I can do this.” – regrets – “If only I had gone to the doctor sooner, maybe they would have been able to treat it.

I’ll never be able to have a retirement or watch my grandkids.” –  depression – “My body has a mind of its own. I feel helpless, vulnerable, embarrassed, powerless.”

You have been told that your kidneys are slowly shutting down and there is nothing the medical staff can do.

You raise your voice in rage – “Why God? Why me? This isn’t fair! I’ve been a faithful church member, sung in the choir, served on committees, followed the rules, etc.” You think, “They can do a quadruple bypass. They can transplant organs. Why can’t they help me?” You bargain, “Please God, just let me live until our 50th wedding anniversary.”

You experience fear and may be afraid to die. You are scared of the pain and are nervous about the future. You feel extreme sadness and want to live longer for your family. You are in a state of denial and try to convince yourself that you can beat the disease. The final stage is acceptance. During this stage you can prepare your family, express your final wishes and say goodbye.

Anticipatory Grief Affects Everyone

CryingFamily members and friends grieve in their own way as well. Though their reactions may appear to be “all over the map,” normal responses include denial, numbness, shock, anger, bargaining (with God or the doctor), fear, guilt, depression, regret, relief and acceptance. They may begin mending broken relationships, sharing memories and relying on family, friends and church support. They finally give their loved one permission to let go.

This difficult and frightening journey does not need to be walked alone. Though each loss is unique and your grief very personal, others have suffered in similar ways and can provide support and companionship. Family, friends, pastors, support groups, bereavement counselors and hospital or nursing home chaplains can be wonderful resources.

Here at OSF HealthCare, OSF Home Care Services hospice team members have special training to sustain both patient and family as they face medical, emotional, psychological, practical and spiritual challenges.

Our prayer for you and your loved ones:

May the God who created you, redeemed you through his son Jesus Christ and is yearning to comfort and sustain you, bless you on this journey and always.

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