Resources for those grieving the death of a loved one and for caregivers

Anticipatory Grief

Features of Anticipatory Grief

Grief Experts have identified four stages of anticipatory grief

We have an awareness that the death is going to occur.

We have an increased concern for the dying person.

We think about and rehearse the death of our loved one.

We attempt to imagine and prepare for the death and its changes.

DISBELIEF, FEAR AND DENIAL: When we accept that our loved one is dying we also open ourselves to the pain of that anticipated loss. It’s natural that we would attempt to protect ourselves from feeling so much pain all at once. We may question the doctor’s decision to call in hospice. We may ask for a second opinion. You may feel like you on a roller coaster of mixed emotions as you travel back and forth between acceptance and denial.

ANGER, HOSTILITY AND GUILT: You may feel helpless in your desire to protect and make your loved one better. Sometimes when we feel helpless to fix something or to make it better, this helplessness can turn into anger and hostility. All sorts of angry questions and doubts arise. Why did your loved one have to get sick? Why couldn’t the doctor’s do something? Maybe you did something or your loved one did something to make this happen.

Almost all caregivers have shared that they feel some relief when their loved one dies. When your loved one is close to death it is natural for you to want their suffering to be over. It is also natural that you want this phase of your suffering to end. Be gentle with yourself. This does not diminish your love for them.

DEPRESSON AND HIDING YOUR FEELINGS: IThe stress we feel in expecting the loss if our loved one is the primary factor in causing depression. When we hold our feelings of anger and sadness inside and turn them onto ourselves, this can lead to depression.

IGNORING YOUR OWN NEEDS: As a caregiver, you are constantly “doing” for your loved one. You may be juggling your need to care for your loved with other responsibilities, like taking care of your children and holding down a job. This can cause mental, spiritual, physical and emotional exhaustion as well as distract you from facing your own pain and attending to your needs.

CHANGES IN THINKING: You may be easily distracted, forgetful. Your brain right now is on overload with too much to remember.

Marty Hogan, LCSW, MSW Anticipatory Grief- Expecting the Loss, Feeling the Pain.

John Smith

Misperceptions About Grief

  • All losses are the same
  • It takes two months to get over grief
  • All bereaved people grieve in the same way.
  • Grief always declines over time in a steadily decreasing fashion
  • When grief is resolved, it never comes up again
  • Children grieve like adults
  • Feeling sorry for yourself is not allowed
  • It is better to put painful things out of your mind
  • You should not think about your deceased loved one at the holidays because it will make you too sad
  • Bereaved individuals only need to express their feelings and they will resolve their grief
  • Expressing feelings that are intense is the same as losing control
  • There is no reason to be angry at people who tried to do their best for your loved one.
  • Only sick individuals have physical problems with grief
  • Because you feel crazy, you are going crazy

You should feel only sadness that your loved one has died

Infant death should not be too hard to resolve because you didn’t know the child well

Children need to be protected from grief and death

Being upset and grieving means that you do not believe in God or trust your religion

You and your family will be the same after the death as before your loved one died

You will have no relationship with your loved one after their death

The intensity and length of your grief are testimony to your love for the deceased

There is something wrong if you do not always feel close to your other family members, since you should be happy that they are still alive.

Jane Doe

An Overview of Grief and Loss

Grief is not understood in our society, and mourners are expected to recover quickly. Be gentle with yourself during the many ups and downs.

The experience is unique to each person, yet there is much you will have in common with others. Guard against putting expectations on your partner and others.

  1. Tears are healthy and acceptable as you process the pain following the death of your loved one. Cry freely and do not apologize for your tears.
  2. Grief affects your eating and sleeping habits, your energy level, and your ability to concentrate. A balanced died, adequate fluids, moderate physical exercise, and rest is especially important during the mourning period. Have a checkup if you have physical symptoms.
  3. Alcohol and sedatives can cloud thinking and slow down the bereavement process. Use prescribed medications sparingly and only under supervision.
  4. Friends and relatives may avoid you and talking of the death of your loved one. Let them know you need to talk about your loved one and that it helps to talk. Share with them as you can.
  5. Search for listening friends and/or others with a similar experience to help you through this time.
  6. Delay major decisions at least a year (changing jobs or home, another pregnancy etc.…)
  7. Keep your loved one’s clothes and other preparations until you are ready to decide what you want to do. Time is needed in making a good decision about these things.
  8. Suicidal thoughts may occur and are normal. The meaning in life will return in time. The pain does lessen. Talk over feelings with a trusted friend as they surface.
  9. Express your guilt feelings and thoughts. They may be illogical to some, so share them with a listening person who will help you explore and forgive yourself in time.
  10. Anger is a common and normal response, although it may be unacceptable to you and difficult for others to witness. Find health and safe ways to express anger (e.g. beat a pillow)
  11. Your anger may be directed toward God. You may feel that your faith has weakened as you question past strong beliefs. Tell God how you feel and talk to those who can help you explore. Your faith can help you through this time, yet expressing doubts and feelings aids in processing what you are experiencing.
  12. Include your children in your grief. Do not hide your tears from them, but be open and honest about your own feelings. They too are grieving and need an avenue to express their feelings. They need to be included and to feel your love. You may find it helpful to find a close family member who can supply what you are not able to give now.
  13. Holiday and anniversary times are reminders of your empty arms. Plan to avoid some of the added stress. Do not expect others to remember or be sensitive to how you might feel. Lower expectations on yourself. Take time for your needs.