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Anticipatory Grief /
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by Jennifer Kay
When we think of grief, we generally
think of the process and feelings we experience after
someone dies. In reality we begin this process on the
day someone we love is diagnosed with a life threatening
illness. This process of mourning before someone we love
has died is called anticipatory grief. According to
noted grief expert, Dr. Therese Rando, anticipatory
grief refers to the process in which we begin to mourn
past, present and future losses.
Anticipatory grief is experienced by care recipient and
Caregiver from different perspectives. For instance, the
care recipient mourns the loss of their previous body
image, changes in their physical and mental abilities
and possibly career loss. The role of the care recipient
in the family may change. A breadwinner may no longer
provide for the family or a homemaker may no longer be
able to manage the home independently. The Caregiver
frequently takes on these additional roles, while caring
for their loved one and dealing with their own feelings.
Both loved ones and Caregivers are grieving for the way
life was and mourn the deterioration of the care
recipientís health. Frequently, the inability of friends
and family members to manage their own discomfort with
illness and death may cause the care recipient and the
Caregiver to be isolated.
During the course of the illness there will be many
losses for the care recipient and primary Caregiver.
These may include; intimacy, sex, privacy, independence,
dreams, partnership, dignity, money, control,
intellectual stimulation, friendship and family
position. These losses will produce accompanying
feelings of anger, sadness, depression, and abandonment.
It is common for both the care recipient and Caregiver
to feel isolated, invisible, and numb.
A long term illness leaves a person with a "mixed bag"
of feelings. As you watch someone you love in pain, you
may wish them to be out of their misery. This feeling
can be followed feelings of guilt and remorse, that we
"wished" this person to die. Discussing these feelings
is a survival necessity. Care recipients and Caregivers
need someone to hear and validate their feelings. Both
parties require information about the illness, support
and the means to maintain control over their lives, as
they make the arduous journey towards death. Family
members and close friends can be good sources of
support, but if they are either physically or
emotionally unavailable, support groups and mental
health professionals can be a great source of support.