When someone you love nears the end of life due to a chronic condition, you may feel a myriad of emotions or nothing at all. Anticipatory grief occurs when you struggle with difficult emotions because of the situation you find yourself in: soon, you will say goodbye to your loved one. The anticipation of this future loss is more than you can reason away. Feelings of sadness are typical for many individuals facing the imminent loss of a loved one. Let’s look at what anticipatory grief consists of and tips on coping with your daily life while grieving.
Grief is a Normal Part of Life
Whether you feel sad because someone will die or because someone did die, your feelings are normal. Loss of anything important in your life can cause symptoms of grief, including job loss, financial losses, a family member moving far away, or loss of health.
However, when you expect to lose someone close to you, the feelings associated are much more extreme. We rely on those close to us for emotional support, stability, friendship, and even to help regulate our own identity. Losing someone close is genuinely like losing a part of yourself. It makes sense that you would begin to feel a sense of loss in anticipation of losing your loved one.
Grief Emotions Include
If your feelings are all over the place as a loved one nears the end of life, you are not alone. Even if the person is not gone yet, it is normal to exist for a time as a swirling biome of emotionality. You may need to talk about your feelings or write about them in a journal if you find yourself feeling more than an average amount of:
- Overwhelming sadness
- Panic Attacks or OCD flares
- Immune System issues such as catching colds all the time or constant cough
- Trauma and Shock: a lack of feelings or an inability to feel anything at all
- Extreme exhaustion
- Lack of desire to live
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Lack of any feelings of happiness
These feelings are normal and expected during anticipatory grief and in the period following a death of a loved one. However, if emotions rule your every moment and interfere in your life to the degree that you no longer function, it is crucial to seek out someone to listen.
Working Through Emotions
Avoiding your emotions can hurt you in the long run. Pent-up emotions that you never speak of or consider fester inside. When you refuse to consider how you feel, you’re telling yourself that it is not okay to feel.
However, we have emotions, and it is impossible to pretend they do not exist. Pent-up emotions come out in other ways through frustration at minor problems, anger at little things that wouldn’t usually bother you, and bodily aches or exhaustion. Whether you like it or not, most individuals feel strongly about losing a loved one.
Feeling overwhelming emotions may not be anyone’s idea of fun, but it is a necessary step to healing in the long run. There are many ways to work through emotions rather than ignoring them.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by emotion, try one of these activities to understand better how you feel and to recognize that it is okay to feel how you do.
- Find a Grief Support Group
- Write how you feel in a journal.
- Pen a prayer in a journal or pray with a friend or family member
- Write a prayer in an email. Send the email to yourself and place it in a “Prayer” folder
- See a Counselor
- Talk with close friends or family members who will listen and affirm your feelings as valid.
- Take a long walk and let your mind wander down any path it chooses. Let yourself feel how you feel without judgment.
- Take a soak while listening to inspirational or moving music.
Feeling your “BIG” feelings now helps you walk through your grief journey stages. Wherever your feelings take your mind, remind yourself that feeling “BIG” feelings is normal right now. Let yourself off the hook for the things you may feel guilty about. No one is perfect, and that is just part of being human.
Talking With Your Dying Loved One
Often, individuals have unresolved conflicts with someone who is in the process of dying. Unresolved anger, feelings of guilt or resentment, or unexpressed love and affection all need a voice. If you feel conflicted about discussing your feelings with the dying person, ask a trusted friend or counselor how to approach the issue. Dying individuals also may have unresolved feelings they need to sort out before passing on.
You have a limited amount of time to deal with any conflicts and bad feelings between you and the sick person. Take advantage of this time to get brave. Speak up with support from family members or friends and say what you need to say.
Listen to what they need to say. If possible, agree to disagree while honoring each other’s point of view. If this is not possible, speak your truth now while you have time. Later on, you may regret not working through unresolved emotional issues.
Resiliency in the Face of Grief
Resiliency is one’s ability to face difficult situations and continue on in life after a time of grief or struggle. The death of a loved one can throw your life off track and negate the hope or joy you used to enjoy. Grief can feel like being trapped in a dark hole.
However, individuals with resiliency often know how to reach out to others until their season of grief has lost its hold on their life. Depending on your loss, grief stages may last for months before and after the death of a loved one. Allow yourself time to do the emotional work needed to resolve the pain in your heart.
If you also faced extreme trauma, the stages of your grief journey may take longer to resolve. However, remembering that grief is only temporary and that light will come back into your life is important. We must fully recognize what we’ve lost and how we feel about that before our face looks forward toward the light again. Grief is our way of letting go and moving forward.
We Can Help
At Renaissance Funeral Home, we create memorable times of togetherness that help family members and friends remember loved ones well. Spending time with loved ones who feel the weight of the loss creates a level of healing and hope for the future for all involved. Family members need time together to remember a loved one. We also work with grief care groups to help you find a way to express your feelings as you go through your own unique grief journey.
Whether you need help planning a memorial, burial, cremation, or traditional funeral, we are here for your needs. We understand and respect all faiths, cultures, values, and traditions. Reach out to us and find out how we can help your family during your time of loss.