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Honoring and Caring for a Terminally Ill Loved One.

Some people die suddenly and unexpectedly; others decline gradually and slowly, passing away in their own time. A loved one with a terminal illness may appear to be disappearing in front of your eyes as parts of their personality and identity fade.

When their death is a foregone conclusion, friends and family members may experience a painful, awkward form of bereavement often referred to as anticipatory grief. A dying friend or relative may linger for years existing as a mere shell of the person they were, leaving those closest to them to mourn slowly and come to grips with a dual loss – the loss of the person they used to be and the anticipated death of their physical self.

Grief doesn’t just happen when someone dies. It unfolds slowly before death, eliciting a complicated interplay of emotions that may include anger, sadness, depression and guilt. Working through these feelings is part of coming to terms with the inevitable, not only the impending loss of someone near and dear but accepting what the inevitable.

The time remaining

Knowing that a loved one is dying means you only have an uncertain amount of time left to spend with them. Think through how you want to make the most of the time you have left, and how your loved one might want to spend it. You both may decide to have as much fun as you can, doing things you both like to do (to the extent it’s possible). Or, you might revisit practical matters, such as financial or funeral arrangements. Whatever you choose, be honest and open with each other, and don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Laughter and tears both have powerful emotional healing powers.

Anticipating, not giving up

The way you react to the situation should be based solely on the care and emotional support you provide for your loved one. Though terminally ill, they still need the reassurance of a comforting presence nearby. In other words, you’re not giving up on them in spite of what anticipatory grief implies. Meeting their emotional needs means focusing on caring, nurturing and seeing to it that you’re enjoying each other’s company. It can be a difficult line to walk: on one hand, you know there’s no recovery. On the other hand, you’re doing everything you can to keep up their spirits. There’s no need to feel guilty – you’re simply showing them loving support.

The signs

The symptoms of anticipatory grief are very similar to any other grief or sorrow you may have experienced. Your emotional responses may range from anger to a kind of numbness, which are simply normal responses to a very trying situation. It’s not unusual to feel as though you’re living a bad dream from which you can’t awaken. Some people obsess about how their loved one’s life may end, trying to prepare themselves for the pain that’s still to come.

Allow yourself to vent

It can be hard to understand or explain why you’re grieving for someone who’s still living. Many people choose to internalize their feelings. It’s important to express what you’re experiencing to someone close. Record your thoughts in a journal or with poetry or occupy your mind by coloring or reading. Creativity can help you transform your pain into something beautiful. Always remember to seek out a counselor if you can’t cope with what you’re feeling.

Meaningful time

Bringing home a terminally ill loved one can be an emotionally charged time in both the caregiver’s life and the final days of the patient. Coming home can bring a great deal of peace and comfort to a person looking at the end of their life. Spending meaningful time together can help ease their passing as well as your grief.

anticipatory grief – anticipatory-grief/
emotions – https://www.aplaceformom. com/blog/1-27-15-signs-of- anticipatory-grief/
anger – https://thecaregiverspace. org/anticipatory-grief- powerful/
creativity – transform-the-pain/creativity- as-a-remedy-e88c2197c801
grief – peaceful-passing-a-loved-ones- final-days-at-home