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The Gift of Anticipatory Grief

The Gift of Anticipatory Grief

I find myself—currently—to be going through a difficult time. My beloved Mother is dying. I am a Medium and a Psychotherapist, and, as such, know many ways to refer to death—going to the Other Side, ending her time in this dimension, transitioning. I know there is no such thing as death. None of that is comforting to me at the moment because all I can feel is that she will no longer be here with me.

I suppose I have been anticipating this loss for my entire life. I suspect my siblings have been too. And many clients along the way have told me this is their worst fear, losing their Mother—even when those Mothers had been incredibly difficult. But when you have had been blessed with having a great Mother, the loss is enormous.

We have Hospice now and with it brings the painful realization that we have just arrived on a special island, the island of Anticipatory Grief. My faith is leading the itinerary and it is being tested left and right. I feel as if I am on a roller coaster of emotions.

Anticipatory Grief is grief that happens while waiting for the loss of someone, typically of someone close to you, who is sick and dying. The stages are similar to DABDA –the 5 stages of grief Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
speaks of (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance), but happening before the loss. The difference is it is a specifically heightened state of consciousness trying to adjust to the imminent death of a loved one.

These stages include:
1. Denial: This is not happening; he/she will come out of this situation. I will have time to be with this person again. Refusal to believe it is the end.
2. Anxiety: Fear of the unknown. When will this happen? How much time do I have? Typically not knowing what life will be like without this person. How will this leave me? How will I survive? Will I survive? Dread, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness and feeling completely overwhelmed.
3. Roller Coaster: I am sad today, I am angry today, my loved one is better today, my loved one is worse today. Too many ups and downs to process, what is happening??
4. Depression: Too much to process. Low energy, exhaustion. Wiped out.
5. Acceptance: There is a time limit on this event. Being present in the here and now. One moment at a time. For some, this may prompt a conscious closure before the loss.

The Gifts:

1. Despite family personality challenges, I find comfort in us all being together. Somehow we’re nicer to each other. Possibly because we have less energy to waste and life is so real right now. We are giving more, listening more; there is less hostility and withholding. After all, these are the moments that really count.

2. This period can be used to resolve issues with the dying person. In cases where guilt in the relationship or anger for that matter, it is possible to have deep repair. This time has the possibility of profound healing.

3. Blessings include friends that continuously inspire me with their own tales of this special island. I find strength in their stories and find pearls of wisdom. When I’m finished I shall have a necklace to share with the world.

I encourage anyone going through this situation to reach out to friends or the community or a therapist to help you through this time. Breathe. Meditate. Go for a walk. Take a long bath. A glass of wine helps. Have dinner with a close friend. Although it feels like it, no man is an island to himself.