Grief and Loss
Anticipatory Grief is when family/carers start to prepare for the death of a loved one. It can start immediately upon diagnosis or in the days/weeks/months before the passing of your loved one. Essentially, the family member/carer operates in two worlds – the one where they do everything they can to remain positive and hopeful, and the one where they feel they have to prepare themselves for the death of their loved one. Anticipatory grief is kept silent as it anticipates the loss ahead. It is not often shared with family or friends for fear of speaking negatively and actually putting the preparation of death of a loved one in words. However, it is also normal to share their anticipatory grief with an extremely close family member or best friend. This grief is very normal for a primary carer, esepcially if they are the partner, parent, sibling or child of a person diagnosed with cancer. Don't be afraid to share this grief with your counsellor or social worker, so that they can help you in any way you need and so that you can get the grief off your chest.
Grief and Loss
One of the most intense types of grief is the loss of a loved one. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The process is individual and unique to each person. There is however some common symptoms or stages and these include:
You may experience some, all, or none of these symptoms and that is perfectly OK. Grief has been described like being on a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs and highs and lows.
Speaking about your thoughts and your pain will be hard at first, but eventually the pain will mostly be replaced with happy memories and the celebration of a beautiful life and person. It is common that the pain will never completely disapear, or the sadness will never truly go away, or it may take years for this to happen, but it is important to know that you had the opportunity to experience a wonderful person, and that you shared beautiful memories and good times. Remember the laughter that you had together, and remember their legacy. Try to turn the sad memories of the cancer into the happy ones of their life. It may take years, you will have good days and bad days, and the first holidays, birthdays and anniversaries will be difficult, but try and use all the resources at your disposal, such as your counsellor, family and friends to make the best of a tough situation.
Friends and Family
Try not to shy away from your friends and family - they are your support network and can help you get though this tough time. It is important that your loved ones and best friends know how you feel so that they are in the loop and can assist you. If you find that you are not sleeping during the night, let them know so that you are not alone.
The Importance of a Counsellor
Counsellors can be great in helping patients with grief, but make sure they have proper qualifications. Try to find a support group either online or in person. For a support group online, please visit our support forum where you can share your experience, ask questions and chat with people in a similar situation to you. There are also anonymous professional counsellors who support OCAGI that check the blog regularly and can give you some general advice.
Initially, many people shy away from the thought of therapy. But speaking to a professional who isn't emotionally attached to your situation is an incredibly beneficial and important part to the healing process. They can identify little clues about yourself that you or your friends may not even notice in your grief, and can help you deal wth any issues and heal. It is also an opportunity for you to discuss things that you feel you may not be able to discuss with your loved ones - this prevents you from bottling up your emotions.
Continuing to Live and Enjoy Life
It is a common occurence for one to feel guilty to enjoy life after the death of a loved one. It is a good idea to raise this feeling of guilt with your family, friends and counsellor, as they can help you deal with that guilt. It is important to remember that although your loved one is gone, life still goes on. Really give it a think and ask 'does my loved one really want me to live a life of sadness?' Enjoy the good times in life and remember the legacy of your loved one. Try to limit feelings of guilt when you laugh or when you've had a day where you haven't felt sad or cried. Live your life in honour of your loved one.