Monday, 6 August 2007

Thought for the Day: The gift of time and anticipatory grief

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Many of us who have lost a loved one to cancer can remember the exact moment that we realized that our loved one was not going to recover.

According to the NCI, anticipatory grief is the grief that occurs before an impending loss and can be experienced by both the dying person and family and friends. Anticipatory grief symptoms include depression, intense concern for the dying person, rehearsal of the death and attempts to adjust to the death in advance.

To my surprise, I've learned that there is controversy surrounding this concept. Some researchers report that anticipatory grief rarely occurs. Their reasoning is that acceptance of the death that is usually observed early in the grieving process simply cannot occur before the death.I believe anticipatory grief is real.

Experiencing anticipatory grief is not an abandonment of your loved one. It results from acknowledging the reality that this is not going to pass, that your loved one is not going to recover.

Experiencing anticipatory grief does not mean that we disconnect from our loved ones who are dying, that we stop loving them, that we stop caring for them, that we starting "moving on" while they are still here with us. The truth is, that even once they die, we never stop loving them and we never truly "get over it." We carry them in our hearts always.

While we will always wish that our loved ones could have been with us longer, it is a gift to be given the time to tackle any unfinished emotional business and to say how much we love each other.

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