It seems like there’s an ebb and flow of people I know going through various illnesses or deaths of loved ones. They speak of the difficulty of knowing what to say or even if to say some things; sometimes, they feel frozen and unable to talk. Many feel like they are drowning and search for any buoyancy in the sea of grief.
I remember the days before and after my mom and dad passed away. When illnesses began to worsen, some part of me put blinders on to shield myself both from what I saw and what I felt. Afraid to ask questions, simultaneously put one foot in front of the other, and care for what needed to be done.
The emotions we experience in the weeks and days just before a loss is referred to
as anticipatory grief. It’s a period where we are lost in a storm of feelings and reactions because we are facing the death of a loved one. We are confused and heartbroken as we watch the people we love decline, but we also feel disbelief and anger.
However you feel during that time, I encourage you to honor those feelings rather than ignoring them or stuffing them down to deal with “later. Shock, denial, and acceptance will occur at some point. I say the latter with a grain of salt – you may accept it but at different emotional levels and times. Being patient with yourself is critical.
From my own experience and things that I have learned from many experts in this
area, talking not only to yourself (journaling is a powerful resource here) but
also to your loved one and with a peer group of support is essential. Truth is a powerful opening to conversations, and they are necessary. Silence is a killer – both for you and your loved one.
Speak to your loved one about their fears and desires and tell them yours. I remember looking at my mom at one point and saying, “I’m scared, and I don’t know what to do next,” and then becoming almost silent in her final days – choking on the grief that was, in turn, swallowing me whole. I encourage you to have those conversations – stumble through them if you must – but have them. Regrets cannot be undone.
In the ocean of life, your attitude becomes your lifesaver. What will you/can you
shift to allow yourself to become more buoyant?