When you learn that your loved one is going to die it takes your breath away. It’s heartbreaking, terrifying, and shocking. Initially, it is hard to believe that what you think you heard is, in fact, exactly what you heard. It feels like life is moving in slow motion and yet, the news swirls inside your head at light speed. You are catapulted into a world of fear, chaos, and even denial. While trying to figure out what the dying person may want, you begin to struggle with the reality that you have to say goodbye. It’s all too soon.
After learning of a loved one’s prognosis, it’s normal that we want to protect them from feeling sad or emotional by not talking about the inevitable. Sometimes, they feel the same way ~ they don’t want to upset anyone so they don’t talk about the foreseeable either. By avoiding the conversation families unintentionally block meaningful dialogue and their own healing. Yes, it will be sad. Yes, there will be tears. But here is the truth… you will be sad and you will have tears whether you openly talk about it or not. My advice is: Get out of your head and into your heart. There are many end-of-life decisions to be made and things that need to be finished and memories to be made. It all starts with meaningful conversation.
In my book, Life Losses: Healing for a Broken Heart, I dedicate a chapter to Anticipatory Grief. It’s a complex and extremely important topic. I offer suggestions on meaningful conversations, how to make a memory tree, and the value of a ‘farewell journal.’ I also offer suggestions for how extended family and friends can help during this difficult time. To order a copy of my book, visit Amazon.com or click here.
For more information on End-of-life care or Anticipatory Grief, visit the following websites:
- Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association http://www.chpca.net
- American Hospice Foundation www.americanhospice.org
- Center to Advance Palliative Care www.getpalliativecare.org
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services www.medicare.gov
- Department of Veterans Affairs www.va.gov
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization www.nhpco.org