When a loved one has a terminal illness and you’re forced to start preparing for their death, it can feel overwhelming. Where do you begin when getting ready for the loss of a loved one? Reading our article on How to Prepare for the Death of a Loved One may help.
Anticipatory grief – what it means
When you find out that a person you love is suffering from a terminal illness, you may begin to grieve deeply before they pass. This feeling is called anticipatory grief. For some people, the grief they experience when preparing for the death of a loved one is worse than that after it actually happens.
This phase can be a difficult time which can bring about a range of emotions. Some of these include denial, sorrow, guilt, anger and sadness. Anticipatory grief does not affect everyone, but it’s important to understand that experiencing a range of different and sometimes confusing emotions during this time is a natural part of the grieving process.
Talking to close family and friends can help. Joining support groups either online or face to face can help you develop coping strategies, too.
Saying goodbye to the person you love
When someone close to you is terminally ill, talking about death becomes unavoidable. Not every dying person will feel ready to talk about their own death, and bringing up the topic yourself may be extremely painful. However, for some, talking is incredibly helpful.
Offering reassurance that you’ll be there no matter what can be comforting for your loved one. Equally important is offering a space where they can share stories and memories, and enjoy welcome distractions from their worries. For some people, giving them a chance to talk through their fears and share the complexities of how they feel about what’s happening to them, and the effect it will have on those they leave behind, is what they need the most.
We often become so wrapped up in our day to day lives that we don’t say all the things we’d like to say to each other. But when a friend or family member is dying, sharing your true feelings with them suddenly becomes urgent. Sometimes, saying all those things you’ve avoided can help to bring lasting peace to your relationship at a critical time.
Creating cherished memories
When someone close to you is terminally ill it can be a good idea to create lasting positive memories by organising something special to celebrate their life. This doesn’t have to be huge or expensive. For example, it can be as simple as spending time together at a gathering with family members and close friends, or organising a mini-break to somewhere that they’ve always wanted to visit, or that means a lot to them. A day trip to one of their favourite places might also be appropriate, or doing something that you’ve always enjoyed together.
Your loved one may have made a list of things they’d like to do. Talk to them and find out, and help them fulfil their last wishes.
Talking to friends and family
When it comes to feeling prepared for the loss of a loved one, there are many strategies that can be helpful, but it will be difficult no matter what. Part of this preparation may be telling your family and close friends on behalf of the dying person.
This may feel daunting at first, but telling family and friends can actually be helpful. Sharing the burden that the certain death of a loved one can bring may help to lighten some of the emotional load.