When we think of
grief, we generally think of the process and
feelings we experience after someone dies. In
reality we begin this process on the day someone we
love is diagnosed with a life threatening illness.
This process of mourning before someone we love has
died is called anticipatory grief. According to
noted grief expert, Dr. Therese Rando, anticipatory
grief refers to the process in which we begin to
mourn past, present and future losses.
grief is experienced by care recipient and Caregiver
from different perspectives. For instance, the care
recipient mourns the loss of their previous body
image, changes in their physical and mental
abilities and possibly career loss. The role of the
care recipient in the family may change. A
breadwinner may no longer provide for the family or
a homemaker may no longer be able to manage the home
independently. The Caregiver frequently takes on
these additional roles, while caring for their loved
one and dealing with their own feelings. Both loved
ones and Caregivers are grieving for the way life
was and mourn the deterioration of the care
recipientís health. Frequently, the inability of
friends and family members to manage their own
discomfort with illness and death may cause the care
recipient and the Caregiver to be isolated.
course of the illness there will be many losses for
the care recipient and primary Caregiver. These may
include; intimacy, sex, privacy, independence,
dreams, partnership, dignity, money, control,
intellectual stimulation, friendship and family
position. These losses will produce accompanying
feelings of anger, sadness, depression, and
abandonment. It is common for both the care
recipient and Caregiver to feel isolated, invisible,
A long term
illness leaves a person with a "mixed bag" of
feelings. As you watch someone you love in pain, you
may wish them to be out of their misery. This
feeling can be followed feelings of guilt and
remorse, that we "wished" this person to die.
Discussing these feelings is a survival necessity.
Care recipients and Caregivers need someone to hear
and validate their feelings. Both parties require
information about the illness, support and the means
to maintain control over their lives, as they make
the arduous journey towards death. Family members
and close friends can be good sources of support,
but if they are either physically or emotionally
unavailable, support groups and mental health
professionals can be a great source of support.
Jennifer Kay L.C.S.W., is a
psychotherapist in private practice. She can be
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (305) 785-8388.
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