Accept Your Feelings of Anticipatory Grief
The first thing to realize is that grieving for terminally ill loved ones before they pass, often called pre-grieving or anticipatory grief, is completely normal. Part of this grief is anticipating that they will be gone soon, but it’s also about the losses already experienced through their illness. You have watched them suffer and lose their health, and possibly also lose their memory and mental understanding. Give yourself grace by understanding that this mix of emotions, and the feeling of not knowing what to do, is entirely normal.
Some people may think these feelings mean you’re letting go, but in reality, embracing the process of pre-grieving can help you and your loved one both make the most of his or her last days and lead to a closer connection between you. Allowing yourself to feel this grief, rather than hoping for recovery, allows you to both choose how you want to spend the time you have together and make it as meaningful as possible.
Have Difficult Conversations
Making the time you have meaningful includes talking about necessary yet difficult topics, including living arrangements, who your loved one would like to connect with in their waning years, and the location of importantdocuments. Some documents may not exist, such as a will, so now’s the time to get such items in order. Though far from easy, such conversations can be freeing for everyone.
Contribute to a Peaceful Environment
The process of transitioning your loved one from hospital care and treatment to palliative in-home care is often part of the experience of anticipatory grief. Bringing home a terminally ill loved one can be an emotionally charged time in both the caregiver’s life and the final days of the patient. It’s possible to offset this by contributing to the home’s peaceful environment. One way you can do this is by using familiar comfort items like blankets, and storing medical equipment away whenever possible to make it truly feel like home, rather than a hospital.
Honor Your Loved One’s Life Now and Their Memory for a Lifetime
It’s perfectly OK, and can even be uplifting and healing, to start honoring your loved one’s life now. Gather pictures and other items of meaning so that the whole family can remember moments of joy you have had together. During this time and after your loved one passes, CNN suggests actively choosing to preserve these memories, which is a part of the healing process of grief and can even bring joy back into your life.
Being a caregiver can be a trying time, so take the recommendation from What’s Your Grief? to find a creative outletlike journaling, art or photography. When you focus on something creative, it helps you explore your own feelings of grief, and it can be a way of honoring your loved one’s life at the same time. You can also continue to display your artwork after your loved one passes so it remains a part of your ongoing process of grieving and remembering. Houzz has some unique ideas for embracing those memories throughout your home, such as creating a spot to display their favorite books that you can go to whenever you want that connection.
Preserving these memories while your loved one is still with you as well as after he or she is gone can actually help bridge that emotional divide at a time that can be hard for you both. Grief isn’t a one-time experience. It’s a process, and when someone you love is terminally ill, embracing the anticipatory part of the grief process can give you both some peace.
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