Specific Situations > Extreme Caregiving

Anticipatory Grieving

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This phrase for those of us whose spouses had a terminal prognosis gets thrown around a lot.  Do you believe in grieving in advance?  Did you do some anticipatory grieving and did it hurt you or help you?

I did do some anticipatory grieving, mostly because everything that made Rich who he was was gone long before he died. In my case, it helped through the early days, those shocky, I-can't-believe-this-actually-happened days, but it caught up to me at about month 5 and I quickly spiraled downhill.

It took a long time to recover from that spiral and it was made harder by all the people who thought I should have been prepared.  One-on-one grief counseling and then, much later, GriefShare helped a lot.

How about you guys?

When my wife was first diagnosed with stage 4 right off the bat, I thought she only had months (they never gave its a prognosis). Looking at different studies told me she may have 18 months. I think i can say i was utterly depressed and "pre-grieving" . Then 18 months, came and went. I would pre-grieve every now and then. It wasn't until about 60 months that we were told to "get your affairs in order", and it was clear they meant it. I pre-grieved for about a month solid, then we just continued to push forward. She passed at 67 months. I think pre-grieving helped me somewhat, i know, knowing that her time was limited, kept me from doing small things i would regret (like not complaining about doing stuff for her). That has helped me now. Especially when my brain tries to find something i regret (i don't know why my brain tries to do this).
I think my grieving now has an extra element that complicates things. I find I'm almost mourning two people, her before the diagnosis happened, and who she was Before  she died.


--- Quote from: robunknown on March 09, 2015, 09:15:13 AM --- I find I'm almost mourning two people, her before the diagnosis happened, and who she was Before  she died.

--- End quote ---

I get that. I grieve the Rich that I fell in love with and married and I grieve the Rich who would have been if he'd been allowed to grow older in a "normal" way. Kind of like grieving the life we had before and also grieving the life we might have had. 

I cannot speak for others, but I don't know that I necessarily believe in grieving in advance.  Of course, I married my Kenneth knowing full well that he was dying and that the prognosis was that he likely wouldn't live through another year (that was 13 years before he actually died).  I guess I didn't walk into my marriage with the expectation that we would be able to grow old together, so there are things I cannot speak to. 

I think there are things that we grieve along the way.  We watched our spouses slowly fading away in front of our eyes, and we lost our spouses, piece by piece.  So for some of us, we may have grieved the loss of the man/woman we married long before their physical death.  No matter how much we may think we are prepared, though, and no matter how much we may have grieved the life we thought we would have had, there is nothing that can truly prepare us for the finality of the actual loss.  There are no short cuts to the grieving process.

I also agree with bear.  As long as our spouse was alive, "there was still hope."  It might not have been much hope, but it was there, nonetheless.  My Kenneth had beaten the odds so many times, I think a part of me started to actually believe he might continue to hold on for a long time to come, until he reached the point where he decided, "no more".  Once he made that decision, things happened fast, and there was no time for anticipatory grieving, because we were too busy trying to make the most of our last few days together.

It's a real thing but I don't think it's a given in situations when a illness is terminal.

As Barney points out, correctly, where there is life there is hope, but not all illnesses offer much of either.

By the time my husband was diagnosed, he was suffering from moderate dementia. His illness had defied the doctors ability to pinpoint for so long, there was nothing that could be done except wait for it to run its course.

And it was a long course. Three years. That's a long time when you are living with someone who isn't the same person and really doesn't know who you are anymore. Has forgotten the name of the child you share.

So for me, pre-grief? Oh yeah. Whenever things slowed down between full-time job, raising a toddler on my own and taking care of a man I didn't know and who didn't know me - I grieved. Hard.

I grieved the life that was gone and the future that wouldn't be because all there that was left was a limbo like now.

I would guess it is very different when your spouse is still your spouse and your marriage is still your marriage, but in situations like mine, where everything is gone but the day in and out of care giving,  anticipatory grief is very common.


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