I went through it when my father was nearing the end of his life with stage 4 cancer. The feelings I went through were separation anxiety, aloneness, denial, sadness, disappointment, anger, resentment, guilt, exhaustion, and desperation.
Who am I without my father? Dad is my touchstone, and our conversations last hours sometimes. I get the best advice from him.
When I visited dad for Father’s day and saw him for the first time in his walker, I could no longer be in the denial phase of grief. Dad was seemingly accepting of the inevitable, and I was thrown in shock as I transitioned from denial to anticipatory grief. I think the pain of knowing what dad must be feeling is what hit me so hard.
Anticipatory grief is felt by the person who is terminally ill, family, friends, and caregivers.
Anyone who has just received difficult news about her cancer may begin to show anticipatory grief physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. Both the patient and family can experience these symptoms. Examples of physical symptoms are similar to those experienced by our loved ones after the anticipated death. We can have sleep and appetite disturbance, headache, nausea, and fatigue. Many feel anxious, sad, helpless, disorganized, forgetful, or angry. Going through a period of doubting one’s faith or questioning God’s existence is not unusual, and neither is disconnecting from loved ones or people in general.
Anticipatory grief rarely alleviates or eliminates the suffering after the actual death, but anticipatory grief can give us time to prepare and develop coping skills for the inevitable changes to come. Have a family meeting and talk about anticipatory grief when a loved one is ill so you can understand what you all are experiencing and offer support and confirmation that this is a normal process.