The long goodbye: understanding anticipatory grief

Some of our most profound losses are invisible to others. From the moment you learn that a loved one is terminally ill, you may begin to experience anticipatory grief. This has its own unique blueprint, marked by profound inner shifting as you begin to imagine this world without your loved one’s physical presence, while also trying to cherish the time you still have with them. Here are some suggestions for navigating what can be a perplexing time:

  • Expect the Unexpected. You may experience surges of emotion: sadness, anger and feelings of helplessness as the process unfolds. You may not be able to predict what is coming next – either for your loved one or within your own heart and mind. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to absorb these changes.
  • Prepare Yourself. You might begin “rehearsing” for your loved one’s death. This is one way to begin wrapping your mind around the unimaginable. It may be helpful to gather information about how a particular disease may progress. If your loved one is in hospice, ask your team to help you understand the kinds of changes you can expect.
  • Seek Support. One of the most challenging aspects of anticipatory grief is that, while the loss is profound, others may not see it or understand. Sometimes the people we expected to be there for us and our loved one fall away when we need them most. This can be isolating. But there may be others who step up in surprising ways. Be open to unexpected companions on the journey, whether they be friends or professionals.

As disorienting as it can be to watch your loved one prepare to make their final journey, each day in this liminal space can still offer moments of tenderness and love. May you find grace for yourself and others in the days to come and may you find courage, strength and everything you need for the path ahead. 

-Chaplain Jenny Schroedel  

Grief Support (offered via Zoom)

A Grief Observed Book Club
Tuesdays in April, 1 – 2 p.m. on Zoom
Join us for an exploration of the emotional and spiritual aspects of grief as we discuss C.S. Lewis’ classic book, “A Grief Observed.” Please register  by March 15 to receive a Zoom link and include your address so we can get a book to you.

How We Heal
Wednesday, March 15, 7 – 8 p.m. on Zoom
Just as there many paths through grief, there are also many ways to find healing. We’ll discuss some common signposts along the way and reflect on what healing might look like in own lives.

Optage Hospice Chaplain Jenny Schroedel facilitates grief groups across PHS sites and in the larger community. Jenny is also an author, most recently of Naming The Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death.

If you are interested in joining a group or establishing one at your community, contact Optage Hospice or call 651-746-8200.



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