The only way to avoid grieving is to avoid having loved.
Few of us know how to cope with grief or how to talk to a grieving person. Each person grieves in his or her own way. Grief cannot be avoided. We can try to ignore it, but eventually we must feel and work through our grief. Experiencing grief includes experiencing a myriad of other emotions, such as anger, loneliness, depression, guilt, sorrow, and fear.
A terminal illness can give you time to say goodbye to the people you love. Being very sick, you face a changes and losses. Each loss may demand grief: loss of independence, of abilities, of dreams.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross defined five stages people experience in coming to terms with terminal illness: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. The process is grieving often moves fluidly back and forth between these stages rather than progressing in a linear fashion. Some people cycle from anger to acceptance to depression and back again. As people work through their grief the general pattern is to experience the loss and accept its reality, to adjust to the loss, and to reinvest emotionally in life or hopes.
|Bargaining||Shopping for doctors and diagnosis
Making bargains with God
Making promises to others
Wish to postpone
Focus on loss
Life pattern upset
Separation from reality
Sharing with others
Feeling less hurt
Able to feel pleasure
As you experience the turmoil of all these emotions you may also:
These reactions are normal. They will dissipate as you come to terms with your grief. Things that may help:
"There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says….Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would take to one another and not to me."
- C.S. Lewis, "A Grief Observed"
Losses are a part of life and a part of cancer. Some of these losses, like hair loss and loss of fertility, are physical, but there are emotional losses as well. You may have to learn to live with some limitations or you may have to alter your hopes and goals to fit your situation.
Every loss requires mourning and grief, but many people are uneasy witnessing grief. Sensing this discomfort, you might try to hide your feelings. However grief must be expressed in some way. It may be transformed into feelings of anger, guilt or helplessness. Sometimes your family and friends may not understand the magnitude of your loss. They may make you feel guilty for feeling sad.
Four tasks have been identified in the grieving process:
Some people may be able to deal with hair loss in a relatively short time. Another person may grieve for their lost hair until it begins to regrow at the conclusion of therapy. Some losses are not reversible. If you have lost a limb or a breast or a testicle, you will need to adjust to a permanently altered body image, and it may take a long time to work through your grief.
Be gentle with yourself. It's very difficult to adjust to illness, treatment, and all the emotional factors involved. Give yourself time to heal. Verbalize your feelings.
It may help to attend a peer support group meeting or to talk to a counselor. One of the major benefits of a peer support group is that you discover you are alone with your problems. You can share your fears and concerns with others in similar situations. If a group makes you uncomfortable, try talking to a counselor or clergy member. Or, ask your doctor for a referral to an oncology social worker.
Here are some suggestions for things you can do to help yourself as you grieve:
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|This content is derived from the "Charting Your Course Seminars: A Whole Person Approach To Living With Cancer", provided by Norris Cotton Cancer Center.|