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  • Dr. Susan Rose

Anticipatory Loss

Anticipatory loss is defined as grief that is felt in anticipation of someone’s death. He kept telling me that he was getting weaker, but I just couldn’t hear it. He would talk about the finances and tell me how he had prepared for us in retirement and was concerned that it would now just be me, so I needed to listen. He finally realized that I needed to remain hopeful and made a spreadsheet, a trademark of his. The family joked about all of his planning spreadsheets. We were alike in that way. I always had my manila folder on vacations and everything had a place in our home.

I include this aspect of the fight in the blog as a warning to any going through this journey or helping others through it. It it not actually denial to need to remain hopeful. It is a natural defense mechanism. Yet, it did cost us time as I was angry at the disease and didn’t want to realize how sick he was.

I continued to fight the disease and didn’t treasure the time we had together at the end as I would have liked. Yet, knowing grief as I do, I realize that the mind goes through guilt as part of the healing. I believe that I would have regrets even if everything was perfect. Bob knew me so well and tried to prepare me for that. He even said, “I don’t want you to have regrets.” He told me time and time again that he was a blessed man, because he had a wonderful family and wonderful career. I feel so blessed, because he truly believed that both of those were because of me. He would tell the children that his career wouldn’t be what it was without “Mom’s foot in his butt”. He wasn’t a silver tongue devil, but he was honest to a fault.

So, whether you recognize anticipatory loss when it’s happening or not, it’s important that you recognize it at some point so that it can be addressed. It is so important to sit with all types of grief for a moment so that it can sink in and allow healing. The idea of “getting through” grief is a misnomer. We learn to walk alongside it.

More on that next week.

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