A Work In Progress

A Work In Progress

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sudden Death vs. Anticipatory Grief

     Loss sucks!  Grieving sucks!  It's some tough stuff, and far from easy!  Death is very final.  It isn't fair!  Life isn't fair!  Yes, as Christians, we have peace and comfort in knowing that we will see our loved ones, who also love Jesus, in heaven again someday.  But we carry the pain of the loss of our loved ones with us for the rest of our earthly lives.  As time passes, the waves of grief grow fewer and farther between, but they still come.  These waves of pain come on our loved one's Birthday, on the anniversary of their death, and on important and meaningful events in our lives, like weddings, or the birth of a child..  It's not like just because we know they are in heaven and we will see them again someday, that we don't struggle with the loss and the void that is forever left in our lives, that no one else can possibly ever fill.  That's just completely unrealistic.  Even the Bible says "Jesus wept".

     I dealt with grief from a sudden death when my Dad passed way 12/8/1999 at the age of 59, from complications related to his Lupus.  I was 25 years old at the time.  My parents were still married at the time.  My Mom was a 47 year old widow and 2 months later was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She has now battled cancer for 13 years.  She is the strongest woman I know!  My Dad wasn't at my wedding.  No one else could fill that void.  No one is ever ready for the loss of a loved one, but with my Dad, I didn't see it coming.  A lot of deaths are like that.  No notice, no time to say good-bye, or to say the things you wished you had gotten to say.

     Recently I've been reading about a form of grief called "anticipatory grief".  "Anticipatory grief" is when you know the grief is coming, but it just hasn't arrived yet.  Per Edward Meyers, in his book, When Parents Die, "A sudden death hits you like an explosion," Myers explains, "and sends you into shock, whereas a slow decline arrives more like a glacier, massive and unstoppable, grinding you down."  My Husband and I are in the midst of anticipatory grief.  Eleven days ago, my Husband's Dad's Dr, called him to let him know that his Dad's lung cancer had spread to his brain.  His Dad is 67 years old.  He has a large tumor on the left side of his brain.  He was hospitalized for 10 days.  He is now back at the nursing home.  There is no cure.  He wouldn't survive surgery.  He is halfway thru his radiation treatments.  The radiation will not cure him, it will only help decrease the symptoms.  He is getting progressively worse.  Having experienced the grief from a sudden death, and now experiencing "anticipatory grief", I found Myers description to be extremely accurate! 

"Anticipatory grief does feel heavy, and it is unstoppable, dragging you down. But that quote from Myers made us stop and think. The alternative to a slow death is a quick death. What if mom had died suddenly in a car accident? Or had a massive, fatal heart attack? We would have missed these past months of closeness. The time to say the things we wouldn't have had time to say, to give the hugs, to share in one more meal, one more picture, one more smile. We have had the time to say good-bye. There will be no regrets on that frontier." via this blog
It is very hard watching Keith's health decline.  We are exhausted, both physically and emotionally, but we will have no regrets.  We have had almost 5 months of "closeness, hugs, telling him we love him, showing him we love him, visiting with him, calling him, etc, etc."  I had regrets when Dad died, I still do.  But, I also didn't have to watch him slowly decline, and didn't have to see him suffer.  I am in a much better place in life now.  I am more established.  I am older.  Yes, loss is hard at any age.  But a 25 year old doesn't expect to lose a parent that early in life.  I am thankful Jonathan and I have each other to lean on for support during this difficult time.  I am also thankful that we will have no regrets when God calls Keith home, and that we heeded God's calling to step up and care for Keith.  We love Keith because God first loved us.  Thank you to those of you who sent him a Christmas card or any other type of card!  He was overwhelmed by your outpouring of love and support!  He knows he is loved, by God and by us, and that is all that matters.

Please keep Keith and our family in your prayers during the days, weeks, and months ahead. 

Thank you! :)

Lamentations 3: 21-26:

21 Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
26 So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.