When we learn that a loved one is dying, what do we experience?
Upon learning this news, the grieving process commences prior to the actual loss. The family commences the mourning process and experiences the various grief responses. Knowing their loved one is dying and understanding the inevitability, it is common that their will be periods of denial that this will eventually occur. As in line with the trajectory of a terminal illness, the dying person will deteriorate which brings the reality of the inevitable closer.
Often the family members will experience an increase in anxiety, including the pending separation anxiety. Often, they will begin to question their own mortality, and this increases their own death awareness, realising one day, this could be their own fate. If they are watching their parent deteriorate, this may raise the question and reality of entering the next generational step. They may also ponder on the future, worrying what they will do or how will they manage without the dying person. This is a normal process known as role reversal. It might be necessary in some cases to undergo treatment for anxiety for the loved one if they’re having a difficult time keeping it together.
Unlike sudden death, prolonged grieving can evoke resentment leading to feelings of guilt. There is a risk a person may withdraw from the dying person if the terminal phase is lengthy also causing guilt and tension within the family. Conversely if a person becomes too close to the dying person and there is a risk that they may attempt to over manage the dying person’s medical care, and this is where non-traditional treatment may come in to play. It has to be acknowledged that if there is a closeness, the dying person and family member may have become grieving partners which makes it difficult post death. Grief counselling will never hear you but it will help the person understand their emotions more clearly.
Unlike sudden unexpected death, the family and dying person have time to finish any unfinished business such as giving heartfelt thanks, share appreciation and disappointment and to say things that need to be said. This can eliminate many grieving complications that may occur following the death .