I felt the heaviness, the grief of those sitting beside me, most of us sitting there were in tears. We were wiping our tears and trying not to let the flood gates flow but we all knew our loved one was dying. The treatments have failed, all medical resources have been exhausted, no miraculous healing and no other options for health to return. There was once hope for a cure, hope for treatments to heal and even hope for a miraculous healing. Now those hopes are put to an end and the reality of her life ending is evident. How do we have hope or hold on to hope now?
Hope changes as we engage in illness and in the dying process. While caring for our ill loved one, we have hope of health returning or at least to get to a new place of coping well. When those hopes are lost and we see that death is going to take over, we can become depressed, confused and lose all hope.
Holding on to hope when our loved one is dying involves hoping for less pain, hoping for our loved one to feel at peace with the life they lived. We hold on to hope for a ‘good’ transition and for our final goodbyes to be beautiful.
In all of these hopes, we are beginning the mourning process called anticipatory grief. It is the loss we feel and experience when our loved one is dying. It is the pain of being separated from your loved one. The separation may begin abruptly or it may begin slowly taking several months. Anticipatory grief is different for each person, some lean into it and allow the pain to come while others turn away from it and flee. Learn more about anticipatory grief here.
Can you still hold on to hope while anticipatory grieving? Yes. Holding onto hope does not mean you are denying the imminent death. It means knowing the truth and allowing a place for peace. It doesn’t mean you are OKAY with the impending death, but that you get it is going to happen. A place for peace is being able to say, ‘I trust something else, something good is going to come about in all this pain…eventually’. It is knowing and believing that you are going to be OKAY. It totally hurts, and the pain is deep and you will make it through.
For me, in the midst of our grieving community, hope came in the form of a newborn baby. Sitting there with tears flowing, I heard the sounds of the cooing and crying of the little one. It was a reminder of life continuing on. Our loved one who is facing death has given others her life legacy and it will be carried on through these little ones. The newborns may never meet her but her life legacy will be taught to them. She has touched so many lives with her love, hospitality, genuineness and giving spirit and those parts of her are going to be carried on through the generations. Hope continues on because of her life lived so beautifully.
Is your loved one dying? Here are some thoughts to ponder:
- – What hopes can you hold on to now?
- – Will these hopes protect you from pain? Will the hopes help you?
- – Are your hopes realistic?
- – Can you hold on to hope and still continue to be fully present with your loved one?
As you begin to grieve your loved one, take advantage of every moment with them. Say what you need to say. Do what you need to do. Love when you never thought you could love. Sleep when you need to sleep. Allow your anger, pain, joy, and sadness time to come. Honor those feelings and thoughts. Take care of yourself and know there are people who want to help you walk this journey.
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