Anticipatory Grief

Hi all, my mum was diagnosed with Stage 4 Brain Cancer in January this year and even as I write this, it seems so surreal. Her treatment has ended and she is starting to deteriorate. It seems the cognitive deficit is affecting me more, I am finding my ability to function is dwindling - handling these waves of grief is all encompassing and not one of my friends has experienced this yet, I feel alone and in pain. I don't want to sit, stand, speak, be quiet, be loud is a living nightmare watching her deteriorate and I don't know how I will get through it - and then face life without her. Life seems so bleak right now. Yet everyone goes through this at some point, it is the law of nature - doesn't feel so natural to me :(

  • Hi VickyD

    I noticed your post because of the title. Anticipatory grief is exactly what I feel I am experiencing right now. My Mum has secondary and terminal breast cancer in her bones. After a brave 3 year fight it now looks like there is no further fight to be had and she has gone significantly downhill in the last 2 months.

    I don't know how old you are, I'm 32 and I have no idea how I will cope when she is gone. I worry about my Dad, I cry when I think about her not having seen me get married or have children. I cry spontaneously all the time and none of my friends understand. My boyfriend does what he can, but he doesn't understand either. My biggest fear is that I just won't cope when she dies and I panic that I won't be any use to anyone. I feel like I am grieving now, even though she is still here.

    It's strange that we both sought comfort through this medium at the same time. After a hard day at work and some further bad news from today's test results I have spent all my Friday night in tears. Lying here now unable to sleep, which is why I sought out these message boards for the first time. 

    I don't think I can offer any words of advice, it sounds as if we are in the same position, trying our best to muddle out way through. However, it is considerable comfort to me to know that I am not alone. I hope it is the same for you.

    Whilst it is hard to believe when people say it to me, you are stronger than you know. It will be hard, but we will both get through some how.

    I hope you're ok xxxx

  • Hello, I lost my husband 3weeks ago to prostate Cancer I know just how you're feeling. I sat with him for almost 5 weeks in the macmillon unit whilst he went downhill. We were grieving together for the lifestyle we had lost for a year before that. Then he died and I found myself grieving for him, when he was dying  I knew what I was facing and thought I would not survive the loss when it happened but somehow you do. The first few days were horrible but you somehow find the strength to just keep plodding on, you will too even though you don't want to. Take strength from knowing the love you share, notice not past tense, because that will always be there for you. Accept any help that is offered, I thought I would be alone but friends and family are keeping me going. 

    Love and hugs to you both, the future is hard but focus on your loved ones and you'll muddle through. Xx

  • I am so so sorry.  Your beloved Mum has probably accepted it but you haven't as yet.  Just try to think that she won't have to suffer any more.  Talk to her of the good times to bring a smile to her face.

     My husband has not, as yet, managed to  talk to me of how he is feeling about my diagnosis but it is written on his face.    I keep going for his sake.


  • Hi, sorry your husband isn't talking about it with you, avoidance can be helpful but not for all! She doesn't want to die, she is alone and terrified and bitter which is also hard :(. I am seeking counselling for her but shocked at how minimal the specialist support is - there is no counsellor for palliative care in Southampton?! Please do reach out again x
  • Hi Vickyd

    Im really sorry about your mother.

    As a terminally ill person myself im going to speak based on my personal experience.

    Honestly, i see my disease as a kind of a blessing. It actually saves me from all the guilt, and fear, and regret im harboring. It helps me to forgive myself and to find peace of mind in the process. I still see the future as uncertain but my predicament gave me clarity of what am i supposed to do.

    Thats probably the reason why i can easily accept death. To me death is now like going home, my train stop has arrived and its time for my journey to end. Death is like waking up from a surreal vivid dream we called life and now its time for me to wake up. That ideas actually excite me.


    Your mother is undergoing a process and in my experience just having my love ones around, fixing me a healthy meal, attending to my medical needs (when i can't) are enough to eleviate my feeling of loneliness. Personally i dont like being told what to do or what to think. I don't like having arguments (nor being around with people that is having an argument). I don't like being preached. i don't like being pitied. I don't like my family getting sad about whats happening to me, though i kinda understand that their sadness is unavoidable. I think we terminals undergo a period of mental confusion and we are in this state where we personally, for ourselves, want decide what are the things we really want to do or what to think. And so we need some time to think for ourselves.

    What I do appreciate is someone who will listen to me on those rare occasions where i wanted to open up, discussing my philosophies about life, my speeches about accepting my fate and understanding what i truly want as i undergo the process. Assurance from family members that they will do what they can to relieve my stress and pains also helps for my peace of mind.

    Im not a very religious person but stories of NDE's, particularly that of Anita Moorjani, kinda helps me a lot in achieving a more positive and bright perspective.

    Long story short, the key word is acceptance... that really helps me in achieving a more clear and peaceful state of mind and i think it will both help you and your mother to cope up with the grief, regardless of circumstances that will come out. Though I know that there is a process we need to undergo in order to get there. Im pretty sure that in time, everything will be alright and fine.

  • I'm sorry you and your mum are going through this. The grieving process usually starts once you know a life is going to end. This way, I don't want to say it cushions the blow as that sounds a bit rude, but it lets you adjust to things more gradually. The mind trickle feeds the emotions and info to digest bit by bit so you can deal with it in more amounts. That said its bloody tough! Grief is such a long process and journey. I know everyone goes through losing their parents and its natural, it's not natural (in my eyes) to lose somebody prematurely. As a child you grow up thinking you get old and then die. You get married, have children, you go to work, you retire, you then have 20 years of leisure time where you take your pension and do what you want in life. THEN, the unknown happens, you get handed a death sentence that wasn't part of the plan. To say I struggled with losing my dad 3 days after diagnosis last year is an understatement. My dad was supposed to get old and grey and I was going to look after my parents. Him leaving the world at 64 was never part of the plan. I don't think I'll ever get over that. Despite how rubbish life can be, you take life day by day and you survive. There are certainly many ups and downs. I hope your mum doesn't suffer too much. Take care x

  • I totally understand this, my Dad is stage 4 and I'm already grieving for him. I hold on to the fact that time will eventually heal my heart. I know this because I lost my brother when I was younger and, after my grief had passed, I was ok. You'll be ok too. 

  • Hi Vickyd

    I am feeling similar feeling to you.

    My husand has stage 4 Bowel cancer and we have been told he may survive his current episode of problems or may come through this crisis and have 3 months.I just dont know how to survive this.My young adult children are suffering agony too. I feel desparate to help my husband and dont want him to suffer. i feel desparate that i cant do any thing to control events that seem surreal. I dont know where to turn to for help because i know no one can help us . Life feels like a living hell.

  • Hi,

    I have a lot of empathy for everyone who has posted. My Mum was in her sixties when she was first diagnosed with cancer and fought it for a few years before she died not long after her 70th birthday. Now it seems to be my son's turn to be getting prepared for my own premature death. The one good thing is that I've been lucky enough to have had time to mentally prepare for this event.

    Denial and anger are the first stages of the grieving process and these can either be constructive of destructive. A small amount of denial helps our minds by giving us time to get used to the new reality, but too much can lead to us ignoring the needs of the person who actually has cancer and believe me will be far more scared than they are letting on. Anger can be harnessed into a determination to do everything possible to enjoy what life we have and to have palliative treatment even if the chances of it being successful are pretty low. On the other hand, I've seen people whose anger has turned into bitterness and resentment turned either on themselves or their loved ones making the few days, weeks or months they do have to live a hell on earth for both them and the people who love them. 

    Acceptance does come eventually, but we all grieve at different rates and some family members may still be in denial when the person with cancer and one or two others have reached acceptance. This happened in my Mum's case and both her and my Dad were exasperated by well meaning family members who kept saying things like "I'm sure you'll get better soon" or "will you be going away this year?" as if she just had a temporary set back like a broken leg which would be better in a few weeks! 

    Best wishes 


  • Thankyou for your wise words, I read some of them out to mum today and this enabled me to have a proper chat with her about acceptance xx