February is National Heart Month. We associate it with Valentine’s Day, red hearts and love. Most of us have had our hearts broken at some point in our lives and know how painful it can be. It may be from a relationship break-up or the death of a loved one. The pain we feel is grief which has many forms and affects people differently.
When a life-threatening illness affects you or a loved one, grief may come sooner than death. This is called anticipatory grief and begins as soon as we realize death is expected. Even though this grief is different than that which follows death, the symptoms of sadness, anger, isolation, anxiety and depression still exist.
Anticipatory grief affects the dying person as well as loved ones. He or she fears losing their independence, their physical and mental capabilities and leaving behind their loved ones. There are no guarantees when it comes to anticipatory grief that it will help reduce the symptoms after the death. And that is normal. Coping skills that are helpful include connecting with others such as a support group, focusing on your remaining time together, and talking to others in the family, as they, too, may be experiencing these types of feelings. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Sit in a room for reflection or to cry, go to a yoga class or simply listen to music. Know it is normal to feel like your heart is breaking but remember to take steps to allow your heart to heal again.
If you or a loved one are considering hospice care or grief counseling, please contact Joliet Area Community Hospice at 815-740-4104. A United Way Agency.
250 Water Stone Circle, Joliet, IL 60431
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