Anticipatory Grief

On Saturday, I yelled at my dad. Like, really yelled at him, cursed at him.

I guess grief is unpredictable like that. I’ve read about the stages of grief. What I didn’t know is that they don’t happen in order. My emotions bounce around from feeling anger to feeling numb to feeling devastation.

And we’re all feeling this. I can only imagine how Dad feels. He is having to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of time left. He is still grieving the loss of his wife this past June. He is still grieving over losing his mobility three years ago and everything he enjoys. He finally has the time and the money to do the things he’s always wanted to do, but he doesn’t have the health.

This has taken a huge toll on Dad’s mental health. He is miserable – sad, overwhelmed, feeling helpless. He also doesn’t understand his limitations. He was wheelchair bound before this 6 month stint in the hospital, but now he’s completely bed bound. He wants to go for a boat ride. He wants to go fishing. He wants to go on a road trip. He wants to go on a cruise. He doesn’t understand that we can’t do those things. So, he feels like we are babying him and holding him back. It’s causing frustration on everyone’s part.

I am grieving the impending loss of my dad, my best friend. My older sister is his caretaker and is grieving as well as dealing with the enormous burden of tending to him. My other siblings are grieving too. Tensions get high sometimes and it’s hard on everyone.

My emotions ebb and flow. Sometimes I feel like I’m handling it like a champ, but the last couple weeks have been hard. Sometimes I cry on the 90 minute drive to see my dad on the weekends. This past week at work, I completely lost it, and ending up sobbing in my boss’ office for 30 minutes.

I think I have it together and then one small thing happens, and everything comes tumbling down.

I am not sure how to take care of myself through this. The last 3+ weeks, I have been getting headaches nearly every day and often multiple times a day. Bad headaches. The kind that blur my vision, make me sensitive to light, and make me nauseous. I am going to the doctor today to try to get some answers, but I have a feeling that it’s mostly stress related.

People tell me to get out in nature, exercise, list all the things I’m grateful for, “do the things I enjoy.” The trouble is, I’ve been having a hard time finding things that actually bring me joy anymore. Even things I used to love.

I can’t remember the last time I laughed. Like, really laughed. Tears in the eyes, belly-laughed. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to enjoy things.

Maybe part of me feels guilty for being happy. How could I possibly be happy when my dad is dying? When my stepmom just died? When so many people around me are hurting and suffering? How arrogant of me to feel happiness at a time like this?

But I desperately want some happiness. I desperately want to feel like my old, cheerful self again. I desperately want a sense of normal.

You know the other hard thing about anticipatory grief? We don’t know how long it will last. Does Dad have 2 weeks left? 2 months? 6 months? How long do I have to see him suffer like this?

This is just so hard all around. One thing is for sure, I won’t be coming out of this the same person. I’ll be stronger, no doubt. And I hope, in time, that I can find my happy again.

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