The doctors have given you the news – your loved one is terminal and they recommend hospice care.
This is difficult news no matter who you are.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is emotionally devastating.
In fact, an adverse event like the death of a loved one can be the trigger event for depression and anxiety.
And especially so, when you don’t give yourself the right mental and emotional care.
In this post, I will be sharing pointers on how you can prepare yourself emotionally when you find out your loved one will need hospice care.
Grief is a process
It is important to understand that grief is a process.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is a famous Swiss-American psychiatrist who studied death and grief. In her famous book On Death and Dying, Kubler Ross described five steps in the grieving process.
- Denial – At the very beginning of the grieving process, it is normal for people to be in denial of what has happened or what is about to happen. During this stage the world makes no sense. Everything looks meaningless. People are in shock. People cannot believe this is happening to them.
- Anger – Anger is the next stage of grieving. Anger during grief is a very natural reaction. Don’t get upset at yourself or feel you are losing control. You might be angry at yourself for not noticing your loved one was sick earlier. Your anger might be that you did not get to spend enough time with them as you had hoped. You might begin to feel anger towards other people – family members, doctors and even hospice caregivers. Anger is a common part of grief. It is important to remember this and recognize this in oneself.
- Bargaining – During this step, you might want to do anything just to save the life of your loved one. This is where you will hear people say things like “I wish I could die in her place” or “Oh God if you let my husband live, I will never have an argument with him ever again” or “if only I had more time with them, I would tell them how much I love them”.
- Depression – During this stage, it begins to dawn on people that their loved one really is dying and that there is not much they can do about it. This is where deep sadness about the loss sets in. It is normal to cry, feel helpless, experience sleeplessness and a loss of appetite during this stage. It is important not to suppress any feelings of sadness you feel at this stage. Crying over a loss or potential loss is a normal response. Allow it to happen. Seek professional counseling if you feel you need it.
- Acceptance – When you accept that the loss is real and happening, it does not mean that you are “okay” with the fact that your loved one is dying. This step is also a natural state in the grieving process. Acceptance is simply coming to terms with the reality that the loss will be permanent. Most people don’t enter this stage until months after their loved one’s death.
Like I mentioned before, grief is a process. Not everyone will go through the steps in a linear order. But everyone will go through the emotions that come with each stage. Sometimes you will be in denial and be angry at the same time. And it is possible that you experience anger while you are feeling deep sadness.
Whatever the case is for you, my point here is that you will have to recognize that each of these stages is necessary in helping you grieve properly.
What else can you do during this time?
- During hospice care, there is an opportunity for you to get respite from care-giving if you are a primary caregiver. Respite gives caregivers a break from their hard work. Take advantage of it. Use this time to practice self-care.
- Talk to a mental health counselor if you need to.
- Journal what you are feeling at this time. Research has shown that people who journal their thoughts and feelings about traumatic events are more aware of their emotions and thus have better control.
- Create as many great memories as you can with your loved one during this time.
- Exercise at least three times per week. Exercise releases a group of chemicals in our brains known as endorphins. Endorphins interact with our brain cells to give us an overall sense of well-being.
- It might be time to patch up family wounds so that these don’t exacerbate your grief.
- Create boundaries by saying no. This applies in everyday life too but is especially important when you are grieving.
- Most caregivers feel they need to be “strong” for everyone else. There is strength in showing emotion too.
- Join grief support groups in your community.
Finding out your loved one has to be in hospice care is an emotional tough spot.
In this post, I’ve shared with you what you can do to prepare yourself emotionally when you find out your loved one needs hospice care.
If you found this post useful, please consider sharing it with someone else who needs it.