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Anticipatory Grief: Knowing My Child Is Going to Die
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Nov 04, 2007
One of the most silent griefs in all of child loss is one that clinicians call anticipatory grief. Putting that in terms we can better understand, it is knowing your child is going to die, but not knowing how to handle the pain. It is also looking to the future death of your child and attempting to play out in your mind how you can prepare for this moment that no parent should ever have to face.

A brief article such as this can never do justice to the magnitude of this grief, but we will attempt to give some thoughtful suggestions on coping skills for getting through this anticipatory grief.

We are people made to function with hope, and even when given the news that death is imminent for our child, hope will invade our every thought. Allow it to! Hope gives us the courage and the mental padding we need to make it through the exhaustion and stress caused by this heart-wrenching type of grief. Preparing for the death of a child is almost an unspeakable task!

Donít think too far ahead because when dealing with crisis situations and terminal illness, the prognosis can change almost hourly. Think one day at a time. Then, when you have that in handle, allow your mind to think a week in advance. Thinking months in advance is too much, and you will often encounter grief burnout and a deep, paralyzing depression as a result.

Family disruption is a fact. When a child is terminally ill, normal family life as we once knew it no longer exists, and we are now faced with creating a new normal that involves knowledge of medication, trips to the hospital, daily emotional changes, financial strains, and learning medical terms and treatments. Seek help when dealing with all of this. Do not travel this difficult journey alone!

Seek the help of others for the day-to-day activities that must continue. Friends and family members want to help, but they donít know just what to do unless you give them guidance. Find someone that can volunteer help with daily activities such as cooking, laundry, and taking care of other children that live in the home. Be a list maker and designate the help of others to do tasks that will take precious time of yours away from your child. By allowing others to help you, they can share in your grief, too, and become a strong support system.

Most important of all is to take care of yourself. This might initially sound selfish, but it is imperative that you take care of yourself so that you can have the daily energy it takes to get through the grief of the day. You are not made to function without replenishing your emotional state and your need for rest. This double grief will deplete you very quickly if you donít make provision to replenish yourself daily. Eat nourishing foods, drink lots of water, and take frequent naps. Take a walk, a soak in the tub, get a new haircut Ė do something just for you minus any guilt. Replenishment is a necessity and not a luxury.

Finally, remind yourself often that when you make it through one day, youíve taken one very big step forward in your journey of grief. One day at a time, one step at a time, and you will make it! With the help of your family, friends, clergyman, hospice care Ė you will receive adequate support to get through the deep grief you are facing each and every day!
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