“Bereaved people, even those who have witnessed the apparently peaceful death of a loved one, often need to tell their story repeatedly, and that is an important part of transferring the experience they endured into a memory, instead of reliving it like a parallel reality every time they think about it.”
― Kathryn Mannix,
Anticipatory grief describes the tumultuous feelings and reactions that occur when someone we love is going to die or when we are diagnosed with a terminal disease.
Anticipatory grief is also associated with other health-related losses like body changes after cancer treatments, the fear of a scheduled mastectomy, loss of independence due to chronic illness, or health-related issues like a divorce or the loss of a job.
The turmoil we experience with the news of imminent loss of life is very complex. Adding to the wide range of physical and medical challenges, we are bound to experience an array of emotional, mental, social and spiritual changes that require special care and attention.
Some of us may even face difficult life choices like a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order or, in some cases, the complicated decision of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). These delicate moments are challenging and can be terrifying and overwhelming.
Speaking to a grief counsellor can help alleviate the anxiety you may be experiencing during this period of confusion and grief.
Preparing for a Loved One’s End of Life
"When the oncologist delivered the bad news about my husband’s lung cancer, I knew that his first fear would be losing his ability to function independently and losing the role that defined him as the steady support for all of us. He knew that his role in the family was going to change as the illness would progress; and I didn’t know how to help him. I looked for a place to relieve my emotions, to balance and clear my mind, for a way to look after myself so I could in turn look after him and our family. Malia was exceptionally caring and understanding. She knew what it was to walk in my shoes so her support was just what I needed."
- Natalie P.
A note about Imminent Grief
"My dad passed away with his hand in mine yesterday morning. I feel empowered and honoured. Of course, I grieve and will continue to do so, but I feel him with me. I can’t express enough my gratitude for the support and help I received from you; without it I would have not been able to prepare myself to be with him when he died. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You not only guided me through this process but you showed me a different way to experience the process. I will forever be grateful for that".
- Catherine M.
Loss of a family member
The death of a family member is profoundly painful; nothing can prepare us for the sadness and confusion one feels when a loved one is gone forever.
Because of the natural complexity of family relationships, the death of a loved one often brings to the surface feelings that may impact the dynamics of their survivors. A cacophony of emotions will come and go, and some may even self-blame for the death of their loved one or begin to blame others; feelings of anger, fear and confusion can make it challenging to accomplish the simplest daily tasks, and these confusing emotions may even impact the sense of belonging and purpose.
In most cases, grievers have many unanswered questions and regrets, with heartache for not having asked the right questions, not being present at the right moment, or not having said what they wanted to say. The death of a loved one can even bring about the questioning of our life trajectory and may even mirror our mortality.
Research shows that healthy grieving requires the support of family and friends. Research also shows how important it is to express emotions openly without feeling responsible for the reactions and feelings of others.
Secondary Losses and grieving from a distance
During the funeral of my father I realized that this was probably the last time I would visit my country of origin. I knew that with both my parents gone many of the the memories of my childhood would dissipate in the distance. After several months back in Toronto, I found myself grieving alone and without the support of my closest relatives. I was missing my father deeply, and at the same time I began to mourn my mother who had died 10 years earlier. After a few sessions with Ms. Ronderos I learnt that with the loss of my father I was also mourning my childhood, my mother, my siblings, and the family home which I left when I moved to Canada. With Ms. Ronderos guidance and support, I began uncovering my sorrows and I am now making changes to actively seek the support of my community and even to even return to visit my family in Ecuador.
- Clara R.
Death of a friend
"There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family."
The death of a good friend can be devastating. Many times, this significant loss is not acknowledged socially, and as a result, grievers find themselves mourning in isolation and without the support they desperately need.
The hidden grief or sorrow of losing a dear friend can throw mourners into upheaval and confusion, and in many cases, the death of that particular person means that they've lost the one who understood them best or the one whom they trusted most.
There are significant losses that, for various reasons, are silenced, and those losses are not socially recognized. Not being able to grieve openly adds unbelievable distress to the already profound sadness one is experiencing.
Those who are left suffering in silence are out of the compassionate and caring support of their family and community, and their inability to grieve openly often has profound implications on their health, family relations, work and other aspects of their social life.
'Disenfranchised' grievers need understanding and support to mourn openly, and grief counselling and coaching can offer that space to openly express without hesitation the complex feelings attached to their grief. With support and acceptance, grievers can learn how to continue loving and living with their special friend's absence.
It was not "just" a dog, a cat, a bird or any other creature that just died; the animal companion you lost was also a family member, and you may be experiencing significant grief and conflicting emotions.
Losing a pet can leave a deep void in your life. It can change your daily routine, which can cause ripple effects that go far beyond the actual loss of your animal friend. Caring for your pet offers activities that become part of your daily routines and allows you to socialize with other dog owners at the park. You probably wake up daily to feed your cat or return home early enough to take your dog for a walk or to provide for your bird. Losing a cherished pet also means losing a vital companion willing to comfort you without objection. In addition to the initial pain you experience, you will feel aimless and lost in the days, weeks and even months after your pet dies.
Although grieving over the death of a cherished pet may be intense and even long-lasting, the process can be different from other losses. Our society doesn't understand the meaning of that loss, and many times, we criticize grievers for expressing their feelings openly or for wishing to hold a ritual.
Research tells us that social support is crucial in recovering from all types of grief, including when the loss is of a loved animal. Speaking about your loss without shame and fear of criticism will help you in your journey through your grief. I have suffered the loss of my four-legged companions. I have felt the emptiness they left in my heart, home and my life. You are not alone. Let's talk and grieve openly.
The loss of an animal companion
"I was not ready for the loss of our 12-year golden retriever Noah. Despite the wonderful support we received from friends when Noah died so unexpectedly, I was devastated . I had never experienced grief like this before. Weeks and months passed and at my husband’s suggestion, I looked for professional help and am forever grateful I followed his advice. During the first couple of sessions with Malia I sobbed. After a few sessions and as I felt more comfortable to express my deep sadness, other hidden losses began to surface; losses I thought I had resolved. With Malia we decided to follow a plan to gradually move on, so I could learn to live differently without Noah but with him in my heart. I started to enjoy my walks again and started to visit the park so I could play with other dogs; I gradually began to entertain the possibility of bringing another dog to our home. When DJango our new puppy came to our lives I fell in love with him right away. Noah's pictures are with us and his love will always be in our hearts."
- Rebecca H.