Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is there such a thing as "almost grief"?

Hi friends,

I just Googled "Patrick Swayze" to check in on him. He's been on my mind ever since I found out he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the same deadly disease that Sally had. I never had much of a tie to Patrick as an actor, but now that he's a fellow PC fighter, I feel a strong kinship with him. I know Sally would, too. I was especially intrigued by his interview with Barbara Walters (see a video clip from the interview here).

In Google, the most recent article that appears is an interview with Whoopie Goldberg, one of his Ghost co-stars. "He's going to go, but we don't know when," is the title. What a telling title for terminal disease. It's the dark cloud hanging over your head. It's the unpredictable time you may have left. It's the waiting.

Some grief specialists and psychologists have a name for it: anticipatory grief. It's a debatable term. Some think that loved ones can feel a type of grief before someone passes away. Others feel that grief begins only when a loved one's life ends.

I feel mixed about this. The 2 1/2 years that Sally was sick were life-changing for me. I know in my gut that something extraordinary happened in that time, whether we call it anticipatory grief, "almost grief" (that's the term I like), or some other name.

Do you think grief can happen before someone dies, or do you think the real grief only begins afterward? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.


  1. My father in-law has pancreatic cancer. I feel sadness because unless there is a miracle our kids will miss out on an AMAZING grandfather who has so much to teach them, but I keep hoping for a miracle (I am realistic though). I have never lost a loved one so I cannot speak to the grief piece. It's tough...I can say that much.

  2. Grief is definitely tough... Some of the hardest moments I had to face with my father were prior to his death. Where I would realize, during any given activity, that this would be the last time to do this with him.

    Those moments were the hardest to get through. You wanted to appreciate him and the time together, but inevitably my emotions would get the better of me and the activity would become harder to enjoy. This is the last hug, the last meal, the last trip outside, the last... everything.

    I completely believe that grief can begin prior to death. The emotions of loss were as apparent then as they are today. And today, I feel like I can celebrate his life, rather than concern myself with thoughts of "this is the last ____."