Children often count the number of sleeps with intense excitement and anticipation as a special day or event draws near. As we grow older that level of excitement usually wanes yet the feeling of looking forward to something is still strong. Anticipating an event can bring feelings of delight, dread or even numbness.

Each spring at Threads of Life we definitely count the days until Steps for Life! So much planning goes into the event and we do look forward to it with excitement. Of course there is one thing we can’t control – the weather. Our walk committees have risk management plans in place yet it still causes some anxiety no matter what as we anticipate the day itself.

That feeling of anticipation can take us many places and be complicated by many emotions. The anniversary of my husband, Rob’s death is in May and each year in the weeks before I anticipate that day and it brings memories and plenty of emotions to the surface. I always try hard to reflect in a way that is healthy, however there will always be some regrets, words that can never be spoken, conversations unfinished and no new memories to be made. I think I have worked through the anger and the guilt but some years something new will trigger and I do know there are still pieces to explore as we approach 12 years since he died. And even though I know it happens every year, that anticipatory grief still catches me by surprise.

For families living with a life-altering injury or an occupational disease there is that same complicated anticipation of anniversary dates of when their lives were forever changed. And there is also anticipatory grief of what is yet to come and how their injury or illness will continue to impact their lives and that of their family.

A diagnosis of occupational disease usually comes with a life expectancy range. We all know that there is only one way out of this life, however to be told a definitive date is very, very different.  This causes grief to start before the loss. It is human nature to grieve when we know a loss is ahead of us. And there are so many complications along the way as roles change and small pieces of our loved one disappear as their disease progresses. It can be a slow good-bye; always wondering when the final good-bye will happen.

Some important reminders for all of us are to know that the complicated emotions of anticipatory grief is normal, and one of the best things to do is talk about how you are feeling. Connect with others who know you or your loved one and share together. And as you have all heard me say – take good care of you! Grief takes a significant emotional toll and it is some of the hardest work you will ever have to do. Self care is essential and you are worth it!

This article was first published in Threads newsletter, Spring 2018.

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