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Catherin

Never had to deal with death. Please help

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Just over a year ago my grandad had a stroke. Throughout my life I’ve had a special love for him like nobody else. He’s eccentric and interesting and funny and clever and weird. I loved telling people about him and I wish everyone could meet him. 
Since his stroke we as a family have done everything we can to help his recovery, this is difficult as he and my grandma live abroad. The house has been adapted and nurses and physiotherapists employed to visit him multiple times daily. 
Due to Covid-19 his progress stalled and he regressed back to how he was immediately after the stroke. 
My grandma is 87 and has not been able to cope for a long time. Their relationship has been strained for decades and becoming a full time carer overnight has not improved things. She hasn’t stopped since his stroke and hasn’t done a single nice thing for herself. She was sociable before but hasn’t attended any outings since he got sick. 
We made the difficult decision to move my grandad into a residencial home 2 weeks ago, for both his and my grandma’s sake. He’s settling in well for the most part but is generally very negative about everything (the stroke has made him this way). 
A few days before he went into the home my grandma got sick and ended up in hospital for an emergency operation on her intestine. She isn’t recovering as they would like her to.
I find myself all of the sudden facing the possibility that she may not recover, and if she does, I realise that she may not have long left anyway. 
I’m lucky enough to have never had to deal with a death before but this means I have absolutely no idea how to cope. How can they just not be here anymore? I won’t be able to call and speak to them, share memories together, update them on my life and have them be proud of me. I don’t know what to do with these feelings. 

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@Catherin, what you are facing is anticipatory death, and is a grieving in itself...of knowing life can change on a dime, of how it'll affect your life, especially not knowing how to handle it.  I am sorry you are finding yourself in this situation, I know it is hard.

There is much information here about grief, tons of articles as well as posts.  I'll list a couple to get you started in understanding the process.

As to how to live without the person who has always been there, that is individual both in how it affects you and in how you cope, we're all unique, but we do find some commonalities in grief as well.  The hardest death I've had to deal with was loss of my husband at much too young an age, unexpectedly and suddenly, it blindsided me and I did not know how to do life without him!  I found this site, that was 15 years ago, and it helped tremendously to know there were others that got it, and that all of my feelings were normal.  At the time, my anxiety was through the roof and I wasn't sleeping, I finally got help for both.

The second hardest death was my dog, he died 11 months ago, cancer.  He was my constant companion, best friend, and the most perfect dog (for me) I've ever had!  Watching him go downhill was so hard.  Having to wake up without him here was excruciating, he was very much my family, part of my everyday life.

Somehow we do survive loss...I've lost so many, parents, grandparents, MIL & FIL, aunts & uncles, cousin, sister, niece, nephew, many friends and animals but those two affected my everyday life the most by far.  Then I lost my 25 year old cat, Kitty.  With her she was so ready to go, lost half her body weight, kidneys and liver shut down, death was a release.  We can have multiple feelings at once, all of them valid.  We can feel pain at missing them, all while feeling relief that they're no longer suffering.

https://www.griefhealingblog.com/2014/08/grief-understanding-process.html
https://www.griefhealingblog.com/2009/11/anticipatory-grief-and-mourning.html
In addition, I wrote this article of the things I'd found helpful on my grief journey, some of them early on, some of them years into it, our grief journey is ever evolving.  I hope you will save it and can refer to it as the time comes.

 

TIPS TO MAKE YOUR WAY THROUGH GRIEF

There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time.  The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew.  It can be challenging enough just to tackle today.  I tell myself, I only have to get through today.  Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves.  The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor.  Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks.  They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief.  If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline.  I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived.  Back to taking a day at a time.  Suicide Hotline - Call 1-800-273-8255
  • Give yourself permission to smile.  It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much.  
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself.  We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it!  Some people set aside time every day to grieve.  I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever.  That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care.  You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is.  We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc.  They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group.  If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient, give yourself time.  There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc.  They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it.  It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters.  
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time.  That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse.  Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet.  Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely.  It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him.  Besides, they're known to relieve stress.  Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then.  You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now.  That's normal.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then.  Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first.  You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it.  If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here.  We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day.  It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T.  It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully.  You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it.  It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering.  It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.

 

 

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@kayc thank you so much, I've been reading lots of other posts today and they have helped me a lot. I don't know how it's so comforting that strangers are going through similar feelings but it is.

Thank you

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19 hours ago, Catherin said:

I don't know how it's so comforting that strangers are going through similar feelings but it is.

Because it's affirming and we know we're not alone in how we're feeling, and it's normal for us to feel the way we do under the circumstances.  (((hugs)))

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