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Need advice on how to stay afloat while dealing with anticipatory grief

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Hi everyone!

I have been dealing with anticipatory grief most of my life but it is only after a year in therapy that i realised it. My mother has been nearly dying many times in my life (freak asymptomatic double pneumonia, botched surgery leading to constant infections, grapefruit-sized ovarian cyst, breast cancer, septic choc and more). I have always treated those events with a bit of distance. Moved out of the family home as soon as i could as i am an only child and my dad works full time. That allowed me to choose when and how i would help rather than trying to do as much as possible all the time and neglecting my own needs. Fast-forward 10+ years, i have two kids, am back in school and a string of events happened that made moving into my parents home (and turning it into an intergenerational home) the best possible solution for them, us (my partner and i) and the kids. Then COVID hit.

Most of my life i have used physical distance to deal with her health situation and make sure that i have my own life going on. However, right now i am a full-time online university student, full-time mom, and full-time caregiver. Even if i don't give my mom full time care, and she is mostly autonomous, the worry is constant, especially while my dad is at work. The grief is always there. The hypervigilance due to COVID is suffocating. I have been trying different methods for regaining peace of mind such as meditation, mindfulness and journaling. I bike my toddler to daycare 3-4 times per week which gives me an hour of exercize. On the other days we spend at least an hour outside with the kids so we get exercize and get out of the house. 

I guess my question is how to you focus on anything? i have been doing my university work on adrenaline rush last minute. I am reading "Smiling through your tears: anticipating grief" and am working with my therapist on accepting the pain rather than bottle it up. I am just so exhausted my brain has a hard time staying focused on my reading more than a few minutes. My partner has been doing most of the housework because i struggle functionning. Antidepressant meds numb my feelings that i already tend to numb so it feels counterproductive, plus it doesn't help my focus. Everything is closed due to COVID so getting out of the house to study is a non-starter. Weather is still cold here so studying outside is not yet an option.

Overall i guess my focus has been to keep everyone safe, keep the kids happy, and care for my mom. But the pressure of my studies have been intense, and i can't afford putting it on pause as i get student loans which allow me to be home instead of at work, and my studies are so i can get out of low-paying retail jobs and can buy the house off my parents so my dad can retire.

It feels like i am doing what i can to function and get better and understand this grief better so i can cope more efficiently, but i still struggle to get down to studying, feel a lot of anxiety, mood swings. How do you live with an ill loved one without putting your life on hold? How do you keep functioning? Also, where do you live your spirituality? I haven't found a church that fits my values and i don't really like talking to priests. No nuns in my area. I don't know where to look for respectful spiritual guidance and this part of my life is missing right now.

Thanks for reading my rambling. Any insight is much appreciated.

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I can't imagine trying to do what you are doing all while care-giving!  I would reach out for any and all help you can get, have you checked with Senior Services or Adult & Family Services?  Home Health, Hospice might have some helps also, they can be wonderful assets.

I was fortunate when I went through this to have the support of my church behind me, so I wish you well with your ongoing search.  Does your mom have a church family?  They can be invaluable, one lady came to wash mom's hair every week for three years when she was bedridden with cancer!  The minister came and prayed with her and the family.  People came to visit until the last month when we had to say family only. 

I'm afraid I don't have an answer to your question as to how to not put your life on hold as that was exactly what I did when I went through it, II had small children...infant to five, just trying to keep them quiet and run two households while at her house all day every day, do all the cooking, laundry, be her link to the outside world, try to make her comfortable, all while my heart was breaking...that was enough.  To do school on top of it?  I can't even imagine!
Anticipatory Grief and Mourning
Anticipatory Grief at Work
Anticipatory Grief and Mourning: Suggested Resources


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2 hours ago, kayc said:

I can't imagine trying to do what you are doing all while care-giving!  I would reach out for any and all help you can get

I can only add my voice to what Kay has said already. I don't know where you'll find the time ~ perhaps a friend or relative might be willing to do the research for you? ~ but this article lists dozens of resources that offer the sort of information and support you may find helpful: Caregiving in Serious Illness: Suggested Resources 

See also Caring Bridge: Creating A Network of Support Online


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