There are a few of the major emotions that can be part of the process of grief. You may need to deal with them before you can progress through your grief. The table includes their possible causes, consequences, and ways to cope with them. There are general ways to cope, such as talking with sympathetic friends, loved ones, or others who are going through this, attending support groups, or reading books or listening to tapes designed for this purpose. In many cases there may be specific ways to help relieve or channel certain emotions or feelings.
Fear is often the result of the unknown. It can hinder you or motivate you, depending on how you respond to it. However, even if you are not afraid to die, there are many other fears that can be associated with dying.
Aside from fearing the consequences of death, there may be some fears that can be dealt with, such as being afraid:
- of where you might die and dying alone;
- of suffering, pain, and loss of self-control;
- to become a burden to loved ones;
- that your life had no purpose or meaning; and/or
- that you will lose your self-image.
In some cases knowing what you fear can help you face it and manage it.
- If you’re afraid of being alone, share this with your family and loved ones so they can try to always have someone with you or close to you.
- Arrange for hospice or other palliative care.
- Decide where you would like to die, make your wishes known, and make it happen. Hospice will help you.
- Share your life with family and friends, which will affirm that your life had meaning and help you maintain your self-image.
While a stage of grief, anger is also a powerful emotion. While you may not fear death, you may not feel ready to die. You might even feel angry about it, especially if it is earlier than you expected and you think of all the things you will miss.
Anger is frequently a result of frustration, anxiety, loneliness, or uncertainty. It may be associated with agitation, weakness, crying, aimless or disorganized activities, envy at seeing others with their loved ones, or
preoccupation with thoughts about life not being fair. It’s natural to be upset when you feel life has been unfair to you, but consider carefully what or who you are angry at.
- It is human nature to take your anger out on those around you, even if they are not the cause.
- In addition, you are probably sure they will accept it and forgive you for it.
- However, it can be harmful to treat those you need the most support from this way.
You may express your anger toward life, your illness, or your situation, but use it in a positive way to motivate yourself to solve problems and take action to get what you need.
Guilt and Regret
Life doesn’t always go how we want, so it is not uncommon for you to have regrets or feel guilty about things you have or have not done or said. You may even feel you have not met your own or someone else’s expectations.
- Although you may feel regret or guilt about all things done and undone, said or unsaid, the past is gone.
- Try and remember that dwelling on these regrets and guilt:
- won’t make you feel better about them;
- will not improve relationships or ease burdens; and/or
- will actually hinder everyone’s ability to cope.
This is a time you must try to look forward and control those things you can.
- You must forgive yourself if you want to improve relationships with those who will support you or any others you want to.
- Apologize, ask for forgiveness, and begin to rebuild those relationships.
- Only then will you all be able to work together to ease the process of your dying.
Anxiety and Depression
Depression and anxiety are not always a psychological condition, but a normal emotional reaction to loss.
They are quite common during the end of life.
- We have all had feelings of sadness, nervousness, and anxiety, but these feelings can be exceptionally profound while you are approaching the end of life.
- Depression and anxiety may come and go throughout the process, with grief coming in waves of distress.
- It is usually the result of feeling overwhelmed and helpless.
- As with anyone with depression, you may withdraw, become irritable and hostile, or express extreme sadness.
- Not only may you be sad or anxious, you may experience fear, dread, and anger, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, uselessness, or extreme irritability, or no joy in any activity.
- You will also be having symptoms such as your heart beating wildly, shakiness, restlessness, tiredness, nervous stomach, trouble thinking and concentrating, loss of appetite, or weight loss.
- It is not unusual for you to have the symptoms and not realize you are depressed and/or anxious until reflection.
- Unlike the previously listed emotions, these feelings may become psychological diagnoses if too severe.
- Unlike grief, they are not adaptive and can interfere with relationships, prognosis, and following palliative treatments.
- Depression and anxiety are important to treat if severe.
- Feelings may be relieved by medication and/or counseling.
When you initially accept your diagnosis, it is easy to feel that you are going through this alone. However, people have gone through similar situations and your family and friends can offer support through difficult times.
Do not isolate yourself from life or your family and friends, even if you feel this.
Maintaining a connection with your loved ones and making new connections to others in a similar situation are the best way to prevent the loneliness that can come with an end-of-life experience.
Like many life-altering situations, it is fairly common for an end-of-life experience to result in a re-examination of your life. You may look for those things in life that meant the most to you or gave the greatest sense of joy and accomplishment.
This may just be a fond reminiscing of your life, self-reflection, or spiritual quests or you may use your discoveries to guide your remaining days
- You may want to spend most of your time on those things, such as family or work, to make these remaining days more fulfilling.
- You may also want to use the time to make contributions to those activities so they will be preserved after your death.