Ambiguous Loss and Anticipatory Grief

I wish I had known about ambiguous loss and anticipatory grief much earlier in my life.

In yesterday’s post, I alluded to my Dad’s transition into residential aged care. 

Today, I want to share some knowledge I have gained over the past few months, because I have found it enormously helpful and therapeutic in dealing with my own experiences and feelings.  I am sure I wasn’t the only person who didn’t know these things, and my hope is that others will benefit from these insights. 

My father has become increasingly frail, and even though I knew the time was coming, making the decision to move him into residential aged care was incredibly painful. For him, it was a loss of independence, his home, his cat and my dog. His sadness was profound, and completely understandable. Still, he was very thankful — as were my siblings and I — that he could move into an excellent place where the care is consistently empathetic and kind, where the food is good, and where he can have his own things around him. 

My emotions, too, were complex. I felt guilty, even though I knew it was the right time and the right thing to do. No loving child wants to see their dad leave behind the life he has known and the things he has accumulated, and no loving child wants to see their Dad so sad. 

I experienced a very real sense of grief and loss while packing up his things, setting up his room, and helping him transition to a new phase of life, There was more to it, though, and often I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling. 

Through my research and reading, and through wonderful constructive advice from friends who have been through similar situations, I have come to understand that many of the things I am experiencing are encompassed by two terms: ambiguous grief and anticipatory grief

I had never heard of either one until recently, and I think they should both be much more commonly known.

Ambiguous Loss is a kind of grief experienced where there is no distinct end or no closure. Generally speaking, it arises from an emotionally painful or turbulent situation that one is going through, and which doesn’t have an “end date”. The reasons for grief or a profound sense of loss might be indistict, or complex, or unidentifiable at the time. Sometimes the grief masquerades as anger, frustration or overwhelm. To experience ambiguous grief is vague, exhausting and indefinite in more ways than just the timeline. 

It’s that mixed feeling of sadness at having to make big decisions that we didn’t feel ready to make, and thankfulness that things worked out perfectly when we needed them to.

It’s the sadness we felt at making decisions about what to do with his things, and asking my best friend to adopt his cat, even though he is still with us.

It’s the sadness I feel at saying goodbye and leaving Dad behind every evening, knowing he is safe and well cared for in his new home, but also that he is no longer ‘at home’. He is exactly where he needs to be, and I love it and hate it at the same time. 

Anticipatory Grief occurs when one realises or acknowledges that death is approaching, or even just a likely outcome. 

This is what I have experienced on a number of occasions when Dad had a health crisis and ended up in hospital. Most vivid in my memories was March 1st this year when I had followed the ambulance to the ER in the wee hours of the morning. When I got there, instead of being taken through to see Dad right away as I had always been before, the doctor on duty actually took me into a little room and  had “the talk” with me to made sure I understood how precarious Dad’s condition was, and that he might not make it this time. To his relief, I was fully aware of that. I suppose many people are surprised by it, or in denial, and I totally get that, too. It’s the natural reaction but, having been there more than once, it is no longer my default. There was no dozing while I sat by my father’s bed that night: instead, I spent hours composing the message I would send to my siblings, and another that I would send to other family and friends, at a decent hour of the morning. 

This is what we felt when packing up Dad’s things for his room at the home, and when sorting and cleaning out the accumulation of papers, trinkets, and household items in his house. Those are the sorts of things usually done after someone dies, not before. Still, it had to be done. 

Similarly, putting his wallet and the jewellery box containing my grandfather’s wedding ring and Dad’s much-loved pocket watches in a special spot in my own house for safekeeping felt strangely poignant and painful and incredibly sad. 

This is what I go through every time Dad has a episode of poor health, or gets an infection, or can’t express why he doesn’t feel good. It happens when he has times of vagueness or confusion, and when he can’t find his words All of those things are happening more often than they used to, so the sense of grief increases as time goes on. 

What I have learned thus far is that ambiguous grief is a very real and important part of the emotional process, and that my feelings don’t always have to be understood to make sense and be accepted as valid

In hindsight, I wish I had understood both of these realities when my mother was diagnosed with dementia, when she went into care, and when she didn’t know who I was anymore. My father, siblings and I were grieving the loss of the person she had been long before she actually passed away. When she died, it felt like it was my mother and someone entirely different at the same time. I felt so guilty about feeling that her passing was a liberation for her and a relief for us, even though my grief was as desperate and profound as ever. I was angry at myself for not knowing how to feel. 

At least this time, with experience and some knew understandings, I can accept the vagueness and complexity of my feelings, which can change from one moment or one day to the next, and just let it be whatever it is. I can cherish every moment with Dad and grieve at the same Time. I am free to laugh and cry, to tell my siblings the stories that are simultaneously sad and funny, and to live each day as it comes without having to explain to myself or anyone else why I’m a mess. 

As awkward and painful and weird as that may be, but I think it’s a healthy way to be. Still, I know I need to manage all those pesky feelings so I stay healthy, too. 

So, I try to make sure I talk honestly with my husband, siblings and closest friends about my thoughts and feelings. My sisters and brother are feeling the same things, and they all live interstate, so keeping them in the loop and encouraging them to express their feelings are hugely important, too. 
I allow myself to cry. ‘Being strong’ is rubbish. 
I refuse to beat up on myself when things are tough, or if I don’t achieve everything on my ‘to-do’  list. 
I remind myself to take each day as it comes.
I remind myself that we are doing the best thing for our dad, and that he is being expertly and compassionately cared for.

And every single day, I hold Dad’s hand and I tell him I love him. Because, throughout this whole process, Dad being sure of that is the most important thing of all.  

Different Kinds of Grief‪
#EmotionalIntelligence #emotions #grief #feelings #MentalHealthMatters  #MentalHealthAwareness‬ #personal #blogpost 

Helpful Reading: 

What Is Ambiguous Loss? 

Ambiguous Grief: Grieving Simone Who Is Still Alive 

How To Deal With Ambiguous Loss

Grief Before Death: Understanding Anticipatory Grief

Grieving Before A Death: Understanding Anticipatory Grief

More.

How people respond to adversity speaks volumes about their character.


Yesterday a friend posted on Facebook that living in quarantine conditions “turns people into a**holes”. 

My response was that this was true, but only for those already so inclined. 

Thinking more about it since then, I have come to the conclusion that this extended quarantine/lockdown is proving to be an intensifier. It brings out the true colours that underlie each person’s character and makes them more evident.

Those who are inclined to be selfish have been increasingly inconsiderate of others.  Those who sulk at not getting their own way have done exactly that, usually all over social media. Those who tend to be angry have been. Those who tend to resist being told what to do have defied the rules and done as they pleased. 

On the other hand, we have also seen plenty of evidence that recent adversity has brought out the best of humanity, too. 

Those who tend to be generous have definitely been so. Those who advocate for the underprivileged have done so relentlessly. Those who are kind and thoughtful have shown more kindness and thoughtfulness, often to the very great surprise and gratitude of others. The levels of commitment, giving, service and going the extra mile have been inspiring.

What we are seeing is more of each person’s true colours. 

It’s also becoming evident that we will see even more of the same while social restrictions and slowed economies continue. 

It is important to understand this because we should not be making excuses for anyone’s bad behaviour. We should not be dismissing things we would not normally accept or shrug off. And we certainly shouldn’t respond to appalling behaviour by explaining it away with lines like “they are under pressure”. 

All that does is enable people to continue being nasty, with little fear of consequences for their words and actions. 

We are all under pressure. Many of us are struggling one way or another. We are all missing people, places and things we love.
We’re just not all being horrible about it. 

Quarantine: Bringing Out the Best And Worst In People
‪#QuarantineLife #LOCKDOWN2020 #COVIDー19 #Personality #behavior #blogpost‬

Don’t It Go To Show Ya Never Know?

We’re not on Skid Row, we’re Somewhere That’s Clean instead.

Tonight was supposed to be opening night.

But who knew, when we started rehearsing ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ in January, that it would be Covid-19, not Audrey II, that would multiply and attempt to take over the world?

So much planning and preparation and rehearsal had already gone into the show when that drafted virus reared it’s ugly, spiky head and took over the world.

So much bonding had happened between cast members: new friendships, shared experiences, mutual encouragement, and lots of laughter will do that. So will working together toward a shared goal. And so will learning harmonies, putting them together and experiencing the magic that happens when it sounds amazing.

Then, in March, we had to hit the ‘pause’ button. We promised we’d bring it back, and we will. We assured the cast it would be our next show, and they’d be in it— and it’s true. We will.

Still, it’s hard to go from being part of something to Instead being suspended in the anticipation of it yet again, yet far more tantalising than it was before we started because now we had a taste of how good it was going to be.

It’s hard to go from three rehearsals a week to staying home and social distancing.

There was so much that was hard about calling a corona-halt to the show, even though it was the right thing to do.

So, tonight, even though it should have been opening night, I am reminding myself that every one of my cast members is safe. Healthy. Not infected. Able to be in the show when we pick it up again next year.

I am reminding myself that there is still so much to look forward to. We will do this show. We will do it together. We will build on the work we’ve already done, and not one bit of our work will have been wasted.

Our bonding will continue, our friendships will solidify and grow, and we will keep on making memories as well as music.

Personally, I can’t wait!

A Reflection on Teaching From Home: Week 1

While online classes may not be ideal, things could definitely be worse.

I wrote in Tuesday night’’s post that the first day of teaching my classes remotely/online was challenging. 

I thought it would be good to follow that up at the end of the school week with my insights after a few more days’ experience.

Things definitely got better as the school week progressed. 

All of my students seemed to relax and interact more normally as the week progressed. I think some of them found it really awkward and a bit artificial at first, and many others— myself included— just didn’t know what to expect. 

I had to make my expectations for behaviour and interactions super clear via email to a couple of kids. 
I actually made an explicit list of what I expected and what they were not welcome to do.  This helped to set boundaries for them, and they changed their attitude accordingly. Things were a lot better after that. 

My students have done some great work this week, and I have been able to give positive and constructive feedback to encourage them. 
This also encourages me: I can do this. The kids appreciate my effort and input. My classes are benefiting from the structure, the lessons and the encouragement I have given them. It doesn’t matter if I feel it’s not the same or not enough, or as though I am treading water. 
I am good enough. My teaching is valuable. I can do this. 

I am so thankful for  my school and its  consistent, uniform approach to the delivery of lessons and learning material. I’m also super glad we have followed the same routines and timetables. 

In times of turmoil and change, schools, teachers and students all have the greatest chance of success when everyone is on the same page and things are kept as consistent and stable as possible

In my discussions with friends and family who teach elsewhere, I have learned that this isn’t happening elsewhere. Timetables and class sizes have changed for some, some have new classes they’ve never had before, and others have no streamlined or consistent method of delivery or assessment. One poor soul is trying to deal with all of those complications and more. 
I am trying to be as supportive of that particular friend as I can be, and have suggested that if the school has left it completely up to him to manage, he might follow the practices my own school has implemented so that his students have some structure and consistency with his classes at least. He’s going to do that, and suggest those same things to his colleagues. 

Teachers worldwide are struggling with the same anxieties, challenges and logistics that I am. 
I am note alone. 
Nor are my students. 

We should not be discouraged if we don’t get through the regular program, or if things don’t always work the way we’d like them to.

Our online classrooms provide valuable connection and communication for the kids. It helps them to feel less isolated and cut off, and gives them regular opportunities to think and talk about life beyond corona. 

Ultimately, my students are safe and healthy at home, and learning every day. Those are blessings that should not ever be taken for granted in this strange coronaverse of 2020. 

I can honestly say I am looking forward to another week of positive, encouraging lessons and interactions after a well-earned rest this weekend. 

Down, But Not Out.

When people prove disappointing or worse, don’t let them drag you down to their level.

It’s fair to say that I’m glad to see the weekend. 

Earlier this week I found myself disappointed again by someone else’s basic inability to be a decent human being, and stunned by the willingness of others to simply accept it and look the other way. 

Sadly, it seems you can go the extra mile a couple of dozen times, give of yourself and your time to achieve a common goal, and support and encourage someone as much as you possibly can, but they’ll still cut you down and leave the knife in your back when it suits them.

I know, I know. I made the same old mistake – trusting that someone else would operate on the same principles of basic decency and human understanding that I do. I should know by now that the fact that I *should* be able to trust certain people is irrelevant. I’ve been hurt that way countless times before, and It seems I still haven’t learned. 

Still, I refuse to beat myself up for that. I’m feeling disrespected, under-appreciated, taken for granted and consequently emotionally bruised enough as it is. 

I don’t know the reasons for it, and I probably never will.  That knowledge wouldn’t change anything anyway. As much as it sucks, it is what it is. 

I know at some point – hopefully not too far in the future – the hurt and frustration I feel will diminish. Maybe I’ll even find there’s a blessing in disguise in the situation. It’s always a possibility. 

I feel as though I have shed enough tears, ranted sufficiently, and discussed the situation with my husband and best friend to the point where I can resign myself to the way things are, Being at peace with things isn’t out of the question, but I’m not there yet. I’m still hurt, and I’m still angry.

What I need to do is focus on healthy ways to deal with how I’m feeling. To that end,  I’ve immersed myself in things I love: rehearsals for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ with the most wonderful theatre company on the planet, reading great books, spending time with people I love, and cuddling with my fur babies. 

This is all just another reminder that we can’t always have what we want, or insist that things be the way we want them. We can’t stop people from being horrible human beings, and there are many things in life that are beyond our control. 

It’s important to remember, though, that there are plenty of things I can control. First and foremost on that list is the way in which I choose to respond to challenges, conflicts and adversity.

I refuse to seek revenge.  I refuse to hit back, or be manipulative, hurtful and cruel to that person in response. That would make me as low as them. 

At the same time, I refuse to let that person take advantage of me again.  I will not let that person have more control over my life or my feelings than they have already had. 

I refuse to allow this situation to keep me down, dampen my spirit or harden my heart. 

In addition to all the other emotions I’ve experienced this week, I’m determined that I am not going to allow that person, or this situation, to undo me. If they think they’ve won, they have seriously underestimated me. There is, after all, more than one way to win in any given situation.

I’m going to keep doing what I do. I’m going to make the most of my opportunities.  I’m going to shine, and succeed, and accomplish everything I set out to do.

Given that I have managed to do exactly that thus far while living with fibromyalgia and chronic back pain, a little opposition from a sulky so-and-so isn’t going to stop me.

And if they, or anyone else, want to criticise, I don’t care. If they happen to be jealous or intimidated by what I achieve, that’s just too bad. I’ll be over here, living my best life, wearing my sassy pants, and not worrying about what petty people think or how puerile they are. 

The Miracle of A River Otter

Photo by WordyNerdBird. All rights reserved.

This wonderful post from April Stace echoes many of my own thoughts and feelings about the state of the world we live in. It also features otters, which are among my favourite creatures in the world… so I felt compelled to share it.

Thank you, April, for your insights.

April Stace

The darkest point of the year is when we start preparing for the sun.

This is the simple truth, embedded in many earth-based forms of spirituality and religion (which most modern world religion retain, at least in their practices.) It is when the earth seems frozen that we start to think about planting seeds; it is when light and warmth are scarce that we celebrate the light and warmth in our homes, our communities, our families, our spirits.

There have been years, a decade or more, in my life when I have felt the coming of winter darkness as a threat. I have entered the season with great trepidation, anti-depressants in hand, always feeling that the autumn was just a time of watching the life be drained from flora and fauna, watching a death descend that might just get me this year as well.

Lou, Luke and I spent a…

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As The Year Ends

Like any year, 2019 had some great moments and some wonderful memorable have been made. 

Among my favourite memories are performing in Monty Python’s Spamalot! with the amazing Camperdown Theatre Company, weekend escapes camping by the beach with our closest friends, my bestie and I kidnapping each other and running away for a day or two at a time, and my own production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor TM Dreamcoat. I had three new books published, and am very proud of each of them. 


I am incredibly thankful for good friends, for those who believe in me, and for the encouragement I have received from both friends and strangers. I am blessed to be loved as fully and enthusiastically as I am. 

The past year has also left some scars that, while they may fade with time, will never truly heal. I do not wish to dwell on those, especially here. Even so, I will say in no uncertain terms — and not for the first time — that cancer, chronic illness, liars, backstabbers, and two-faced people can all improve the world by disappearing and not coming back. 

Here’s to closing the door on what has passed, and welcoming new beginnings and opportunities in the year ahead! 



The Value of Listening.

In this highly screen-oriented world, are we losing the skill of listening?

There are four main sets of skills that English teachers work to develop in their students: reading, writing, speaking and listening. 

Over the past few years of my teaching career, I have observed that my students find listening much more difficult than the others. 

I’m not talking about them showing respect or being quiet when I’m talking – most of them are pretty good at that, thankfully. 

It’s the art of deliberate, intentional listening, focusing on what is heard and processing that kind of information, that people seem to struggle with. 

I have offered my students audiobooks to help them with reading their set texts. Most of them aren’t interested in that— not even the struggling readers, who would really benefit from that kind of assistance in getting through a book. I have also offered them podcast episodes related to the books they are studying, and I don’t recall anyone taking up the offer. 

Give them a YouTube clip, though, and they’re on it like flies at a barbecue. 

Don’t get me wrong – those YouTube clips and TED Talks can be super helpful. My issue is that people – and it’s not just kids, I’m sure – are so oriented to screens and visuals and  hooked on sensory overload that they’re losing the art of listening. 

People these days frequently have music playing while they do other things – work, run, work out, eat, walk, shop, drive, clean the house, you name it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But do they ever really just stop everything else and just listen to something? 

It is really healthy to turn off the “noise” of the world and the demands of a busy life and close your eyes to focus on what you can hear. You don’t even have to listen to anything in particular – it can be fascinating to see what you can hear when devices, TVs, and appliances are turned off and things are quiet, especially if you go outside.  

In terms of listening material, there is so much available that is good to listen to beyond music or commercial radio. Audiobooks are fantastic, as I’ve observed in a previous post. There are podcasts on every imaginable subject, free of charge, just begging to be listened to. Listening to talkback radio is both informative and entertaining, if you can find a station or a show you really like. 

Listening is such a valuable skill. It enriches life in so many ways. It builds relationships, enhances learning, develops understanding of the world and the different people in it, provides entertainment, aids relaxation and soothes the soul. 

If we would all just turn off the screens, close our eyes, and open our ears more, we’d be a lot better off. 

14 Simple Ways To Make Someone’s Day – And Why You Should.

I really appreciate the small, simple things in life that let me know I’m appreciated: a smile, a hug, an encouraging text message or a silly SnapChat. It changes my day knowing that someone cares enough about me to share those things with me.

I was reminded again by Karen Nimmo’s blog post on Nerdome how important that is. In this world where some people will sell you just as quickly as looking at you, or push you under the bus if it means they’ll achieve their goals faster, there are some people who have no positive interactions with other people all day.

My smile might be the only one they see. My words of encouragement might be the only ones they hear. My random act of kindness might be the only light in a dark day.

Because I know what dark days are like, I understand the privilege — and the responsibility — of being able to change that for someone else.

It doesn’t have to cost anything at all. It isn’t an obligation.
It does require us to take our focus off ourselves for a few seconds and give something intangible, yet priceless, to another person.

I hope that my words here, and those of Karen Nimmo, encourage you to seek to make a difference in someone else’s day today. You never know – you might just make your own at the same time.

Nerdome

Source:https://medium.com/

By:Karen Nimmo

hink of the last time someone did something nice for you.

Not something big; just a small act of kindness — bought you a coffee or a treat, did a household chore for you before you’ve asked, asked how your weekend was (and genuinely listened to the answer).

Recall for a minute how that made you feel. Good, right? It’s not so much the act that creates the warmth; it’s that they were thinking of you, that they found the time and means to appreciate you, to ease your load or make you smile.

The world can be a dog-eat-dog place; often, we find ourselves competing to get what we want and need. But trampling over others for our own agendas doesn’t make us feel good. Quite the opposite, actually.

One of the best ways to boost happiness is to do something for someone else. Their…

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One In A Million.

Believe it or not, I’m one in a million. 

A million authors writing to entertain others.
A million poets bleeding their souls onto the page.
A million people trying to help others.
A million people who are actually loyal. 
A million teachers going the extra mile for their kids. 
A million people caring for someone they love. 

It might be easy to get lost in the crowd. 
It’s easy to feel insignificant.
One tree among a million in the forest, so to speak. 
But I know I am one in a million. 

We all write and grieve and serve and give of ourselves differently. 
Each of us is unique. 
Each of us is a distinct blend of personality, talent and substance. 

Not a single one of us is worthless. 

I may not stand out among the million. 
I may never strike it rich or become famous.
I may never be someone else’s ideal. 
I cannot be perfect.

The truth is, I don’t have to.None of us do.

What matters is the contrast with some of the other people on this planet: the hateful, the cruel, the greedy, the selfish, the power-hungry, the narcissists. 
What matters is that I stand against the things they accept. 
What matters is that I am true to who I am, to my priorities, my values, my faith. 

What matters is integrity. 
That’s what stands out in this world. 

That, more than anything else, makes me one in a million.