Grief After Long Term Illness

Overview

We discuss how two of the emotional responses loss caused through long term illness can be recognised and overcome, through simple, key triggers.

Read Time: 4 Mins

Death caused through long term illness often has the insensitive attachment of an expectation shorter grieving period. This is because people believe loved ones have had months or even years to come to terms with the loss before it happens. This, of course, is not true for everyone and what makes grief such a complex emotion is the unexpected way loss can affect us. We all come to terms with grief in different ways, death caused by the long-term illness can be just as difficult as sudden death.

Being close to someone experiencing a long-term illness is an exhausting emotional roller coaster. Episodes of great improvement are often followed by sudden decreases in health can occur on a daily basis. It is often said that people going through this feel constantly on edge and have trouble resting, as they are in a constant state of emotional flux. Losing a loved one after months or years of this roller coaster may leave some people still in this constant emotional loop, as the impact of grief and previous experience makes the loss hard to digest. Some people reported feeling as though the person would come back in a few days or so, as they had previously experienced sudden health drops followed by cycles of improved health.

You can recognise this emotional response through a consistent state of anxiety that leaves you feeling on the edge. Changes in eating habits, changes in sleeping habits and a lack of emotional stability are all common grief responses, if these responses become unmanageable you should look to seek additional help.

This emotional cycle should be discussed with family members or close loved ones who are able to talk you through the loss and what comes next. For you, what comes next could be farewell arrangements or the moving of personal items. Both can be highly traumatic experiences as the disappearance of the loved one becomes more apparent. Ensure you are not alone during this time.

Picture of hand with medical attachments

Not enough

Following grief shock comes anger or frustration. In this situation, you might be asking yourself ‘why me?’ Or ‘why them?’. We hear of many people who have overcome long term illness and so when the worse does happen, it can be difficult to understand why treatments didn’t work for your loved one, while they worked for someone else. Though these feelings represent an important stage in the grief process, anger should not be festered on as it can negatively affect your health and personal relations. Instead, separating yourself from news stories discussing illness success stories and other forms of potentially triggering content can be the first step you take in overcoming this grief stage. Clearing distractions and negative factors from your life is a key part of positive mental health and is even more important while grieving.

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