(article courtesy of The Mesothelioma Center)
Link to the full article below)
It’s never easy to lose someone you love. Losing a loved one to an aggressive cancer such as mesothelioma can be even more difficult, because a family member or close friend may be taken far too soon, bringing a sense of shock with feelings of grief, sadness and even depression.
There is no right way to grieve. It’s normal to be sad, angry, upset or any other emotion you may be feeling.
Everyone copes with a loss in their own way. It is an individual process and a natural part of life.
While life won’t be the same after the loss of someone important to you, moving through the grieving process will help you adjust.
There is no timetable for mesothelioma-related grief. It lasts as long as it takes to make this adjustment. It could be months — or even years.
Experiencing Mesothelioma Grief
Coping with the loss of a loved one to mesothelioma is exhausting.
As painful as it may be, it is important to experience all the thoughts and emotions that accompany the death of someone close to you.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your loss with family, friends or a counselor. Joining a grief support group is a great way to share your memories, express sadness and meet others experiencing similar emotions.
Never feel as though you must endure loss alone or be “strong” for any reason. Grief can bring even the “strongest” person to their knees.
It is important to know the difference between mourning and grief.
Grief is the internal experiences we feel when we lose a loved one. These experiences include fear, sadness, loss, regret or guilt. Mourning is what we physically express, such as crying, wearing black, visiting a grave site or talking about the loved one we lost, when we show our internal feelings of grief.
When mourning lingers for a long time without progress, it is known as complicated grief or unresolved grief.
SYMPTOMS OF COMPLICATED GRIEF INCLUDE:
- An inability to accept the loss or a continued disbelief in the death of a loved one
- Feelings of intense sorrow, emotional pain and anger
- Avoiding reminders of the loss
- Blaming others or oneself for the death
- An intense loss of desire to pursue interests or plan for the future
- Feeling that life is meaningless
- A continuous longing for the deceased
- An inability to enjoy positive memories about the loved one
Adjustment to life without a loved one may take months for some and years for others.
Neither is wrong, and you should never compare your grief process to others. In many cases, grief is not experienced in a concurrent amount of time. Emotions, behaviors and other responses may come and go.
Even after the initial grief period has ended, there will always be moments where memories or special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries “trigger” feelings of grief.
Grief Versus Major Depression
While depression may be a result of grief, it is important to understand they are not one in the same.
It is common for people to be in a depressed mood or state after a loved one dies. Feelings of pain, anger and sadness are normal, but these emotions can develop into major depression, a far more serious problem.
Roughly one in five bereaved people will develop major depression, which is also called clinical depression, according to the American Cancer Society.
SYMPTOMS OF MAJOR DEPRESSION CAN INCLUDE:
- Thoughts of being worthless or hopeless
- Ongoing thoughts of death or suicide
- An inability to perform daily tasks and activities
- Poor concentration and decision making
- Slower reactions
- Significant weight loss, weight gain, decrease in appetite or an increase in appetite
The bereaved person should seek professional help if these symptoms last more than two months after the loss. A person should get help from a mental health professional or medical doctor right away if they try to hurt themselves or plan to do so.
Supporting Others Who Are Grieving
When someone you love passes away, it often means others in your family or circle of friends may also be grieving. You may find yourself trying to support others while you are grieving yourself. It is important to show others you are there for them during a difficult time.
WAYS TO SHOW SUPPORT INCLUDE:
- Listening to the grieving person. Taking time to listen can go a long way. Some people may not be looking for advice but rather an open ear to vent their feelings. Let the grieving person lead the conversation. Sometimes they may not want to talk about their feelings or the loved one they lost and instead discuss hobbies, sports or entertainment.
- Accepting all feelings. Acknowledging grief reactions lets the person know the emotions are natural and necessary. You should never pass judgment on how well a person is coping with a loss.
- Respecting an individual’s needs. Offer to be there for them but accept if they wish to spend time alone. It is important to respect their need for privacy.
- Understanding cultural and religious differences. Many cultures have different traditions and rituals when a person dies. It is important to respect perspectives about illness and death that may differ from your own.
Although advice and sentiments are sometimes warranted, you should err on the side of caution and avoid using clichés at all costs.
WHAT NOT TO SAY TO THOSE WHO HAVE LOST A LOVED ONE TO MESOTHELIOMA:
- “Well at least you knew they were dying.”
- “You need to be strong for your kids.”
- “God works in mysterious ways.”
- “They lived a long life.”
- “Only the good ones die young.”
- “You need to move past this. You should be over this by now.”
- “I know how you feel.”
Supporting friends and family who are grieving can also be a great way to cope with your own emotions. Discussing feelings and sharing memories with other people going through a similar situation can be cathartic and help advance the healing process.
You can easily share these helpful strategies and tips for supporting someone who is grieving by downloading a copy of our grief support infographic here.