When we are caring for a loved one with a chronic or life-threatening illness, we are not only grieving their loss of health or abilities, or their impending demise, but also often subconsciously, grieve our own possible loss of health, and leaving loved ones behind. Triggers from childhood, with our loved one whom we are caring for, or with another person come up. Our other family dynamics, our own fears, and doubts about possible future scenarios can come crashing down, often clouding our judgments, making us lose sight of what really matters to the person we are trying to help. The feeling of not doing or being enough to everyone around us, of not wanting to give up on our loved one, of wanting to control every aspect of the situation, and guilt around unresolved issues rise up like hot coal under our feet.

That is why as hard as it may be, finding a way to communicate long before an illness, if possible, or learning to be open and vulnerable about how each party feels and wishes for themselves, and honoring the wishes of those who have expressed them, rather than our own wishes for them is a crucial part of anticipatory grief process. It starts with intent and awareness.