By Jasmine Dyoco
Cancer affects millions of people in the U.S. each year, and, as one of the most aggressive diseases out there, it has caused a profound amount of grief in the loved ones who must watch sufferers go through painful treatment and complications.
It’s never easy to watch someone we love suffer. When cancer leads to death, there are no norms; it can come swiftly, or it can follow a lengthy illness. Both are exceptionally difficult to overcome in their own ways, and because grief can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse, it’s important to understand the different types and how to cope with them.
This type of grief is common in people who have been by a loved one’s side as they battle cancer but know that the outcome will not be good. Seeing the physical decline of someone you love and knowing that they are preparing to say goodbye is not easy to go through and can lead to depression, anxiety, and related side-effects, such as loss of sleep or appetite. If you or someone you love is experiencing this type of grief, it’s important to talk to a trusted friend or counselor about those feelings to see what the best method of working through it will be. Often, it’s difficult to admit these feelings because it seems like we are already mourning our loved one before it is their time to go.
Grief comes in many forms, and sometimes it expresses itself in unexpected ways. Symptoms of grief can include depression, uncontrollable crying, loss of sleep and appetite, denial, numbed emotions, nightmares, and anxiety that there was something more that could have been done.
One of the most difficult things about grief is that it can ebb and flow. Some days you may feel as though you are starting to heal and come to terms with the loss of your loved one, but then the sadness returns almost out of nowhere, especially if there are outside factors at work such as a sudden memory brought on by a song, a scent, or memento.
Complicated grief is just that: grief that has many factors and isn’t easy to abolish. It can stick around for years, can lead to post-traumatic stress or anxiety, and can lead to serious depression or suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is experiencing this type of grief, it’s imperative to find a therapist or other trained professional and seek help. It’s never a good idea to go through it alone.
How to cope
It’s important to realize that you are not alone, and that grief is a natural process that helps the mind cope with overwhelming events. Although it may seem like you will never pull out of it, know that there are things you can do to help yourself heal and live with the loss you have suffered.
Aside from speaking to a therapist or counselor–or even a support group–you might consider art therapy. This has been used to help people with emotional and mental disorders, sufferers of PTSD, and those who are battling a substance abuse problem. Even people who don’t feel they are inherently creative have been able to benefit from art therapy, which uses various mediums to help ease emotional pain.
You might also try working with animals, particularly dogs. Studies have shown that having a pet in your life can lower blood pressure and help with stress levels. For extreme grief sufferers, a service dog may even be available.
Jasmine Dyoco is a fan of crossword puzzles, gardening, books on tape, learning (anything!) and fencing. She truly enjoys the work she does with Educator Labs and hopes you’ll stop by the site to learn more!