Dictionary.com defines grief as the “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss.” This is similar to bereavement, which is a period of mourning after a loss.

Both are to be expected after the diagnosis of or loss of a loved one to mesothelioma. It is critically important to know what to expect and how to deal with the emotions that accompany this difficult time.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison

What is Grief?

Image of the Angel of Grief The common misconception about grief is that it always manifests in the same way: crying, depression, reclusiveness. While this may be true for some people, it cannot be stressed enough that everyone will grieve in their own unique way and will have their own needs throughout the process.

The emotions felt by someone grieving could run the gamut from numbness all the way to uncontrollable rage. These feelings can occur at various times both before and after the death of the loved one. For this reason, grief reactions are commonly divided into three categories: anticipatory, normal, and complicated.

  • 1
    Anticipatory Grief
This type of grief is essentially what someone goes through when they know one of their loved ones might soon pass. It gives them time to mentally prepare for the death and do whatever they need to cope with it.

Mesothelioma can be a life-altering diagnosis to receive for both a patient and their loved ones. Since the disease is individualized, no two cases are alike. Many patients have outlived their diagnosis by many years through improving treatment options.

For instance, mesothelioma survivor Jodi Page was diagnosed when she was just 26 years old. She has surpassed her original prognosis of 19 months. Jodi has been a pleural mesothelioma survivor for 17 years and counting.

  • 2
    Normal Grief
A person may expect to feel this type of grief shortly following the death of a loved one and it is accompanied by the symptoms people commonly associate grief with: denial, distress, anger. It could affect everyday life by altering sleep patterns, appetite, and overall happiness.

  • 3
    Complicated Grief
This type of grief consists of behaviors that are considered atypical or extreme when compared with the normal grieving process. This can be characterized by a complete lack of sadness following the passing of the loved one, a delayed reaction to the death, or a chronic, unending period of grief-related symptoms.

Managing Grief

When it comes to dealing with normal symptoms of grief, there are many routes that someone can take, the most important factor being that they center around releasing any pain or negative emotions the person may be dealing with.

Some common coping activities people undergo are:

  • Venting – Talking to friends or family about what you’re feeling is one of the most effective ways to validate your feelings.
  • Physical activity – Many people begin exercising or practicing a sport as a form of release for the stress that they feel while grieving.
  • Create – If you have difficulty expressing yourself verbally, drawing, painting, writing poetry, or simply listening to music that validates your feelings can work wonders.

While someone experiencing common grieving symptoms does not generally need formal help, it can be a great option for those struggling to handle what they are going through and those who might be dealing with complicated grief. A professional therapist can help the bereaved look at their situation from a new perspective or help them understand their feelings about their lost loved one.

Helping Children Cope

Children huggingChildren may have a very unique bereavement process that differs from adults because of their lack of understanding of the concept of death. The age and stage of development in the child will also have an impact on what they feel and how they express it.

Children of all ages will feel distressed after a loss, however, older children will have many more questions. When these questions arise, it is especially important to address them and be as direct and honest as possible. Children have difficulty understanding euphemisms for death and it is generally not until age 12 that they understand it is a part of everyone’s life.

Validating Emotions

The most important part of grieving is for an individual to find an effective way to express what they are feeling so that their emotions are validated.

In a recent TED Talk, Aarti Patil, a student at the University of Texas at Arlington, gave a particularly moving speech about her experiences with the loss of her mother and how she has learned to live with them.

It can be especially helpful to talk to others going through the same experiences as you. Many hospitals offer support groups for those grieving the loss of a loved one. There are even mesothelioma-specific support groups that are available.

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Show Sources & Author

  1. Grief. Dictionary.com. Retrieved from: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/grief. Accessed: 12/12/2017.
  2. BEREAVEMENT AND GRIEF. Fisher Center For Alzheimer's Research Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/bereavement-and-grief/. Accessed: 12/12/2017.
  3. Grief, Bereavement, and Coping With Loss (PDQ®). PubMed Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0032576/. Accessed: 12/12/2017.
  4. Grief, Bereavement, and Coping With Loss (PDQ®)–Patient Version. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/advanced-cancer/caregivers/planning/bereavement-pdq#section/_1. Accessed: 12/12/2017.
  5. Coping with Grief. Cancer.net. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/managing-emotions/grief-and-loss/coping-with-grief. Accessed: 12/12/2017.

About the Writer, Robert Lethbridge

Robert Lethbridge is member of the community outreach team at Mesothelioma Guide. His goal is to improve the lives of those affected by mesothelioma by increasing awareness.