There’s supposed to be five stages of grief but I think there’s also stage -1: the stage of pre-grief.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about that painful experience of realising that someone you care about may be about to die.
And because it’s just a “may” and not a definite thing, your pain is accompanied by uncertainty. You don’t know, at this point, what is going to happen. This person may get better, and live long enough to give you more opportunities to experience pre-grief. When you have a friend or relative who is old, false alarms happen a bit more frequently. You get news of illness and the news sounds bad so you brace yourself, and then – yay – they get better and you breathe a sigh of relief and carry on living as though they’ll always be around… until the next cause for alarm, the next round of pre-grieving.
And every time it feels slightly different. Which is actually my experience with post-bereavement grief too – no two bereavements affect you exactly the same. The only definite pattern I’ve seen is that there is no definite pattern, you never know how you’re going to feel and you definitely never know when the pain will hit you.
Ok, so now that I look again at what I’ve written here so far, I’m thinking: no, it’s not really pre-grief, it’s pre-bereavement grief. You can experience grief in all kinds of situations – not just when someone dies. You can grieve for the loss of a job, or a friend who has cut contact, or even a thing that you cherished. And so, when you realise someone you care about may be about to die, you grieve. You grieve in anticipation of the loss you may be about to experience. You grieve the fact that one day – even if not immediately, even if this particular illness is just a false alarm and they’ll get better – one day this person will be gone, and you’ll miss them.
Anyway, whatever you call it, it’s painful.
No, I didn’t have any particularly staggering point to make. I just needed to articulate this stuff. Thank you for listening. Have some cookies.