PDF Dancing in Limbo: Making Sense of Life After Cancer

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Dancing in Limbo: Making Sense of Life after Cancer

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Refueling can mean a new job or career, retirement, divorce, moving or selling a home.


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Making your bed again, going for a drive on a pretty day, brewing coffee instead of settling for instant, making pancakes and new recipes just for yourself, and going out to dinner with a good book. To work through feelings and begin building a new foundation, try writing a memorial to your loved one poem, sentence, book , drawing or painting a memory, dancing your feelings, crying, tackling a huge cleaning job.

Your Feelings Are Perfectly Normal

Go to the park or mountains and sit among the trees or to the beach and watch the cycles of waves. Other suggestions: movies, friends, naps, bubble baths, music.


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If you need, make a daily checklist—including brushing your teeth—to get you through the worst of times. Know that as time passes, however, you may wish to renew hobbies or start new ones. The ability and the desire to go back out into the world, albeit a different world without our loved one, is one of the surest markers that we have given back to ourselves enough to have a foundation for new life. It can also be said of caregivers: that new life is always within reach, if we have the willingness, the patience, to allow it to happen.

If we are rushing to make life the way it used to be, we will end up disappointed, because that life no longer exists. Facing grief and healing from loss means that we have taken the time to understand that death is a part of life, and not something we need feel guilty or confused about. Healing also means that we have come to understand, respect and give to ourselves, that taking care is not a selfish act.

Refueling means learning that you can cope, the pain does lessen, that much of what you feared did not come to pass and life does go on. You cared, you became involved, you sacrificed interests and dreams, and you are a better person for it—the gifts you have given cannot be measured or counted. And even though you have experienced unfathomable loss, you met it with more courage and strength than you ever imagined, and you have survived.

Now you can learn to thrive—a lifelong process. Says Tommye: "I cannot believe how exciting life is becoming, more and more each day.

Life, even without Bill, has become very challenging. I can hardly wait to see what the next day will bring. People grieve through different stages. Dysfunction is when there's no movement, and the person is stuck. Losing a loved one is one of the most distressing and, sadly, common experiences people face.

People experiencing normal bereavement have a period of sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Typically, these feelings ease. The bereaved person gradually accepts the loss and moves forward.

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For some people though, feelings of loss are debilitating and don't improve even with time. Clinical psychologist Dr. Therese Rando has found that in complicated grief the bereaved never gets past the stage of acute grief. The mourning persists and doesn't draw to a natural conclusion. Sandy was only 40 when she lost her young child, Mike, to leukemia.

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After four years, she still could not find any meaning in life. Her husband wanted another child, but she was unwilling. Eventually, they drifted apart and divorced. She feels like a failure as a mother and a wife. She cannot let go, and cannot stop feeling sorry.

Dancing in limbo : making sense of life after cancer

If I'm crying every day, I'm still connected to them. Long term mourning can also be caused by unresolved feelings—anything from guilt over something that happened years earlier, a feeling that as a caregiver one didn't do enough, or feelings of anger. So often, people become very angry—or even carry it from childhood—and never work it through with the person. Yet those feelings remain, even after the person is gone though we think we should only think nice things about this deceased person.

There can be pitfalls on the road from denial to acceptance. Complicated grief occurs when there is a failure or distortion in one or more of the processes of mourning. The bereaved person may struggle in the areas of:. The burdens of long-term caregiving can also complicate mourning. For some the grief started when their loved one because ill or debilitated. Dependency on the deceased can also complicate the mourning. Some mourners prefer to stay in this place rather than make changes and go on without the their loved one.

Says Rando: "We see this as coming from an attachment disorder—the bereaved doesn't think they can go on in the absence of the individual, so they just hang on to the old world even though things have changed. Post-traumatic stress can be a factor in lengthy mourning.