The Fearful Acute Suspense

In her book ‘On Grief and Grieving’ Elizabeth Kübler Ross talks about anticipatory grief. She writes:
“Forewarned is not always forearmed. Experiencing anticipatory grief may or may not make the grieving process easier or shorten it. It may bring only feelings of guilt that we were grieving before the loss actually occurred.”

Ever since my husband was diagnosed with cancer I was filled with fear and anxiety. The fear of losing him was so strong that it paralyzed me on most days. I wanted to believe the doctors when they said they’d cure him. I believed him when he said, “I’ll fight this.” I spent days on the internet investigating the disease, the outcome. I spent days and sleepless nights reading people’s accounts of their illness and the end result. I couldn’t function properly. I was constantly worried.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom

Now that he is gone, I wish I had been able to live each day as it came instead of worrying about our tomorrow. I was so caught up in my anxiety that even my husband used to tell me, “Your eyes are scaring me. You have this look on your face. What are you thinking about?” And of course I couldn’t tell him about my fear. I couldn’t tell him about my anxiety.


Anxiety: Nervousness, concern, worry, unease, angst, fear, fretfulness.

Every time I accompanied him to his doctor’s appointments, I couldn’t help but tremble at the thought of what the doctor might say. Even on days that he was free of the disease I would sit next to him and look at his face and wait for the doctor’s verdict. I would dread the day when I would have:

“To hear the phrase “our only hope” always makes one anxious, because it means that if the only hope doesn’t work, there is nothing left.” Lemony Snicket

There is nothing left but suffering. After his last visit to his oncologist my late husband said, “My doctor is so positive.” I don’t know if he believed him or not, I don’t know how he felt that day as we walked to the car. All I know is that I was so anxious and frightened that I could hardly breathe. The suspense was killing me. To quote Charles Dickens:

“The suspense: the fearful, acute suspense: of standing idly by while the life of one we dearly love, is trembling in the balance; the racking thoughts that crowd upon the mind, and make the heart beat violently, and the breath come thick, by the force of the images they conjure up before it; the desperate anxiety to be doing something to relieve the pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to alleviate; the sinking of soul and spirit, which the sad remembrance of our helplessness produces; what tortures can equal these; what reflections of endeavours can, in the full tide and fever of the time, allay them!” 


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One Response to The Fearful Acute Suspense

  1. tony espino says:

    Sorry for your loss. I hope things get better for you with each day. Before my father passed away the dr told him he was on the list for a liver transplant (which he wasn’t), but it lifted his spirits when he only had months to live. I guess sometimes when medicine can’t do anything else they figure it can’t hurt to reach for some sort of miracle with the power of the mind. Who knows. Either way death is really hard to deal with regardless of how prepared you think you are to accept it. I suppose it’s best to just try to live in the moment and experience life in it’s totality as best as possible. Short of trying to raise the dead I haven’t come up with a better solution yet.

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