Understanding Bereavement in the Wake of Malignant Mesothelioma

The damaging effects of asbestos exposure don’t only impinge on a person’s physical health. Victims of asbestos-related illnesses suffer psychologically, as well. In this exclusive ongoing series, we’ll shed some light on that other side of terminal illness by examining the impact of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases on mental and emotional health-not just for patients but for their loved ones as well.

Some of the topics we’ll cover include: psychiatric conditions common to victims of mesothelioma cancer and other related conditions, how to share news of a terminal diagnosis with loved ones, coping with grief and loss, types and stages of the bereavement process, self-help techniques for managing mental health during treatment and more.

Mesothelioma and Mental Health-PART EIGHT

In addition to struggling with painful emotions during a family member or friend’s illness, the survivors of malignant mesothelioma victims must also endure the tremendously difficult grieving process that occurs once their loved one has passed on. The experience of facing and coping with feelings of grief and loss after the death of a loved one is a period of time is called bereavement. This chapter of our series is meant especially for the members of any mesothelioma cancer patient’s support network-which may include children, parents, spouses and close friends.

Types of Bereavement

There are at least typically recognize at least four different types of bereavement, which may be experienced in the wake of a loved one’s death and are defined by the circumstanced under which the death occurred. Bereavement types include: parental death, sudden/traumatic death, socially unacceptable death and death after terminal illness. The latter is most associated with malignant mesothelioma deaths, although because of the sometimes extremely short length of a person’s mesothelioma life expectancy, sudden and traumatic death bereavement can also play a simultaneous role.

What to Expect During Bereavement

When a loved one has died after a period of time spent in the later stages of a terminal illness, his or her survivors enter the bereavement period after having generally experienced a significant amount of anticipatory grief. This does not mean that the grieving process is, by any means over and done with after death has occurred-but what it does mean is that there has likely been an ongoing grieving process for some time and that the initial stages, like shock and denial, have already most likely passed.

What each surviving loved one of a malignant mesothelioma victim experiences during the bereavement period tend to be highly individualized. Beyond the obvious emotions of loss and sadness, some people experience anger while others are overwhelmed by guilt and/or regret. Some also feel a sense of relief, especially after watching a loved one suffer through a long and painful illness-but often feelings of release or reprieve are followed immediately by intense reactions associated with shame or remorse.

Factors affecting the process and form that grief takes during the bereavement period, for each person individually, include things like:

  • How much support he or she has available
  • Nature and degree on his/her relationship with the deceased
  • Personally held religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Cultural background and/or conditioning
  • Personal mental health state (currently) and history
  • Individual personality
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