Is there such a thing as "almost grief"?

Hi friends,

I just Googled “Patrick Swayze” to check in on him. He’s been on my mind ever since I found out he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the same deadly disease that Sally had. I never had much of a tie to Patrick as an actor, but now that he’s a fellow PC fighter, I feel a strong kinship with him. I know Sally would, too. I was especially intrigued by his interview with Barbara Walters (see a video clip from the interview here).

In Google, the most recent article that appears is an interview with Whoopie Goldberg, one of his Ghost co-stars. “He’s going to go, but we don’t know when,” is the title. What a telling title for terminal disease. It’s the dark cloud hanging over your head. It’s the unpredictable time you may have left. It’s the waiting.

Some grief specialists and psychologists have a name for it: anticipatory grief. It’s a debatable term. Some think that loved ones can feel a type of grief before someone passes away. Others feel that grief begins only when a loved one’s life ends.

I feel mixed about this. The 2 ½ years that Sally was sick were life-changing for me. I know in my gut that something extraordinary happened in that time, whether we call it anticipatory grief, “almost grief” (that’s the term I like), or some other name.

Do you think grief can happen before someone dies, or do you think the real grief only begins afterward? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.