Francis Weller, a psychotherapist and group leader at the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, has written an eloquently helpful book on grieving, The Wild Edge of Sorrow. In the book, he describes rituals of renewal in the sacred work of grief. For those wishing to learn more of what grief can teach us when we come to sorrow’s wild edge, this may be a helpful book. Throughout the book, he weaves in stunning poems. One by Rashani Rea called “The Unbroken”, about what lies deep within us, is shared here:
There is a brokenness
There is a sorrow
There is a hollow space
There is a cry deeper than all sound
Grief is the process of adapting to loss. The word grief comes from the Latin word gravis, meaning “heavy.” Living with cancer and the potential and real losses that ensue can bring on the heaviness of grief. Like so many of our innate ways of healing and recovering, grief feels unpleasant, takes time and asks us to surrender to its wisdom. Often, when grief has been allowed to take its course, it can transform us so that we emerge with a sense of wholeness, strength and wisdom.
Manifestations of Grief
When you grieve, you can experience some of the following emotions or bodily reactions:1
- A sense of emptiness in the stomach, tightness in the chest or throat, muscle weakness, breathlessness, a lack of energy or dry mouth
- Some people may have an oversensitivity to noise, whereas others might feel a sense of depersonalization, where nothing feels or seems “real.”
- Some people may also experience disturbances to sleep or appetite, absent-minded behavior or withdrawing from others.
Honor your feelings and feel what you feel without judging.
Coping with Grief
Even when people are getting the best of cancer treatment, they often feel like they need more help with organizing their care and managing symptoms and side effects. Helpsy empowers members to take control of their health through a real-time virtual nurse support service. This service is available via mobile devices, a Helpsy website and automated phone calls.
Your way of grieving is unique to you. Honor your feelings and feel what you feel without judging. Though you might think that taking care of the cancer is plenty to focus on, consider the importance of being gentle and caring with yourself. Do your best to rest, eat regularly and stay active.
Part of preparing for death is giving some thought to helping loved ones with the grieving process.
In addition to complementary therapies, consider seeing a professional such as a therapist, oncology social worker or oncology navigator to help you explore your stressful situation and identify an approach that is right for you.
Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems
|For more information about programs and protocols, see our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.|
Written by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, and Nancy Hepp, MS; most recent update on August 25, 2020.
- CancerNet: Coping with Grief
- Support Groups
- Connect Education Workshops
- Financial and Co-Pay Assistance
- Living with Grief: How Can You Help Yourself?
- CaringInfo: Grief & Loss
- American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Cancer.Net: Grief and Loss
- Good Samaritan Hospice: Grief and Healing
- Weller F. The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. 2015. In addition to rituals for renewal during the grief process, he also lists a very useful set of resources for working with grief (see p. 165).
- Resources for grieving, death and dying:
- Albom M. Tuesdays with Morrie. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
- Byock I. Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life. New York: Riverhead Books, 1997.
- Callanan M, Kelley P. Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying. New York: Poseidon Press, 1992.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare Hospice Benefits: A special way of caring for people who have a terminal illness. April 2017.
- Dunn H. Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Artificial Feeding, Comfort Measures Only and the Elderly Patient. A & A Publishers, Inc.
- Kubler-Ross E. On Death and Dying. New York: Collier Books, 1969.
- Morris V. Talking About Death Won't Kill You. 2002.
- Nuland SB. How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
- Dr. Cynthia Li: Brave New Medicine
- Helpsy Inc.: Helpsy Health
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- Erlene Chiang: Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Treating Cancer and Grief