The Grieving Process

Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. This kind of cancer has an abnormally extended latency time and symptoms do not begin to show for at least 25 years following exposure. Because of this, the cancer is usually diagnosed in its later stages and is typically hard to treat. The usual life expectancy of someone diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma is about one year after diagnosis.

Losing a loved one to cancer (or any illness) is one of the most difficult things to cope with and not everyone deals with losing someone the same way. However, there is a common process that most people go through after the death of someone close to them.

British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby has presented a 4-step process that views grief through the eyes of someone who wants to carry on living even though their loved one has passed away. Bowlby makes clear that the stages of the grieving process can re-arrange and overlap and comments that ALL stages of the grief process may even occur at the same time and that the amount of time spent in each may be influenced by a number of factors including age, personality, and the conditions surrounding the death of the loved one.

The 4-step process is as follows:

• Shock and Numbness – Feelings of unreality and de-personalization (i.e. "This isn’t happening to me."), people in this stage practice "self-protective" behaviors, which makes them appear stoic but that is just a defense mechanism against pain.

• Yearning and Searching – Also known as "pining", the bereaved longs to be with the deceased. Some say they see or hear the deceased during this stage. The bereaved speculates how they will get along without their loved one. This is a long stage for many, but some pass through it rather quickly.

• Disorganization and Despair – Mourning sets in. The bereaved may experience deep depression or despair and feelings of bleakness. Some individuals require therapy during this time, especially when anguish hinders everyday activities or results in contemplation of suicide.

• Reorganization – The bereaved "assimilates" their loss. The person who has reached reorganization is now learning how to live life without their loved one. This stage may represent a redefinition of life for many individuals.

There is no exact amount of time for each of the first three stages and anyone can get trapped in one for an extended amount of time. This is not a dilemma as long as it does not hinder things like the person’s job or personal relationships. If that point is reached, it is helpful for a friend to intervene and aid the bereaved in looking for professional help.