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Supportive Care

Anticipatory Grief in Patients With Cancer

Dory Hottensen
CJON 2010, 14(1), 106-107 DOI: 10.1188/10.CJON.106-107

Patients and their loved ones often experience anticipatory grief when learning of a diagnosis of advanced or terminal cancer. Anticipatory grief can be a response to threats of loss of ability to function independently, loss of identity, and changes in role definition, which underlie fear of death. Dealing with multiple losses is a primary task that the dying patient must face. When an oncologist delivers bad news, the patient and family members often hear the same discussion through different filters, which can lead to conflict and dysfunction. By providing a supportive and safe environment, oncology nurses can help patients and their loved ones understand that their feelings are common and are experienced by others in similar situations and assist them with developing coping strategies and in redefining their roles within the family and in the outside world. In addition, an important goal at this time is to help the patients reframe "hope" realistically so they may have the opportunity for personal growth as well as reconciliation of primary relationships toward the end of life.

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