Victims of Mesothelioma: Grief Counseling for Cancer Patients and their Families: By Jack P. Bleeker

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer occurring in the thin layer of cells , known as the mesothelium, that lines the body’s internal organs. Caused almost exclusively from exposure to asbestos, the most common forms develop in the lung, abdomen, and heart.

Grief and cancer go hand in hand. Whether you are a cancer patient or the loved one of someone stricken with this disease, you will no doubt experience some sort of grief during the journey with mesothelioma or any other type of cancer.
For most patients with mesothelioma, grief is an indication of things to come. A victim of mesothelioma cancer may experience what medical professionals dub ?anticipatory? grief ? that which is connected to what is likely to be the eventual outcome of a mesothelioma diagnosis, a disease that is normally accompanied by a very grim prognosis. The patient grieves time lost with his family, failed relationships, places never visited, and all sorts of other things that are never to be realized, even if the cancer victim has lived a long and full life. Indeed, grief is natural when facing cancer.
For many of the same reasons, family members and friends experience grief also, both while the patient is alive and after he has passed on. This grief, for many, is often overwhelming and can result in a variety of emotions, especially when the reality of living without the cancer victim becomes apparent.
Everyone experiences grief in a different manner. Some sufferers keep their feelings bottled up inside. Others are not hesitant to show their grief and are quite demonstrative with their emotions. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to seek professional help in dealing with the feelings brought on by a cancer diagnosis and/or the subsequent death of a loved one due to cancer, especially when the grief makes it difficult to carry on with everyday tasks and activities.
The Aspects of Grief

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, one of the world?s foremost experts on grief, most individuals make their way through a series of different emotions as they deal with the grieving process. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone moves through these steps at the same pace and some individuals get stuck in a particular mode. That?s when counseling becomes important.
Cancer patients often drown in one or both of the first two steps ? denial and anger. Mesothelioma victims, especially, are overwhelmed by the thought of dealing with this disease that so often results in a quick death sentence. They are angry at those who exposed them to asbestos and at themselves for perhaps choosing a trade that put them in contact with a material that would eventually cause their death. Because of this, they can benefit from pre-loss counseling that will allow them to better come to grips with what lies ahead and what has happened in the past.
Family members and other loved ones can also benefit from both pre-loss and post-loss counseling to address the same issues and to get them on the road to recovery. Often, when grief becomes too severe for those left behind, they become anxious or depressed. They may turn to undesirable methods to relieve their overwhelmingly sad feelings, including drugs and alcohol. Counseling can halt this destructive behavior before it begins or escalates out of control.

submitted by: Sandy Lipkus M.S.W., B.Ed

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