A death from a long illness is very different from a sudden death. It gives you time to say goodbye and time to adjust to the idea that the beloved will not be with you anymore. Some researchers have found that it is “easier” to experience a death if you know for at least six months that your loved one is terminally ill. But this fact is like orders of infinity: there in theory, hard to detect in practice. On my birthday, a month after my mother passed away, a friend mused out loud that my mom’s death was surely easier to bear because I knew it was coming. I almost bit her head off: Easier to bear compared to what—the time she died of a heart attack?Instead, I bit my tongue.
What studies actually say is that I’ll begin to “accept” my mother’s death more quickly than I would have in the case of a sudden loss—possibly because I experienced what researchers call “anticipatory grief” while she was still alive. In the meantime, it sucks as much as any other death. You still feel like you’re pacing in the chilly dark outside a house with lit-up windows, wishing you could go inside. You feel clueless about the rules of shelter and solace in this new environment you’ve been exiled to.
Read more on Slate.