My sister's husband is about to be deployed to Iraq, and she almost seems to be grieving. It's not simply the impending separation that distresses her-she's convinced that her husband will be killed and she's planning for a life without him. She even talks about the ways he could die-in a roadside bomb, or from friendly fire. I want to support her but this is too weird for me. What's going on?-H.G., KY.
Your sister could be using anticipatory grief as a coping mechanism. She's so consumed with the stress of adjusting to her husband's potential death that she's actually experiencing the phases of grief in advance. By anticipating widowhood, she's subconsciously preparing herself for the knock on the door that every military family dreads.
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Although she's not experiencing bereavement in the usual sense, she's experiencing the same emotions of intense separation. If she has young children, the syndrome may be more severe.
This kind of detachment could make her emotionally unavailable when her husband returns from his deployment, undermining her marriage. Without professional intervention, your sister may be at risk for experiencing another separation-divorce. As an act of love for your sister and brother-in-law, please help her find professional counseling to help her through this difficult time.