Chapter 1: Strategies for intervening in anticipatory grief and trauma

Unfinished business

“I was really hoping to heal the rift between us. The social worker helped me understand what was and was not possible given the history of our relationship”. - Family member

Unfinished emotional or relational business between a patient and their family can be complicated. Sometimes, meaningful moments of connection and healing can occur before death. However, complete resolution of all issues is impossible. Guilt and regret are very common at the end of a life.

Even practical tasks, such as conversations about DNR/goals of care, wills, deeds, or bank accounts contain an emotional element that may be triggered by old wounds or resentments.

Families may look to you for direction and guidance in managing these situations. Exercise caution whenever you begin to feel drawn into conflicts.

Clinician Tip

Clinician Tip


Conversation Prompts

“I understand that you’ve had a difficult relationship with your mother and were hoping to resolve that. That might or might not happen, are there ways you might come to terms with this”?

“Even though other people have told you that you must forgive your father before he dies, this is really your decision. Would you like to speak with someone from our psychosocial or spiritual care team about this”?