It seems that a lot of content I write here starts its life on one of facebook’s widow(er) groups anymore. Today, there was a question regarding whether, having been Kim’s caregiver, that the time of grieving after she passed is reduced since we knew for so long what was coming. My answer is “No; not really.”
Though we who were also caregivers knew our spouse was going to die, our spouse was still with us. There was grief at the knowledge of her imminent death, but it is not the same grief as induced by the finality of the actual loss. While Kim was still with me, I could talk to her, care for her, hold her hand. There was an air of sadness about the whole affair; however, there was also hope. While she was still alive, she could have had months remaining; she could have had years – the endpoint wasn’t defined. And: where there is life, there is hope. We constantly hoped and prayed for a miraculous cure for her, even up to her last breath. When she had passed, that hope for a miraculous cure passed with her (though, yes: God is capable of anything). There was a permanence about the loss that did not come with the foreknowledge while she was still alive.
In short, I believe that you really cannot prepare for the sort of grieving that comes from losing your life’s partner. No amount of forewarning prepares you for the experience of literally having half your heart and soul torn away from you. The grief experienced by one who was a caregiver is really no different than that of one who was not. Even the shock of the actual loss I experienced sounds a lot like that of those who lost their spouse quickly or, even, suddenly. I guess if anything, those whose spouse’s passing is expected get a little extra dose of grief through the forwarning.