Million Little Things Shows the Weight of Anticipatory Grief


The second to last episode of the series  Million Little Things showed the challenges that people with a terminal diagnosis (and those that love them) experience at the end of their life.

Gary and his partner, Maggie, meet with Gary’s oncologist. The oncologist suggests that Gary begin focusing on “being kept comfortable” as treatment efforts recently have been unsuccessful.

Maggie becomes upset and says that they will keep fighting and wants Gary to try an experimental treatment in Mexico.

Maggie leaves the room briefly and Gary has a chance to speak openly to his oncologist who says, “Gary, I am so sorry.”

“Thank you for getting me this far, Doc. It means the world.”

We see Gary meet with his therapist who asks him if he’s afraid.

“No, I’m not scared. I’m just really tired. Having my doctor tell me I did everything I could was a huge relief.”

Maggie works hard to get Gary into an experimental treatment in Mexico. Gary’s friends learn that he’s tired and knows the treatment won’t work, but he’s going to do it anyway, for his partner and mother of his child, Maggie.

“Look, at the end of the day, she needs to believe that she did everything she could. I’m going to give whatever life I have left making sure she doesn’t regret anything.”

Their friends come to the airport to see them off. Maggie then realizes that Gary is going to die and she wants Gary to be with his friends, surrounded in love, rather than in Mexico trying another treatment.

Hospice begins. Maggie shares with her friend how hard it is to watch Gary decline.

“I feel like I’m already grieving.

I just want to be able to enjoy the time we have left. “

“Maybe you can have both. You can be sad and be joyful and be human and be messy and laugh at his jokes and cry and in any way you can celebrate him. “

Such a beautiful and tender depiction of making the decision to come on to hospice, the pressure that patients can feel from family members to continue to go through treatments, the ways that individuals will sometimes choose to continue with treatment because it may help their family’s grief, and, the impact that anticipatory grief can have as we watch someone we love decline. 

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