Anticipatory grief – what it is and how to deal with it

Kate BucklandBlog

Anticipatory Grief

What is anticipatory grief? We all dread getting the heartbreaking news that someone we love is terminally ill. Did you know that grief over the loss of the person with the terminal diagnosis often starts as soon as we get the bad news? Most people are familiar with the term grief and what it means, but many of us have never heard of anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is mourning a loss of something before it is gone. Chances are, even if you’ve never heard of anticipatory grief that you’ve experienced yourself if you’ve known the loss of someone you love was imminent. Anticipatory grief doesn’t just apply to situations involving a terminal illness such as cancer. You can also experience anticipatory grief when a loved one has an illness that changes their personality, such as Dementia. Not everyone experiences anticipatory grief, but if you do it’s important that you talk to someone to help you deal with it. What causes anticipatory grief? Anticipatory grief can come about for several reasons, and it may not always be the loss of your loved one’s life that you are mourning, at least in the beginning. When someone you love experiences a life changing or terminal illness, life changes for everyone around them. It may be that you are mourning for the life you had “before”, especially if you have become that person’s carer. It is natural to miss what was and for wish to things to go back to how they were if life has changed dramatically. You may feel that you have lost your sense of freedom and that you are burdened with the extra responsibility of caring for your ill loved one, and this in turn may bring feelings of guilt. However, feeling like this is a very normal response to such a big change to your life. also states that you might grieve for the memories you share with your loved one, particularly as they lose their independence, their memory, and their ability to recognise you. You may grieve for future plans that will never happen and experience intense and conflicting emotions. Symptoms of anticipatory grief If you are dealing with anticipatory grief, it is likely that you are experiencing a wide range of emotions about the impending loss of the person you love, or, in the case of a permanently personality changing illness, the loss of the person as you know them before they are truly gone. You may feel anger, fear, resentment, guilt, dread, powerlessness and anxiety even though the person is still alive. Writer Angie Drakulich shares her experience with anticipatory grief for her father in an article published on the website Psycom. She writes, “[These thoughts and memories] invade my mind as I try to fall asleep and they are the first images that appear when the alarm sounds. They cloud my vision as I drive from home, to work, to the grocery store, and they emerge through tears as I try to get away … Read More