Anticipatory Grief... What is it and how do you Cope?
Most of us are familiar with grief and have possibly experienced it firsthand at some point in our lives. However, those of us caring for a terminally ill family member or pet can experience something called anticipatory grief. This is the feeling of knowing your loved one will pass soon. In some ways, anticipatory grief can feel worse than the grief you experience after they are gone. During this time, you try to prepare yourself for the loss. As a result, you might feel anxiety, depression, shock, anger, or guilt (or all the above!) and it can be incredibly isolating. This type of grief may not be as widely discussed as regular grief but is just as important to recognize. Much like regular grief, there is not a one-size-fits-all way to deal with anticipatory grief. However, I will highlight five ways to help cope with the anticipated loss of a loved one.
1. Talk to somebody! This can be a friend, therapist, or via support group. Talking about your experience may help to process and understand what you are going through. Connecting with others experiencing similar things in a support group can help with feelings of loneliness and isolation and can provide validation. Additionally, many of the therapists at Clinical Counseling Associates are trained in grief counseling.
2. Spend quality time together and create memories together. Be present in the moment and enjoy the time you have with your loved one.
3. Take care of your own physical and mental health. Experiencing anticipatory grief and everything that goes along with it can be taxing on your physical and mental health. Don’t forget about your own needs during this time.
4. Educate and prepare yourself. This could mean discussing funeral plans with your loved one or learning about what to expect as your loved one’s health declines. This could also mean preparing yourself for what it might feel like after they are gone.
5. Allow yourself to sit with and feel the emotions surrounding the loss. There is no wrong way to feel during this time. Sometimes we push the sad feelings away because it is too difficult to think about but allowing yourself to accept and feel whatever emotions come up is okay! This may not lessen the grief you feel later, but it may provide a sense of closure for you.
Grieving over someone before the death takes place can feel like a rollercoaster, but it might allow you to find ways to say goodbye to your loved one while there is still time.
By: Veronica Vaughan
Park University MSW Intern