Dealing with Anticipatory Grief
PaulineB
May 19, 2024

Grief is a natural emotional response or coping mechanism for loss. When a loved one dies for example, grief helps us process and manage the heavy emotional toll that comes with it.

However, even if the event of losing someone dear to us hasn’t happened yet, the grieving process can already begin. 

Anticipatory grief refers to the distress an individual feels days, months, or even years prior to the impending loss of a loved one, and can be experienced by someone without them realizing it. In other terms, it is also known as preparatory grief or anticipatory loss.

“It is the experience of knowing that a change is coming, and starting to experience bereavement in the face of that,” according to Allison Werner-Li, Ph.D, a licensed social worker and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Identifying anticipatory grief

Anticipatory grief can be experienced by individuals who are terminally ill, their loved ones, relatives, and caregivers. However, it can also be experienced by people:

  • In line for an organ transplant – As patients wait for a donated organ to arrive, they may think of their deaths; they may also think of the other person who died for them to receive their organ. 
  • Subject to an impending amputation – An individual subject for an amputation may experience anticipatory grief as they reflect on losing a limb will affect the different aspects of their life.
  • Expect a major change in life – A person expecting a job change, geographic relocation, or moving to a new house may also feel anticipatory grief due to losing friends, habits, and even their identity

Experts note that anticipatory grief also surfaces during pregnancy complications when the life of their unborn child is at risk and may process the possibility and consequences of the baby’s loss.

People with anticipatory grief may experience feelings that range from:

  • Anxiety
  • Denial
  • Dread
  • Guilt
  • Irritability or anger
  • Lethargy
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness

Individuals undergoing anticipatory loss also reported having a heightened preoccupation with their dying loved one or patient, as well as having less control over their emotions. 

Dealing with anticipatory grief

Processing and dealing with grief may vary from person to person, depending on their age, health, culture, and beliefs. However, here are some proven methods on dealing with anticipatory grief:

  • Find your support group – Narrative therapy and active listening are known to help a grieving person reframe the loss they experienced by providing a safe space and much time for them to express their feelings with all honesty. 

Thus, it’s important to keep those who can listen and empathize with your situation, such as family and friends. You may also talk with others who are going through the same situation as you are, so you can help each other heal together. 

  • Try to be healthy – While dealing with grief may make it difficult to start exercising or eating right, doing so will help you improve your mental and emotional states better and easier in the long run. Countless studies correlate physical activities and a balanced diet to improving one’s mood, disposition, and outlook.
  • Make most of available moments – If you’re dealing with anticipatory grief because of a terminally-ill loved one, try to make activities — even small, comfortable talks with them — as pleasant and precious as possible. 

Taking steps like these can also ease the pain and sadness of end-of-life patients, and contribute to improving their overall quality of life during their final days. 

Some people also acquire hospice care services for their loved ones. A hospice care provider offers the expertise of professionals from various disciplines working together to provide the best possible care for individuals who are nearing end-of-life. They also provide counseling and help for the families of their patients to help them cope better as they guide and care for their loved ones who will soon be passing away. 

At Solano Care, we aim to provide exceptional care, comfort, and compassion to alleviate the pain and stress associated with life-limiting illnesses. Whether at home or in a facility, we’re ready to provide the level of care your loved one needs and deserves.

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Commentator
January 1, 2022
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Commentator
January 1, 2022
Nunc sed faucibus bibendum feugiat sed interdum. Ipsum egestas condimentum mi massa. In tincidunt pharetra consectetur sed duis facilisis metus. Etiam egestas in nec sed et. Quis lobortis at sit dictum eget nibh tortor commodo cursus.
Commentator
January 1, 2022
Nunc sed faucibus bibendum feugiat sed interdum. Ipsum egestas condimentum mi massa. In tincidunt pharetra consectetur sed duis facilisis metus. Etiam egestas in nec sed et. Quis lobortis at sit dictum eget nibh tortor commodo cursus.
Commentator
January 1, 2022
Nunc sed faucibus bibendum feugiat sed interdum. Ipsum egestas condimentum mi massa. In tincidunt pharetra consectetur sed duis facilisis metus. Etiam egestas in nec sed et. Quis lobortis at sit dictum eget nibh tortor commodo cursus.
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