You may have an elderly parent that you see getting weaker and more dependent with the
passing of each day, or a spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend that has been diagnosed
with a terminal illness. You may know someone who is suffering from a form of
These are just a few scenarios that you may have experienced, or may be experiencing,
with a loved one right now. When confronted with these situations you may find yourself
dealing with Anticipatory Grief. This simply means that you are aware, on some level, of
the eventual loss of your loved one and are grieving their death before it has
happened. Just as in grief, anticipatory grief can have very many different feelings and
reactions, depending on the variables involved with your situation.
Ask yourself these questions.
Do you find yourself avoiding the issues, pretending that life is normal just like it was
before your loved one became ill? Do you find yourself unable to have meaningful
conversations and moments with your loved one for fear that it will be interpreted as
trying to capture "what time is left" with your loved one? Do you find yourself avoiding
serious questions, and avoiding the exploration of healthcare options, because you don't
want your loved one to lose hope or stop fighting? Do you find yourself having
unbidden, or uncomfortable thoughts as you observe the physical changes in your loved
one? Do you find yourself depressed and sad, unable to function at work or at home? Do
you find yourself mad at your loved one for being sick, dependent, or for making end-oflife
choices that you do not agree with? These are all normal feelings, thoughts and
actions, when dealing with anticipatory grief.
In some situations, you may feel that you are pulling away from your loved one
emotionally. This too is normal as your mind is trying to make efforts to protect you
from the grief that will surely come when your loved one dies. If you are not emotionally
invested now, it won't hurt so much when they die, right? Maybe. But it has been my
experience, that you will feel the grief, regardless of any protective measures that are put
into place. There is no avoiding the pain of grief, nor the pain of anticipatory grief.
The best plan, in the event of anticipatory grief, is to prepare and protect yourself in other
ways. Make sure you have a good support system in place. People in anticipatory grief,
need to have someone that they feel comfortable with and can trust to be able to discuss
all the thoughts, feelings and emotions that they may experience.
Depending on what your loved one's situation is, there are many organizations, support
groups and counselors that specialize in that particular situation and with anticipatory
grief. Call our Bereavement office; perhaps we can help direct you. Also, talk with your
loved one, as honestly as you can and as the situation allows. Your loved one is more
than likely having the same thoughts, feelings and emotions that you are and will
welcome the opportunity to share them with their support system, which most likely is