What is anticipatory grief?
Most people are familiar with the grief that occurs after loss (conventional grief); however, not many are aware that people who are facing the eventual loss of a loved one are grieving too. This is known as anticipatory grief.
Coping with anticipatory grief is different from conventional grief. You may experience mixed feelings as you find yourself in a delicate position of maintaining hope while learning to let go at the same time. Since anticipatory grief is not often discussed, people are less likely to receive support for their grief at this point in time.
Ways to Cope with Anticipatory Grief
Four Seasons Hospice, a compassionate provider of hospice care in San Antonio, Texas, offers the following tips that may be able to help you cope with anticipatory grief:
- Tip #1: Give yourself the chance to feel and grieve.
People with a terminally ill loved one are often so focused on the person that they are caring for that they end up neglecting their own needs. However, it is important for you to focus on yourself too. Be true to yourself and allow yourself to feel. Anticipatory grief isn’t just about mourning the impending loss of a loved one, but all of the other losses that come with it too — the loss of shared memories, the loss of future plans and dreams, and the loss of a companion. Denying the pain you feel may end up prolonging the grief that you feel later on.
- Tip #2: Talk to someone.
Nobody should have to deal with anticipatory grief alone. Keeping your feelings and grief to yourself may result in feelings of isolation and deep loneliness. Talk to someone you trust – be it a family member, a friend, or a trained professional. Most people dealing with anticipatory grief often feel a mixture of anger and sadness and don’t like to be told how to feel or what to do – when given “advice”, they may shut down completely or lash out. So, try to find someone who is willing to listen without judgment and doesn’t try to “fix things”.
- Tip #3: Practice forgiveness.
Learn to forgive yourself and others for what you could and couldn’t do. Don’t blame yourself for your loved one’s illness and know that you did the best that you could. This is a good time to resolve differences – learn to let go of past hurts and resentments and give yourself the gift of forgiveness.
- Tip #4: Spend time together
Some people say that they find it difficult to spend time with their ill loved on or that they would rather remember them when they were strong and healthy. However, spending time is important not only for the ill person but also for close loved ones as well. Avoidance may lead to regret later on.