Anticipatory grief is grief that occurs as a loved one with a prolonged illness is dying. This type of grief is different from grief after death because there can be more anger, frustration and the inclination to feel emotionally out of control. Again, because grief is a highly personal experience, not everyone experiences anticipatory grief and some may find anticipatory grief to be more stressful than grief felt after a loved one dies. In part, this is because anticipatory grief requires one to adjust and adapt to ongoing changes in their loved one’s prognosis, daily care and emotional spirits. Anticipatory grief does not take the place of grief. It does not give you a “head start.”
Anticipatory grief includes many different losses, such as the loss of future plans, loss of a life companion, possible financial losses and the shifting and changing roles within a family. During this time, it is important to spend time together, share memories and express your feelings. Remember to include children and keep a sense of humor. Spirituality is important and the effects of meditation, holistic therapy, massage, yoga, organized religion and prayer can make a profound impact. Give permission for your loved one to die and seek help when needed.
For those individuals who are at the end of life, this time allows you to reconcile differences with friends and family, find closure and say goodbye. This is a time of reflection for those who are dying.