Anticipatory Grief and How to Cope

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It’s not uncommon to begin grieving the loss of someone before they are gone.  In fact, it’s so “not uncommon” that there’s a phrase for it: anticipatory grief.  Anticipatory grief may be felt by both the loved ones of and the person who is nearing death.  It’s important to understand that while anticipatory grief can help pave the way for meaningful conversations between you and the terminally ill, it does not necessarily mean that either of you have given up hope. 

Just as grief after death has stages, so does anticipatory grief.  These stages are:

  1. Shock
  2. Denial
  3. Eventual Acceptance

These stages can bring on a slew of symptoms including anger, anxiety, depression, emotional numbness, fatigue, guilt, and sadness.  Thankfully, no one has to struggle through their anticipatory grief symptoms alone.  Counseling and support groups are often readily available through hospice or palliative care programs. For those in Houston, a non-profit organization called Bo’s Place offers a variety of no-cost grief resources as well.  Alternatively, virtual caregiver support groups are abundant on various social media platforms including Facebook and may provide some insight into what you are going through.   

Although the stages of anticipatory grief can be incredibly taxing, anticipatory grief does come with benefits.  Eventual acceptance allows for visualization and preparation for life after your loved one and ultimately, brings closure through open and honest discussions.

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