We all understand that death is an integral part of life, but when it’s time to let go of our loved ones, we find it hard to make peace with the situation. In many cases, people even experience anticipatory grief that comes before the loss of the loved one. What is it and how can you cope with this type of grief?
What Is Anticipatory Grief?
As you care for your loved one, it’s hard to accept the fact that they are declining and you can’t do anything about it. This realization sparks sorrow even before your loved one is actually gone. This process is known in psychology as anticipatory grief, and it’s most common among loved ones of Alzheimer’s, cancer and other terminal illness patients. Just like grief after death, anticipatory grief can be just as intense. However, this is a normal process that many people go through every day.
Stages Of Anticipatory Grief
Since anticipatory grief is a process, it has stages people go through as they experience it: shock about the loss that awaits them, denying the reality of the situation and final acceptance. The pain caused by anticipatory grief comes from imagining life without your loved one, which causes depression and fear of loss. With a death in the family, there might come the loss of social life, loneliness, changes in habits and routines…
Signs Of Anticipatory Grief
Anticipatory grief is not that different from regular grief, and it’s mostly a response to losing someone you love. Usually coming in stages, anticipatory grief is different for different people. Many people experience the following: anger, anxiety, depression, numbness, fear, fatigue, guilt, lack of focus, sadness and loneliness. People experiencing anticipatory grief also imagine the death of their loved one, imagine life without their loved one and try to clear out the air with the dying person.
Coping With Anticipatory Grief
If you can’t handle the feelings of grief without any help, here are a few ways you can get the assistance that you might need:
Find A Support Group Or Individual
It might be smart for you to join a support group of caregivers or talk to a professional with plenty of experience with death like a helpful death doula that can offer support to the dying person as well as their loved ones. A professional will make sure the dying process goes smoothly and that everyone feels at peace in the end.
Seek Other’s Experiences
There are many books and blogs online that show other’s experiences with anticipatory grief. This literature can show you how people overcame their grief and what coping mechanisms they used. Blogs and forums can even allow you to connect with people in similar situations and make long-lasting friends.
Express Your Feelings
It’s a great idea to channel your feelings into painting, making music, writing and journaling—these are great coping mechanisms. If you’re a spiritual person, meditation or prayer might also help you with your feelings.
Show Love And Forgiveness
When trying to talk to your dying loved one, it can be hard to express your emotions and show your true love. However, this is the perfect opportunity to say what you have to say and express how you feel. Say how much you love them and that you forgive them (if there’s anything to forgive). Show your appreciation and respect and make amends—this can bring relief to everyone involved.
Spend Time With Your Dying Loved One
To relieve this type of grief, you can do your best to spend as much time with your loved one as possible. Make the most of your time together by retelling stories, looking at photographs, listening to music, chatting about funny things, etc. Let the time you have together be filled with significant actions.
Take Care Of Your Health
To minimize anticipatory grief, try to stay healthy and strong mentally and physically. Most people feel better when they get enough physical activity, eat balanced and regular meals, catch enough Zs during the night, relax with yoga or meditation, read, go to church, and spend time with the rest of their loved ones.
While it might feel unbearable to you right now, anticipatory grief and conventional grief fade over time. The fact that you’re feeling anticipatory grief means that what you’re losing is important, so don’t miss a chance to spend some quality time with them while you can. But also give yourself space to mourn and work through the experience.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in business and marketing related topics.
In her free time she enjoys exercising and preparing healthy meals for her family.