Grieving is not just the loss of a loved one who has passed away; you may go through grief as you prepare for a loved one’s end of life. Anticipatory grief is the feelings and reactions that happen when dealing with the impending death of a loved one.

Anticipatory grief is called the emotions and feelings that occur when someone is expected to pass away. These emotions may be just as intense as the pain felt after losing a loved one. The feelings and emotions may be just as fierce as the feelings of grief after death. It is crucial to remember that anticipatory grief is a normal process, even if it’s not discussed as often as normal grief.

The turmoil of anticipatory grief, however, does have some benefits. It can allow you to spend more time with your loved one, allowing you to find more meaningful ways to say goodbye. It can also help you prepare for a positive future for yourself after the anticipated death.

While anticipatory grief is normal, it might interfere with your overall health and wellbeing. Allow yourself to feel the pain of grief, suppressing, or ignoring these feelings isn’t a solution. The feelings of loss and sadness that come with anticipatory grief stem from imagining what life will be like without your loved one.  

Anticipatory grief shares many of the same systems as regulator grief. There are some unique (example: anticipatory grief may include the hope that your loved one will live longer or survive their illness, while normal grief occurs when the loss has already happened). Although grief generally progresses in stages, every person may experience it differently. These unique signs and symptoms include:

  • Increasing concern for the person dying
  • Imagining or visualizing what the person’s death will be like
  • Preparing for what life will be like after a loved one is gone
  • Attending to unfinished business with the dying person
  • Heightened concern for the ill person
  • Anxiety and worry and increased irritability
  • Experiencing shock and denial about the upcoming loss and
  • Eventual acceptance

Learning how to identify and cope with anticipatory grief symptoms can help you make the most of the time you have together. If you’re having trouble understanding or dealing with your feelings, here are ways to help manage anticipatory grief:

  • Redefine hope and focus on the quality of life. This can be as simple as hoping for a good day for your loved one relating to their health and demeanor.
  • Support is crucial, especially for one near the end of life. Allowing healthcare workers and the community to provide support allows you more time to spend more quality time with your loved one.
  • Connecting with your loved one by doing things that bring closure. Do something possible; it may be as simple as looking through photo albums, reminiscing, or even taking walks.
  • Ensure you have a support network; this is more than likely your family but reach out to your church or support groups. The more you surround yourself with others and share your grief, you will be able to cope.
  • Include the appropriate medical and mental health care professionals. Get them involved in the care and include all family members, so you are best prepared by dealing with both the physical and emotional well being.
  • Coaching, working with a grief coach before death is as critical as when death occurs. They will help you work through and process your feelings and emotions.

Remember, it is good to express your feelings and allow yourself the time to grieve properly. It is normal to feel the pain before death, but take advantage of the time you have to spend you’re your loved one and seize the opportunities anticipatory grief offers is the chance to truly make the most of the time you have left with your family member.