Many of us are aware that grief is a normal part of every loss we experience, but grief does not only appear after the loss.  Anticipatory grief is the form of grief that occurs when one is confronted with a chronic or life threatening illness or when one anticipates the death of a loved one (or oneself). Anticipatory grief does not substitute, or necessarily lessen, grief that follows death. It is not simply grief pushed ahead in time.

Anticipatory grief is not a way to complete your grief prior to the death of the individual. Rather, it is a response to losses of both the person who is ill as well as caregivers and others who are close to him or her. Each experiences anticipatory grief from their own unique frame of reference.

Many times when we think of a loss we think about the death of a person, but there are many other losses. These include tangible losses such as physical limitations and intangible losses such as the loss of hopes, dreams, dignity, motivation and many others. With life limiting and chronic illnesses, both the patient and the caregiver experience anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief not only includes future losses but also past and present losses.

Tips on managing anticipatory grief:

  • Accept that anticipatory grief is normal. Acknowledge the loss.
  • Stay connected with a support system that you can trust and rely on. Talk to those who have experienced the same journey you are traveling.
  • Exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep.
  • Prioritize your life, attending to those things that need to be done and letting go of the rest.
  • Say the things you need to say and experience the things you need to experience.
  • Create memories while you can.
Remember there are no rules to grieving. Grief is a result of loving someone. Be kind to yourself and in doing so you will be better able to help others.