Every day, anticipatory grief is experienced by thousands of individuals, and many experts believe it’s not discussed enough. Grief is a natural process and occurs before and after the loss of a loved one. When someone we love is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we start to experience anticipatory grief.
It’s especially likely to occur if we learn that there is no cure for the illness, or we realize that the death of the individual is inevitable or very likely. The care giving process is riddled with feelings of loss and grief. The problem is that grief is experienced by everyone involved in the situation.
During the anticipatory grieving process, we must also cope with many different emotions. There is a great deal of mental and physical fatigue involved with caring for someone who is about to pass away. A lot of people begin to feel overwhelmed with the personal, medical, legal and financial responsibilities.
In many cases, the feeling of anticipatory grief can be worse than the grieving we experience immediately after the death of a loved one. The reason for this is because we’re constantly alert and waiting for the death to occur.
Put simply, anticipatory grief causes us to live in a constant state of emergency and anxiety, which occurs over an extended period of time. Such a massive amount of stress puts enormous strain on the body. However, it’s not all doom and gloom.
The silver lining is that we’re given time to prepare for the death. We can use the time to reflect and imagine what life will be like after the passing.
The Anticipatory Grief Stages
This type of grief has four major stages. During the first stage, you realize that the death of a loved one is inevitable, and a cure doesn’t exist. Oftentimes, a lot of depression and sadness are associated with the first stage. You might begin to demonstrate feelings of acceptance, calmness, anger or denial.
During the second stage, there will be a lot of concern for the person who is expected to pass away. Loved ones will attempt to reconcile differences or rectify past arguments that they’ve had with the person. Family members will become concerned about the person’s fears of death, and he or she might begin to withdraw.
While these things are happening it’s important to provide the person with support and comfort. The third stage consists of rehearsing the actual death. The person who is about to pass will request their funeral preferences and plans, and loved ones will want to say goodbye and stay close to the dying individual.
During the final stage of anticipatory grief, family members will imagine what life is going to be like without the person who is dying. If it’s a brother or sister, siblings will begin to think about what life will be like without the dying person. For example, you might imagine what weddings, birthdays and holidays will be like without them.
The Definition of Anticipatory Grief
The anticipatory grief definition that you have in mind is probably correct. It’s defined as feelings of grief that develop before a personal loss occurs.
It’s important to realize that the loss of a loved one isn’t the only trigger for this type of grief. There is a good chance that the loss of a limb will cause you to feel anticipatory grief. For example, you might start going through the stages after learning that you’ll need to have your leg amputated.
The Symptoms of Anticipatory Grief
There are a number of different anticipatory grief symptoms to watch for. Many of the symptoms that we experience while our loved one is alive are the same symptoms that we experience after they pass away. Grief is defined as stages of depression, anxiety, denial, sadness, anger and acceptance.
Despite what some people will tell you, there is no such thing as a monolithic experience for grief. Some common symptoms of anticipatory grief are fatigue, fear, desire to talk, loneliness, sadness, fearfulness, emotional numbness, anger, guilt, depression and forgetfulness.
There are many signs and symptoms of anticipatory grief that are very different from the symptoms of normal grief. A great example is an increasing concern for the person who is about to pass away.
You might even imagine what the death of the person will be like. When a loved one is dying, you’re also likely to try to reconcile differences that you’ve had with the person.
What Is An Anticipatory Grief Scale?
This scale is a special survey, and originally, it was given to parents before the death of a child. The purpose of the survey was to measure grief reactions. The scale is commonly given to caregivers, and it’s a 24-item report. The purpose of the scale is to add up the answers and produce a total score.
How to Cope With Anticipatory Grief
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that this form of grief is totally normal. However, despite the fact that it’s normal, it can become intense enough to affect your daily life.
When this happens, you’ll need to exercise some coping skills. It’s actually important to allow yourself to experience the feelings of grief. We need to acknowledge the feelings and avoid locking them away inside of our mind.
When you allow yourself to experience these emotions, you’re not giving up on your loved one, and in reality, you’re actually helping everyone involved. If you find yourself having trouble coping with anticipatory grief, you can use the coping strategies below.
One of the best ways to cope is accepting the fact that the grief is normal. There is nothing wrong with experiencing the grief and expressing all of the different emotions that are associated with it. This type of grief has been around for centuries, and at any given moment, someone else on the planet is experiencing the exact same feelings.
Connecting With Others
Anticipatory grief is a common feeling among caregivers. When you start to experience these feelings, it’s important to connect with others. You should avoid feeling isolated and alone.
Make sure to talk to someone about it and even if you think you have no one to talk to, there is always someone out there who is willing to listen. Some other great coping strategies are acknowledging your losses, remember that grieving is not giving up, take care of yourself and consider talking to a counselor.