FREE Shipping on Orders Over $100*


Your Cart is Empty

  • anniversary
  • Understanding Anticipatory Grief and How to Manage It

    by Lifesong Staff May 22, 2024 4 min read

    Understanding Anticipatory Grief and How to Manage It

    Grief is a universal experience that touches everyone at some point in their lives. While most people associate grief with the loss that follows a death, there's another form of grief that occurs before the actual loss: anticipatory grief. This type of grief can be just as profound and challenging as traditional grief, but it is often less understood.

    What is Anticipatory Grief?

    Anticipatory grief is the emotional pain and distress experienced before an impending loss, often in the context of a terminal illness, a severe chronic condition, or the decline of a loved one due to aging. It is the grieving process that happens in anticipation of the loss, encompassing a range of emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, and helplessness.

    Unlike conventional grief, which occurs after a loss, anticipatory grief is tied to the knowledge that loss is inevitable. It allows individuals to begin the mourning process, sometimes providing a sense of preparation and the opportunity to address unfinished business or say goodbye.

    Symptoms of Anticipatory Grief

    Anticipatory grief manifests in various ways, often mirroring the symptoms of post-loss grief. Common symptoms include:

    • Emotional Responses: Sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, and feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
    • Physical Symptoms: Fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and physical aches.
    • Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and preoccupation with the impending loss.
    • Behavioral Changes: Withdrawal from social activities, changes in daily routines, and increased irritability.

    Stages of Anticipatory Grief

    Similar to the stages of post-loss grief proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, anticipatory grief can also follow stages, though they might not occur in a linear fashion:

    1. Denial: Difficulty accepting the reality of the impending loss.
    2. Anger: Frustration and anger about the situation or at those involved, including the person who is ill.
    3. Bargaining: Trying to negotiate or make deals, often with a higher power, in hopes of altering the outcome.
    4. Depression: Deep sadness and despair over the anticipated loss.
    5. Acceptance: Coming to terms with the reality of the impending loss and finding a way to cope.

    For a more in-depth explanation, consider reading, "The 7 Stages of Grief."

    Dealing with Anticipatory Grief

    Managing anticipatory grief is crucial for emotional and mental well-being. Here are some strategies that can help:

    1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

    Recognizing and accepting your emotions is the first step in dealing with anticipatory grief. Don't push them down and refuse to feel them because they will fester inside. Understand that it is normal to feel a range of emotions and that these feelings are valid.

    2. Be Your Best Friend and Support Yourself!

    Ensure you maintain your physical health by eating well, exercising, and getting adequate sleep. Self-care is crucial during this stressful time. Make time to journal, to discuss your questions/emotions and learn from them. Death makes you appreciate the present moment, reminding you that the only constant thing is change.

    3. Use The Time You Have Left Wisely & Create Memories!

    In a way, knowing that someone will pass soon gives you time to create new memories with your loved one, engage in meaningful conversations, ask questions you always wondered about, and get anything off your chest that you need to. This can provide comfort and closure. It can also help minimize regret.

    4. Plan for the Future

    While it might be painful, planning for the future can alleviate some anxiety. This might include making funeral arrangements or discussing the wishes of your loved one. Addressing all property, financial, and inheritance matters according to your loved one's wishes now can alleviate the burden of handling these issues later, giving you the space and time to grieve properly.

    5. Educate Yourself & Self Reflect 

    Learning about the illness or condition that is causing the anticipatory grief can demystify some aspects of the situation and help you feel more in control. Consider that many illness have emotional/spiritual links to them. For instance, Chinese medicine says the liver is linked with anger. So if you're loved one has anger issues, it could why they have liver issues. Take that information and consider if you have any of the same issues that you can choose to heal and work on. Everything in this world is divine and everything happens for a reason. Choose to see why things happen and strive to become your best self.

    6. Stay Present

    Focusing on the present moment can be grounding. Engage in mindfulness practices or activities that bring you and your loved one joy.

    7. Seek Support

    Talking to friends, family, or a professional therapist can provide much-needed support. Sharing your feelings can lessen the burden and help you feel less isolated.

    Resources for Further Support

    There are many resources available for those experiencing anticipatory grief. Here are a few reputable websites that offer information and support:

    • Hospice Foundation of America: Provides comprehensive information on anticipatory grief, including articles, webinars, and support resources.
    • American Hospice Foundation: Offers educational materials and support for those dealing with terminal illness and anticipatory grief.
    • HelpGuide: Offers practical advice on coping with various forms of grief, including anticipatory grief.
    • GriefShare: A network of support groups for people grieving the loss of a loved one, which can also be beneficial for those dealing with anticipatory grief.
    • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO): Provides resources and information on hospice care, palliative care, and anticipatory grief.


    Anticipatory grief is a natural response to the impending loss of a loved one. It involves a complex interplay of emotions that can be overwhelming but also provides an opportunity for preparation and closure. By acknowledging your feelings, seeking support, staying present, and utilizing available resources, you can navigate this challenging time more effectively. Remember, anticipatory grief is a part of the human experience, and it's okay to seek help and lean on others as you go through it.

    Leave a comment

    Comments will be approved before showing up.

    Also in Blogs

    What Are Proper Funeral Gift Ideas Other Than Flowers?
    What Are Proper Funeral Gift Ideas Other Than Flowers?

    by Lifesong Staff June 06, 2024 4 min read

    Great Sympathy Gifts For The Loss of A Child
    Great Sympathy Gifts For The Loss of A Child

    by Lifesong Staff May 31, 2024 5 min read

    Best Sympathy Gifts for the Loss of a Parent
    Best Sympathy Gifts for the Loss of a Parent

    by LifeSong Milestones May 30, 2024 4 min read