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Recognizing the Signs of Anticipatory Grief


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Feb 16, 2017

Recognizing the Signs of Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is a type of bereavement that occurs before a loved one has died but during a period when the death is expected. It's most often felt by the relatives and friends of someone who is suffering from a long illness, brain injured, or in a coma. Just because feelings of sadness and loss preclude the death, this type of grief is entirely normal. Not everyone will feel it, but it's common enough that it has its own defining characteristics. If you're facing the loss of someone who has not yet passed on, you may feel anticipatory grief, as well.

They Begin Before the End

Some people are confused when they start experiencing the symptoms of grief before their loved one dies. The truth is that your mind realizes what's going to happen before the rest of your body comes to terms with it. You're already mourning because you've already lost someone. Whether your loved one is slowly faded or snared in the limbo of a coma, the person you loved is no more. Death is coming. It's inevitable. You know that, and you're already sad, even though it hasn't happened yet.

You Feel Emotionally Numb

Even as you begin to feel sad, numbness can overtake your emotions. Part of it is shock—you don't want to let go even though you realize you don't have a choice. As well, it's not uncommon to grieve twice—once as your loved one fades, or lies immobile in a hospital bed, and again after the patient passes. It's almost as if your feelings are protecting themselves from too much pain.

Your Concentration Disappears

It's nearly impossible to concentrate during anticipatory grief. Your mind is everywhere and nowhere all at once. You can't focus on what's happening or what needs to occur in the future. You take things minute by minute because you don't dare look any further ahead.

More than anything, survivors in the grip of anticipatory grief want to talk. Give into that urge. Find someone who will listen to your sadness, your fears, and your worries. You can offer much more comfort to your loved one once you relieve some of your own tension.