How to Cope With Anticipatory Grief

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sadness is hard and complicated after a lossbut some persons can deal with it anticipated griefthis is sadness that is coming before a loss. Anticipated grief can occur in situations where, for example, a friend or family member has been diagnosed with a terminal illness –when a loss is known but has not yet occurred.

Why anticipatory grief can be so complicated

Although anticipated grief occurs in situations where the impending loss is known and anticipated, this is the case still triggers a complicated grieving process—one that can be just as hard as the actual loss itself. It is the uncertainty of being in that in-between state where there is still hope that the loss might not happen or optimism about finding closure in a relationship this is what makes anticipatory grief so complicated.

“While you might be expecting it, it still feels unexpected, no matter how much we feel like we’ve had time to prepare for it,” said Alexandra Cromer, a Licensed Professional Advisor at Thrive. “It’s almost like there are multiple deaths or multiple periods of mourning.”

For example, when a person is caring for a parent with dementia, there is the period of grief associated with the loss of their mental abilities, which is then followed by the period of grief associated with the loss of their physical presence. “There’s never uncomplicated grief,” Cromer said.

There are many emotions associated with anticipatory grief

“In some cases, anticipatory grief can help you feel prepared,” Cromer said. In the example of a parent who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, this can be a time to talk to them about their will and preferences for the end of life. But it is yet to come with an enormously complicated set of emotions, many of which can be confusing and painful. “It’s sadness, but it’s also fear, frustration, denial, guilt. That can wreak havoc,” Cromer said.

IIt can be especially difficult to acknowledge these emotions when The loss has not yet occurred. “A lot of people, when they’re experiencing anticipatory grief, don’t give themselves permission to feel all of those emotions,” Cromer said. “They’ll say, well, my mother isn’t dead yet, why am I upset? Or, okay, she has two years to live, why am I anxious all the time and can’t enjoy the time I’m spending with her?”

What to do in the event of anticipated grief?

If you experience anticipated grief that makes it difficult for you to function in your daily life, then it isIt’s important to seek professional help, preferably from someone experienced with different types of grief. “If it feels like you’re wearing ankle weights, that life has just gotten extra tough and requires so much more energy, maybe it’s a good time to seek help,” Cromer said.

However, as Cromer notes, even if your grief doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day work It can still be helpful to seek help, as it can prevent it from getting worse. “Early intervention can help,” Cromer said. “The sooner we move something forward, the sooner we have that trusted professional, the better the results tend to be.”

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