Senior Living Care Blog

What Is Anticipatory Grief?

Posted by Joe Gilmore on May 10, 2019 11:00:00 AM

Death is a difficult thing to deal with and individuals often times will experience anticipatory grief before a loved one passes. The death of a loved one generally leads to a period of sadness, depression, and mourning. However, this can even occur before death actually happens. Anticipatory grief is a common occurrence for people who are expecting their loved one to pass sometime soon.



What Is Anticipatory Grief?

Two women sitting an experiecing anticipatory grief together.

Anticipatory grief refers to the process of experiencing phases of sadness and advance of the loss of a significant person. Essentially, it is a process of mourning, but it happens before death actually occurs.


Generally, when people think of mourning they think about sadness and problems that happen after a death occurs, and this is especially true when it happens suddenly. However, anticipatory grief is a common thing, especially when it comes to seniors who are getting older. As you see your loved one begin to get iller, or just older, it becomes easier and easier to begin to picture life without them. As they start to slip away, it is common for people to experience these sad and depressive feelings while they are still alive.



Phases of Anticipatory Grief

Each person will deal with a death in their own way, they will grieve and mourn in a personal way. With that said, there are general, common stages of grief that many go through when it comes to anticipatory grief and they can be broken down into four phases.


Phase I

In the first stage, a person comes to terms with the situation and realizes that death is inevitable and there is no way to cure this. Symptoms like sadness and depression often occur during the first stage.


Phase II

Phase II is characterized by concern and guilt over the person who is dying. You may regret arguments or disagreements that you’ve had in the past.


Phase III

During this phase, the physical processes of death and what happens after death are concerns and many will make funeral arrangements and say goodbye to their loved one during this time.


Phase IV

In the final stage of anticipatory grief, people begin to imagine and visualize what their lives will be like without the person who is dying. This also refers to anticipating what you will say to others who knew the person who died.


Whatever phase you are in, it is important to be aware of how this type of problem affects you and to understand where it will go in the future.



Coping With Loss

An individual crying because he is experiencing anticipatory grief.

Loss is inevitable. Despite this, loss can still be difficult to deal with and for many, losing someone may change your entire world. It is likely that you may have feelings of sadness, loneliness, or anger. However, there are a number of methods and strategies that you can begin to implement in order to deal with the loss that you’ve faced.


It should be noted that experts say that you need to give yourself time to grieve in your own way and time. People express emotions in their own personal ways, some may feel the need to talk about how they are doing while others will throw themselves into writing or painting. Others still may choose to focus on physical exercise such as walking, jogging, or swimming to cope with their loss. Whatever the method that you choose, be sure you are being healthy about your coping mechanism. Don’t turn to alcohol or other substances to drown away your feelings and emotions.


Studies have found that people who can demonstrate emotional flexibility often cope well with loss and are healthier over time. For example, a person with emotional flexibility should be able to show positive feelings such as joy when sharing a happy memory, yet be able to switch to sadness or even anger when remembering a negative memory.



What To Know About Grief

A young couple thinking about what they need to know about anticipatory grief

Grief deals with the process of letting go of someone or something and learning to continue living despite this loss.


Along with anticipatory grief, there are other forms of the problem, such as complicated grief. This version of the issue refers to people who experience prolonged, intense grief that gets caught up in their own head and destructive thinking. In fact, it can lead to some thinking that the death did not have to happen or happen the way it did.


All forms of bereavement come with physical and emotional symptoms such as impairment of immune system response, increased mortality from heart disease, anxiety, depression, and more.


Regardless of the grief that you feel, whether it is complicated, anticipatory, or some other form, it is important for your personal health to get past these feelings. For some, this means seeking clinical help. Therapy can go a long way toward helping you deal with these feelings of sadness or depression.



Next Steps

Losing a close friend or loved one is not easy. For some, it may come out of nowhere while others see it coming. Whatever the case may be, death is not easy to deal with and many will experience grief-related problems and symptoms. Anticipatory grief is one special type of issue that affects people before death even occurs. It generally leads to feelings of sadness, depression, and sometimes even withdrawal from the person while they are still alive. Understanding how this type of problem affects you can help you identify it when it occurs. Everyone deals with pain and sadness in different ways, however, it is still important to cherish the moments that you have while they are still available to you to cherish.


Many times, older individuals will require a caretaker as they can no longer live independently and some choose to opt into an assisted living facility. If your loved one is struggling to live independently and you are worried about their health, it may be a good idea to consider seeking out an assisted living facility that can help. Landmark Senior Living is one care center that can offer your loved one the time and care that they require at this stage in their lives. If you would like to learn more about what Landmark can offer, please visit our website today.



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Topics: Grief Support

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