Defining Anticipatory Grief and How to Cope with It

Posted by: Erin Ward in Grief Articles | July 6, 2021
Grieving the loss of a loved one comes in many different forms, as there are many different types of grief. One type of grief that’s often forgotten about is anticipatory grief.

Keep reading to learn more about this grief type, how to find healthy ways to cope with it, and how to show your support.

Defining Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is a unique grief type, since it begins before the loss of a loved one has occurred. This may be the case if a loved one has a terminal illness or is in hospice care. However, a loved one doesn’t have to be ill for someone to experience this grief type. For instance, if someone has a high-risk job or hobby, their loved ones may experience this type of grief if they’re worried about their safety.

It's important to note that this isn’t just “normal” grief that’s experienced early. It also doesn’t mean that someone won’t experience “normal” grief once the loss has occurred. It is its own type of grief that needs to be recognized to be coped with in a healthy way.

Coping with Anticipatory Grief

When coped with in a healthy way, anticipatory grief can help people process their feelings and accept the reality of the loss over time before it has occurred.

Below are a few healthy ways to cope with it:
  • Talk to your loved one about how they want to be remembered. This way, when the time comes for their funeral, you can rest assured that their life is properly honored.
  • Reach out to a trusted loved one or professional grief counselor to help process your feelings. Or write your thoughts down in a journal.
  • Try meditation or another relaxing activity at the start or end of your day.
  • Practice self-care. While it’s okay to worry about your loved one, you also need to take care of yourself.

How to Support Someone Coping with Anticipatory Grief

If your loved one is experiencing anticipatory grief, let them know that you are someone they can talk to without any judgment. Whether they want to discuss their loved one, their feelings, or just want someone to sit with them, you can be there for them.
You can also help them find healthy outlets for their grief. For example, if they’re interested in yoga, offer to go with them to a class to try it out. This way, they feel less alone in their grief.

Being concerned about a loved one’s well-being often brings about stress. To help relieve your loved one of some stress, offer to check tasks off their to-do list. You can mow their lawn, pick up their groceries, or bring them a homemade meal.

What other ways can you cope with anticipatory grief? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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