Anticipatory Grief: The Journey of Grief Before Loss

The diagnosis of a life threatening illness. An accident resulting in the need for critical care. The effects of aging on the body. The slow creeping onset of dementia. Whether our own, or that of a loved one can all result in feelings of grief and the experience of its effects on our life.

Anticipatory Grief – the NORMAL reaction that can happen before a perceived or impending loss.

Why then do we feel ashamed, guilty, weak? We feel shame for thinking the “what if” thoughts, for imagining the loss before it happens. We feel guilt because grief before someone is gone looks like giving up, like not caring for, like not loving. We feel weak because to be strong would be to smile and carry on.

This grief is normal. It is allowed. It is no cause for shame or guilt. What if it were acknowledged, appreciated, embraced even? Embraced as a chance to consider the possibilities of the future so that we can wholeheartedly experience the now. Appreciated it for the opportunity offered for conscious decision making about how we want to be, act, speak, listen, love, in these present moments. Acknowledged to allow our energies to be better spent on what is, instead of pretending it is not.

We will all experience loss, it is part of living, loving and at some point leaving this life. Grief is part of the journey. Anticipatory grief is likely to be one of the steps along the way. Let’s not walk alone but together, being honest and open about grief, seeking to share the experience with awareness, care, compassion and love for ourselves and others.