Anticipatory Grief: Stages & Ways To Cope

Last Update on July 26, 2022 : Published on July 26, 2022

Have you ever felt sad about something that has not happened yet? If yes, that can be anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that grief or sadness you experience before something bad happens to you or your loved one.

The term ‘anticipatory grief’ is self-explanatory. You are sad about something you have anticipated, not something that has already happened. You start feeling sad, remorse, and grief long before that actual grieving hour comes.

There are various types of grief that one can experience like non-death grief, disenfranchised grief, cumulative grief, nonfinite grief, etc. today, we will talk about one of these different types of grief, anticipatory grief!

Shall we begin?

Anticipatory Grief: Definition


Anticipatory grief is a type of grief that is experienced before the actual grieving hour. It can affect those who are going to experience the loss and also the one who is on their deathbed or is about to leave for good.

Anticipatory grief is caused by the thought and anticipation of the pain that loss is going to inflict on both parties involved. Anticipatory grief can occur in case of diagnosis of a terminal illness, change of jobs/city, deciding to separate from your partner, empty nest syndrome, etc.

Stages Of Anticipatory Grief

Just like conventional grief, anticipatory grief also has some stages. To understand anticipatory grief and learn how to deal with anticipatory grief, one needs to have some knowledge about the stages of anticipatory grief.

Let’s look at the stages of anticipatory grief;

Stage 1: Acceptance

You accept that death is inevitable. You know there is no way out, there is nothing you can do to undo what is going to happen. This realization that you can’t escape death gives rise to feelings of sadness and depression which marks the beginning of anticipatory grief.

Stage 2: Excessive concern and worry

In the second stage of anticipatory grief, you start to show a lot of concern about the person who is dying or leaving. You begin to regret all the mean things you might have said. The same happens to the person who is dying, they experience excessive worry about their condition and experience remorse for not being the best version of themselves.

Stage 3: Rehearsal of death

In the third stage of anticipatory grief, both the survivor and the dying begin to prepare themselves for May Day. They begin talking about last wishes, final goodbyes, funeral preparations, etc. Perhaps it’s their way of keeping their thoughts occupied with things other than their actual feelings.

Stage 4: Thinking about life with the other

This is the last stage of anticipatory grief where the survivor begins to think about how they are going to survive without having their loved ones around them. They begin to imagine a life without the person who is dying and each thought makes it even more difficult for them to let the person go.


How To Deal With Anticipatory Grief?

Believe it or not, dealing when anticipatory grief is completely different from what you’d do to cope with conventional grief. Anticipatory grief is different, you are experiencing the pain of losing that person even when you are with them.

Knowing how to deal with anticipatory grief is very important because in place of spending those final days in peace with your loved one you are engulfed with anticipatory guilt. Let’s look at a few ways you can deal with anticipatory grief;

  • Allow yourself to grieve. It’s natural to feel sad and hopeless when you find out about the little time you have with your loved one. Accept your feelings but don’t let them overpower you.
  • Don’t suffer alone. You don’t have to go through all of that alone. Talk to someone you trust and are comfortable with, and express your feelings. Get the support you need.
  • Spend time with the dying person. You know you don’t have much time, don’t waste it worrying about the future. Take one day at a time and make each day as memorable as you can.
  • Try journaling your thoughts. Sometimes it becomes difficult to understand what you are feeling. Writing your thoughts down can help you figure out what’s actually bothering you and what you can do about it.
  • Try holistic methods of dealing with anticipatory grief. Holistic methods of coping can be helpful for both of you. You can try mediation, art therapy, massage therapy, music therapy, etc.
  • Engage in humor. Humor can really help you lighten up the mood and help in reducing the intensity of all those feelings and thoughts. A laugh or two here and there is sure to make your final days less stressful & intimidating.
  • Allow them to rest in peace: sometimes the dying person resists dying only because their loved one is not letting them. Death is inevitable, they can’t hold on forever. The choice is yours, do you want to let them die in peace or in anxiety?

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog about anticipatory grief helpful and informative. It is very difficult to accept that someone you love is not going to be with you forever but we all must know that there is no running away. We have to learn how to deal with anticipatory grief or else we will end up killing ourselves emotionally long before our loved one leaves us.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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