7 Tips for Dealing with Anticipatory Grief 

Anticipatory grief happens when you start feeling grief before a loss has occurred. This type of grief may arise when faced with a terminal illness or concerning medical diagnoses. It can also emerge when you start preparing for the end of something- whether it’s the end of a job, relationship, or other specific situation.

Working through anticipatory grief can be challenging. However, it is crucial that you take care of yourself during this time. Here are some tips to consider.

Embrace Your Feelings 

Loss is painful, and it’s healthy to acknowledge that pain as it arises. Recognizing your feelings is valuable as you move through the stages of grief.

Denying or suppressing these feelings may stunt the process later on. Remember that grief has an intentional purpose in life, and facing this pain- even when it’s uncomfortable- is a paramount part of your own healing.

Prepare Yourself for What to Expect

Educating yourself about what can happen next may be empowering. It allows you to have a roadmap for the future- even if that roadmap devastates you. But people often find that they would rather know what to expect rather than stay in the dark.

So, take the time to ask questions and do your research. If you’re facing the loss of someone’s life, talk to the doctor about what options exist. Learn what resources you have available to you.

If you’re preparing for another kind of loss, it might be helpful to start visualizing potential outcomes. How will your life change moving forward? What decisions should you consider making now to reduce future stressors? How can you best take care of yourself during this transition? 

Delay Making Rash Decisions

Unless it’s absolutely dire, it might be best to pause before making significant decisions right now. We don’t always act rationally when our emotions are heightened.

Instead, when faced with a choice, evaluate how time-sensitive it is. Do you need to pick something at this moment? Or can you reflect and discuss the potential outcomes before making your ultimate decision?

If it’s the latter, give yourself permission to wait. Allow yourself to assess the potential options and review them with trusted loved ones if possible. 

Maintain a Routine

A routine is important for feeling anchored as you navigate through daily changes. Even if you have to make some slight modifications, aim to stick with your schedule as best you can.

For example, try to prioritize going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. If you normally attend a specific class or meeting each week, commit to going. If you enjoy meeting friends for dinner on Fridays, make an effort to stick with that habit.

Your routine offers a sense of safety and predictability. So, even if life becomes scary, having these reliable activities can help you feel more rooted to yourself. 

Aim to be Present 

As challenging as this suggestion might be, staying mindful when grieving is one of the best gifts you can give yourself during this time. As mentioned, loss is inevitable. But truly being with your feelings- and embracing the experience for all that it is- can harness incredible resilience, gratitude, and perspective.

So, try to avoid numbing yourself or pretending you aren’t struggling. At the same time, you don’t have to succumb to toxic positivity, either. 

If you feel sad, you feel sad. Similarly, if you are enjoying a cherished moment with your loved one, try and take in every sense of that feeling.

Being present simply means being aware and mindful of the moment. When you can do this, you feel less preoccupied with what happened in the past or what could occur in the future. Therefore, adopting this mindset is one of the best ways to feel a sense of peace. 

Find Support 

Bereavement groups can be helpful after losing someone. But you can also reach out for support during the anticipatory grief stage. For example, there are numerous groups for issues like cancer support, divorce, or childhood illness. 

In addition, try to stay connected to your friends and family. People who love you want to be there for you. If they don’t know how to support you, don’t be afraid to tell them directly. Most people feel relieved when they have a specific directive to follow. 

Seek Grief Therapy for Anticipatory Grief 

Grief can be a complicated experience, and anticipatory grief might be even more confusing, frustrating, and lonely. You might feel invisible with what’s going on right now. You might also fear that worrying now takes away from the precious time before the loss actually happens.

Grief therapy can help you understand and process these powerful emotions. The goals of treatment aren’t necessarily about feeling better or moving on. Instead, therapy provides a safe place to share what’s going on and plan for what could happen next.

At Willow Counseling, we are here for you and your loved ones during this time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation

Willow Counseling, PLLC, Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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