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Anticipatory Grief


Day 47: Anticipatory Grief


Anticipatory grief is a normal human reaction to impending loss, including all of the thinking, feeling, and social and cultural reactions to an expected loss. While it can look a lot like grief after the loss, it is different.


What I hear often is people expecting themselves to have been “more ready” or “more prepared” if their loved one had a long illness, or if they were estranged, or if the relationship wasn’t what they wanted it to be. Others highlight “all of the wonderful time spent” or time lived, or rituals, as they wonder out loud why their grief feels so immense after the death. From what I have observed, there is no amount of anticipatory grief that prepares us for the actual experience of losing someone important.


In anticipatory grief, there is a stronger presence of hope—and the oscillation between despair and hope cycles rapidly. In acute grief (post-death/loss), we are often trying to reconcile that our definition of hope in anticipatory grief is no longer an option in acute grief. And this is a brutal, exhausting endeavor. Oscillation in acute grief is typically dominated by numbness then rawness, and then after that, by despair and what does-it-mean-to-get-to-the-next-day.


Both anticipatory grief and acute grief are normal aspects of a grieving process. Please be patient with yourself, especially if you expected to be further along in your journey if anticipatory grief has been part of your experience.



Welcome to my #100dayproject. I am providing a daily offering on #grief, in honor of each person who has trusted me with their story and wisdom during their #griefjourney. I hope that others may benefit from simple and straightforward talk about a topic that can be difficult. Thanks for following and/or sharing.

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