Important Visitor, Family & Patient Updates Regarding COVID-19 Learn More

What Is Anticipatory Grief?

When we provide end of life care for a patient at Santé, the patient isn’t our only client. Aside from our primary focus of providing comfort and dignity to the patient, a secondary focus is caring for the patient’s family during this difficult time.

As we work to support and empower families through the end of life experience of a loved one, we often see loved ones experience anticipatory grief. In this post, we want to discuss anticipatory grief at length to help families better understand the complex and unexpected feelings they may be experiencing.

Defining Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is the term used to describe the grieving process when it occurs before a loss is experienced. Many people experience anticipatory grief when their loved one suffers changes that limit their ability to communicate or connect with others, such as dementia or a stroke. Others experience anticipatory grief when they learn that a loved one has a terminal diagnosis.

What Does It Look Like?

Those experiencing grief in anticipation of death may feel anger, denial, depression, isolation, and fear. While these emotions may feel unwelcome or inconvenient when you’re trying to be strong for your loved one facing end of life, they are a necessary, natural, and can even be a productive reaction to loss. Most people need to experience all of these emotions to land at a place of acceptance and peace. And that’s when you’re strongest for those around you.

Dealing with Anticipatory Grief

Coping with anticipatory grief while still providing strength and support to your loved one requires careful awareness and balance. The most critical aspect is self-care. Consider talking to someone about how you feel, whether it’s a hospice nurse, a grief counselor, or a member of the clergy. If you’re the primary caregiver, find respite so you can have some time away each day. Make your health a priority. You will want to do your best to get enough rest, eat right, and receive support from others who are there to help.

Many family members we’ve visited with found that when they experienced anticipatory grief, they were less likely to experience the stages of grief so intensely following death. Many of them found that their peace and acceptance extended through end of life, making the transition easier – if only minutely so. For more information on anticipatory grief or hospice care in Arizona, contact us at Santé.

< Back to Library
Skip to content