Feelings of grief before the loss occurs

You may begin feeling the effects of loss and grief before a death of your loved one actually occurs. These are typical reactions to current and future losses, and are often referred to as “anticipatory grief.” Losses can include those associated with caring for someone with an illness, changes in relationships, and the anticipated death of a loved one. Anticipatory grief may actually help you prepare for the losses and decrease the intensity of grief after the death occurs.

Causes of Anticipatory Grief:

Some of the causes of anticipatory grief are related to fears of actual or possible losses:

  • Loss of companionship, social life, and change in family roles
  • Loss of usual eating, sleep, work, and recreational habits
  • Loss of independence
  • Loss of control, such as, being able to care for yourself or a loved one
  • Fears related to life without your loved one


Signs and Symptoms of Anticipatory Grief:

It is normal to experience these signs and symptoms:

  • Tearfulness                                                           ●  Constant changes in emotions or eating habits
  • Anger                                                                     ●  Depression
    • Feelings of emotional numbness                          ●  Anxiety or feeling fear
    • Loneliness ●  Denial
    • Forgetfulness ●  Fatigue
    • Feelings of guilt

 What You Can Do:

Here are some suggestions of things you can do:

  • Go for short walks when possible.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Plan for the future.
  • Join a grief support group, or seek counseling assistance.
  • Make changes as needed but put off major decisions if possible.
  • Do the things you enjoy and want to do now. Forget the chores that you can do later.
  • Spend time with your loved one, friends, and family or a support group.
  • Attend a caregiver support group.


Adapted from: “Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy” by J. William Worden, “Grief Steps: 10 Steps to Regroup, Rebuild, and Renew after Any Life Loss” by Brook Noel, and “Unattended Sorrow” by Stephen Levine.

Provided by Gerard’s House, a grief support center for children, teenagers and their families in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For more information please contact us at (505) 424-1800 or gerardshouse.org.

This article was published in “The Grieving Heart,” written and edited by Bob Dorsett, LLC, www.silentseas.net

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