Anticipatory Grief Reactions

Anticipatory grief can stir up a multitude of intense and often conflicting feelings. People going through the process of anticipatory grief often describe their experience as being a roller coaster of emotions. The thoughts, feelings, and behaviors described below are all normal and understandable reactions to impending loss.

  • Preoccupation with illness
  • Wondering how long their loved one will live
  • Bargaining with God
  • Anger
  • A sense of unreality
  • Exploration of regrets and feelings of guilt
  • Sadness and depression
  • Thoughts of what life will be like after death occurs
  • Alternate periods of acceptance and denial
  • Alternate periods of detachment and bonding
  • Inability to go back to the way one lived prior to diagnosis

The imminent death of someone who is close to us can be a life-changing experience. During this time, it is important that you ask for and accept as much caring support as possible. Seeking help from a professional therapist and/or participating in an anticipatory grief group can be extremely helpful in preparing emotionally for a loved one's death.

© Jill Lehman, MFT

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