At some point in our life, most of us will experience grief – an acute emotional response to a deep loss.
There is a widely held belief that grief is uniquely tied to the aftermath of a death. However, while the grieving process is triggered by bereavement, there is another stage that may occur beforehand – anticipatory grief.
Anticipatory grief is the inner emotional experience of an impending loss and the anticipation of the feelings the loss might bring. It can start the moment your loved one receives a terminal diagnosis or when they begin to become chronically ill. A complex set of emotions can take hold during this period – from fear, sadness, hope, guilt, anger, and even relief.
But anticipatory grief is not just associated with an approaching death. It can occur in advance of other life-changing events. It may be felt before the end of a relationship, in the run-up to an expected job loss or change in family roles, before an approaching loss of purpose or identity, or a looming change in life’s dreams.
Here are some ways to ease the pain:
Express your emotions. Talking to others can make the pain you’re going through feel less lonely, and the experience can validate your feelings. Seek out someone who can lend a listening ear and offer emotional support.
Create structure in your day. A difficult aspect of grief is that the world keeps moving while you feel like your life has stopped. A routine can provide you with a sense of order, help you feel grounded, and restore normalcy at a time when your life is anything but that.
Listen to your body. Emotions are stored in the body. Being tuned into your body will allow you to process grief in ways that are beneficial. Keeping physically active will help with regulating tough emotions when they surface.
Spend time in nature. Whether it’s taking a trip to a retreat in the mountains or just walking around your neighborhood or going to the nearest park, exploring the natural world can be therapeutic. It provides space for reflection and introspection. Bring a journal with you to write down your thoughts and feelings.
Seek out professional help. A therapist can provide a safe space to process your complex emotions and provide you with therapeutic tools to help you in your grieving journey – before, during and after.
Reach out today to work with a therapist and learn how you can cope with your grief or anticipatory grief.